“Hi, this is Ted and I’m from X Corporation. Do you have a few minutes?”
I’m immediately up in arms. I know he wants to sell me something that I am 99% sure I do not want to buy (for the record, I’ve never made a purchase from someone cold calling me).
Can you relate? What is it about sales that puts us on guard? Why do salespeople do such a bad job of connecting with customers and of making us feel like they’re helping us?
If you’re in sales (and as a small business owner, you probably are in one way or another), take these tips to heart, and see if you get better results.
Here’s How to Avoid Becoming a Sales Robot
1. Know Your Lead
This is a mantra rarely actually heeded. I don’t mean “take a quick look at your lead’s website.” I mean actually dig down and find out what each individual lead’s pain points are.
Big data  means we’ve got big access to information about buyers’ behaviors online, so use it to your advantage.
2. Find a Way Around the Cold Call
In my opening example, I showed that many people (including me) don’t respond well to cold calls. How better could a salesperson reach me?
He could comment on my blog posts. Tweet me. Show he’s paying attention to my world. Then at least he’d start with a warm call.
3. Don’t Assume You Know What Your Customer Wants
I once had someone call me to sell me a copier. Keep in mind: I’m pretty much a one-woman show, working out of my home. Why on earth would I buy a $10,000 copier?
This also goes back to #1.
4. Pull, Don’t Push
This is where the lines between marketing and sales blur. If marketing does an excellent job of luring in leads with great content online and through social media, sales will be easier.
Consumers have changed. They are tired of having sales messages beaten into their heads. They want to make their own decisions.
5. Never Tweet Salesy Stuff
In general, what you learn on my “10 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Social Media Robot ” post are good rules to follow. No one will read your tweet, “Our product is amazing! Buy it now!” and take action. No one.
Focus instead on building trust with the right audience. Do that by delivering useful content and interacting.
6. Use Your CRM
As a salesperson, your game has to be top-notch. No mistakes. That means you need to know everything about a lead and you need to know if this lead has been contacted before. I’ve been contacted by two different people in the same organization within a week. I wasn’t interested the first time, but the second time, I was livid.
A simple look at your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform can tell you if someone else on your team has already reached out.
7. Get Off The Script
Just like cold calls are a turnoff, so are scripts. I’m human and so are you. Let’s talk like it. You’ll find that by having a real conversation — even if it’s not directly about your product — you’ll always find something out about your lead that can help you form a bond and close the sale.
I wish they’d ban sales scripts entirely.
8. Know What the Left Hand is Doing
Again, sales and marketing are closely tied. But if sales doesn’t know what marketing is doing, results can be disastrous. Historically, there’s been a disconnect between sales and marketing , but these days, that leaves you vulnerable.
Hold regular meetings with the two departments and work together toward common goals.
9. Focus on Benefits, Not Features
This is sales mistake #1. Salespeople think the features of their products are what sells them. Customers want benefits. They want solutions to their problems.
If you can’t speak on how your product can solve those problems, you’re in the wrong profession.
I’ve never known a salesperson at a loss for words. Yet, listening is probably the best sales tool ever.
Like I said in #7, simply having a conversation — and actually listening to the person you’re conversing with — will get you further than any slick sales talk ever could.
Robot  Photo via Shutterstock