At age 14, my first job ever was “hot dog man” at a baseball stadium. In hot dog sales you have a very simple script:
Take this tray of hot dogs and walk around the stadium and yell “hot dogs” a lot. When someone calls out to you, sell them a hot dog. Repeat.
By about halfway through the 2nd inning on my first day, I was bored out of my skull. So to keep things interesting, I started trying out different things. Saying “hot dogs” in funny accents. Making jokes. Dancing a little bit. Wearing strange hats. Anything to entertain and bring attention to my goods. One time I did 60 pushups on top of the dugout as part of a bet with one of the guys in the expensive seats. He had to buy the whole tray from me when I was done.
These techniques worked really well. I sold a ton of hot dogs. And last time I checked, the single-game sales record I set was still standing. In hindsight, I realize I had discovered my first sales principle: I was focused on value. By providing a fun experience for my customers, I was making sure they were getting a lot more than a hot dog in exchange for their $3.50.
Look for opportunities to adapt
In inside sales, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking your pitch is like a magic spell. You recite your script over the phone or copy/paste it into an email. The customer agrees to a trial or purchase. Alakazam.
This is a trap because it can lead to pitch dependence. That’s where reps are afraid to adapt or go off-script when needed. Even worse, it’s boring. Giving the same pitch every day is a recipe for sales burnout.
In a highly process oriented sales environment, a little bit of this is tolerated. New reps come into the shop and build faith in the proven system. The results are nice and predictable for management.
But the thing about sales (and life) is things can get messy and sometimes you need to freestyle a little bit. You can’t script or prepare for every possible interaction. So during those times, you need a few guiding principles.
Focus on value
Sales and marketing are all about giving more than you receive. This does not mean you hand out discounts willy-nilly. The salesperson’s job is to find a way to help the customer understand how the product or service provides way more value than whatever the price tag is. Ideally, while keeping the ticket price as high as reasonably possible.
Leave a little for next time
Don’t blow your load in one pitch. Good salespeople know that you can rarely make someone feel comfortable by inundating them with information. Moods change. So, if you sense a pitch isn’t going well, it’s OK to hold back a little for when you need to reach out again in the future.
Your take is special
Everybody is a unique person with their own good way of explaining things. You don’t need to rely on a script to tell you what to say. Don’t become overly reliant on the standard formula.
Bring a little positivity
Whether you call them a prospect, lead, customer, or user, remember you’re dealing with an actual person. Sticking to a rigid process tends to cause us to treat people like cogs in a machine. Instead, make an effort to create a personal connection. A little love and laughter can’t hurt.
Principles, not procedures
It’s impossible to have a set piece for every possible customer interaction. And repetitive tasks can be highly demotivating. For those times when the standard script breaks down, salespeople need to be able to improvise. In this situations, a set of guiding principles will help bridge the gap.