Meet Your New Competition: the Delete Key

Selling has never been more challenging. You are pulled in a thousand different directions, at work and at home.  Everything is hectic and demanding. It’s important to remember that the same is true for your customers and prospects. Like you, they have endless demands on their time. They are overwhelmed by the idea of a new salesperson, from a new supplier, calling them and trying to get an appointment.  Why should they disrupt an already hectic day to meet with someone trying to sell them something that is already provided by an existing supplier? That’s the challenge we are all facing these days in sales.

In her book “SNAP Selling,” Jill Konrath describes today’s prospects this way, “Your prospects read your e-mails with their finger on the Delete key. They listen to your voice mails with their finger on the Delete key…Every three to five seconds they ask themselves, ‘Is this of interest?’ If not, you’re gonzo. Delete, delete, delete.”  Tough, right?

So, what’s the opportunity? How can we reverse this so it works to our advantage? The opportunity is this: so many salespeople do not understand the challenges and difficulties their prospects go through all day, every day. If you understand their work-life and adapt to it,  you will come out ahead.  Focus your efforts on making their job easier and simpler. If you assume that you are selling a commodity, regardless of what you sell, the sale is now all about value-added.  Be different from your competition. Differentiation has always been a critical skill in sales, but never as important as it is today.

Let’s look at a simple but essential part of the sales process, leaving a voice mail message for a new prospect. Most messages are terrible, for all kinds of reasons. Some of them ramble, while others are vague. Some are packed with details, while others are way too casual. And some of them, talk down to the prospect “I’ll be in your neighborhood on Friday, and thought I’d stop by and introduce myself.” Delete. Most salepoeple never get a meeting with a prospect because of their message. They just get deleted. So, instead, they call back, leaving another message. Of course, they are starting the downward spiral of annoying the prospect. This will not end well.

Focus on crafting a message that is concise, and introduces you and your company. Include how you have helped similar organizations. And always try to include a number, a figure that measures how you helped them. It could be a percentage increase in sales, or a dollar increase in profits, or a percentage decrease in costs. Give them tangible, measurable results.

Your voice mail message is at the very beginning of your relationship with this prospect. Because it is such a critically important step, you need to know how you sound. Invest in a small tape recorder, and practice your messages before you actually use one. Listen closely. Be critical. Imagine that you are the prospect. What first impression are you forming based on this message? What specific value are you describing? If you’re just describing your company’s capabilities, that’s probably an automatic delete. Listen to your voice tone. You want to be enthusiastic without being peppy. You want to be taken seriously without being serious. You want to be conversational without being casual.

It all comes down to describing the value you offer in a concise way, and the results you could provide. Remember, you’re trying to break through everything that your prospect is experiencing during their hectic day. I’m not saying that this is easy. Just necessary.