There’s an old sales manager’s story originated by self-made insurance billionaire W. Clement Stone in his book, “The Success System That Never Fails,” about the failing salesman who goes in to see Clem, his boss, for advice about how to turn his sales slump around.
Clem hands him a list of names and tells the salesman to call these people and reference his name, assuring the salesman they will take his call and be interested in buying insurance. Sure enough, the salesman calls everyone on the list, and they all buy! Reinvigorated, the rep goes on to be one of the top salesmen for Clem. But the “secret” Clem reveals later is that the names were just random people he picked who he had no affiliation or friendship with, making the point that the attitude of the salesperson is what determines the outcome of the sale.
Many sales managers believe this and teach it to their reps: When you meet with a prospect, either you are selling them on why they should buy or they are selling you on why they shouldn’t. And while the attitude and determination of the sales rep matters, there are some people you ought not sell to.
The cheapskate who is going to fight you over every invoice and every recommendation and who will not thank you for the services provided is on such example. Close to them is the slow-to-no payer who wants payments and extended credit on everything. Then, there’s the raging jerk who is ungrateful and downright nasty, rude, and belligerent to you and your team. Another is the “knows enough to be dangerous” guy who insists on doing some of the work himself, tinkers and screws things up, and leaves behind a giant mess for you to clean up. Some simply won’t take your advice and will want you to modify your deliverables and services while they still expect the same results.
Sometimes (read: often), these people reveal themselves in the sales process and should be passed over immediately. Of course, many don’t bow out, mostly because of the possible check or because they are afraid to not make a sale because they’re desperate. This is one of the reasons why having sufficient deal flow (new leads and opportunities) is critical not only to the stability of your business but also your sanity and confidence. But how do you know when someone is being totally, completely irrational in the sales process, kicking off warning signs of “Danger, Will Robinson!” or simply not “sold” yet? Here are five signs.
1. Anger – If the prospect disagrees with you but expresses themselves with more intensity and excitement than the situation seems to warrant, they’re an emotional fireball to avoid. Some people cannot disagree without crushing the other person, belittling them, and “showing you who’s in charge.” This has nothing to do with you — and if they’re acting this way in the sales process when you bring up price or suggest they sign a managed services contract, they’re only going to get worse once they’ve given you money. Move on.
2. Evasiveness – If the prospect won’t answer questions, seems evasive, refuses to share critical information to help you understand their situation, won’t provide details, and generally stonewalls you, that’s a sign you’re wasting your time. Either they are using you to get a quote to beat up their current IT guy, or some other game’s afoot. Don’t play along. A serious buyer will gladly assist you in the sales process, giving you all the details, all the facts, and answering any questions you need intel on. Simply say, “You seem unwilling to provide me with the information I need so I can help you. Have I done something to offend you?” If they say no, that’s just the way they are, then they’re playing you. Get out.
3. Raining Objections – Some prospects must find fault with every little thing. They bring up an objection that you answer. Then they bring up another. Then another. Then another. At some point, it gets ridiculous. This is not a person who wants to buy; this is a person who wants to argue. Say, “You seem like you’ve made up your mind that we’re not the right solution for you” and get out. This is not someone you want to be dealing with on a regular basis.
4. Irrational Arguments – If the prospect trots out a collection of the worst possible case scenarios that will happen if they move ahead, has totally irrational arguments, or goes off on tangents, they’re emotionally immature (and probably not very bright). This is not someone you want as a client. Move on.
5. Cheapness – There are some people who have to get a “deal” on everything. Sometimes that’s because they truly don’t have the financial means (and you shouldn’t sell to broke people), and some just cannot bring themselves to pay list price. Bargaining is in their blood, and they’ll beat you up over and over again for a discount. To be clear, I’m not talking about the person who pushes back a bit on price. I’m talking about someone who either claims your fees are “unreasonable” and demands a big discount or who attempts to get you to lower your rates significantly. Walk away. If they are behaving like this now, they’ll get worse as time goes on, especially if you concede to their demands and give them a discount. Now, you’ve set a precedent where they will expect it at every turn.
When any of these signs occur, it’s a fool’s errand to try to use logic to bring them back to earth or fight through whatever hidden agendas they have. If you happen to close the deal, you’ll now have to deal with them and their bad behavior over and over again. Better to bow out now.
To do so, you can simply refuse to create a quote by saying, “Based on what I’m seeing here, I don’t feel we’d be a good fit for you. I would recommend you call X or Y.” X and Y can be competitors of yours who you don’t like (ha!), or they actually might be a better fit, taking clients who want a cheap solution or a break-fix type of arrangement. Or, you can do what many prospects do and say, “I’ll get back to you,” then never follow up. Remember, you do NOT have to take everyone as a client, and you actually SHOULDN’T take just anyone who waves a dollar.
You want good clients — compliant clients who will pay you what you deserve and appreciate what you do. That is not everyone out there. So, if you aren’t filtering out at least a few prospects who come your way, you’re creating a mess for later and saddling yourself with unproductive, unprofitable clients who muck up your productivity and suck up more resources than they deserve.
Do you want more leads, more clients, more profits now but don’t know where to start? Click here and watch a quick video about the three biggest problems IT Service Businesses face and how to solve them.