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So, who are you trying to make comfortable, anyway?

By Troy Harrison

Troy HarrisonOne of my mantras is that “comfortable customers buy.” That’s because it’s true. What salespeople don’t understand is that many of the things they do by reflex end up working against them.

Salespeople have a lot of tactics and techniques that turn out to be both time-wasters and contact-breakers. Many times, when I ask them what they’re doing, they tell me that they’re “trying to make the prospect comfortable.” That might be true, but usually, the truth is that they are trying to make THEMSELVES comfortable. If you do some of these things, you might take the time to ask yourself why – and who it is you’re trying to comfort?

“Hi, Mr. Prospect. How are you today?” This is the all-time time waster, and is the death of more potentially great sales conversations than any other phrase. It’s also the most common. When this is used in a cold-prospecting environment by a salesperson who doesn’t know the prospect, it’s a virtual announcement to the prospect that the caller is a pesky salesperson who is incapable of making the most of his or her time on the phone. The reaction by the prospect is always the same: “Uh, fine. Who is this?” or some variation on the theme. But what has happened with that simple little phrase is that the prospect, whom you really want to approach your call with an open mind, has now geared up his or her defenses and is prepared to resist. That’s pretty much the opposite of what you want to happen. The truth is that “how are you today” is a bridge to a conversation built by a salesperson who is uncomfortable with his or her message, and is stalling before delivering it. Don’t be that guy (or gal). Get comfortable with your message, and dump that question.

“Is this a good time for me to call?” Here’s the truth – when you’re calling a decision maker, it’s hardly ever a great time to call. Therefore, the best thing you can do is be as respectful as possible of their time by being impactful and communicating value. But asking that question creates a great opportunity for the prospect to dump you off the phone, never to hear from you again. Again, this is delivered by salespeople uncomfortable with their own message. Instead, go ahead and deliver. If it’s REALLY a bad time, your prospect will tell you.

“Fish on the Wall” selling. Everybody knows what this is, right? That’s the salesperson who enters a prospect’s office, sees a fish mounted on the wall, says, “Did you catch that fish? Hey, I fish too!” and then spends an inordinate amount of time talking about fishing – or whatever personal interest they observe. It’s not a great practice when the salesperson really IS an enthusiast, but it becomes downright pathetic when the salesperson isn’t. Example – my favorite sport happens to be auto racing, and it’s not a casual pursuit. I’ve done everything in it, up to and including owning and driving my own race cars. When a salesperson enters my office and tries to build fake rapport with an obviously solicitous discussion of racing, it works against his desire to make a sale. Why? Because it’s phony. You didn’t enter that office to talk racing (or fishing, or whatever) – you entered to attempt to make a sale. Whether you’re working on selling or not, the clock is ticking.

“Just.” This is a word that salespeople use to take the edge off their communications. For example, “I was ‘just’ calling to follow up…” etc. The problem with this is that the word “just” diminishes the importance of whatever follows, by definition. And if what you’re doing/saying isn’t important to you, why should it be important to the customer? If selling is important to you, the truth is that you don’t “just” do anything. You do it. Eliminate the “just calling” stuff from your communications, and you’ll have more impact.

“I’m seeing if you have any questions.” This is a great one, usually used after a salesperson has delivered a proposal. “I’m calling to see if you have any questions about my proposal” really means “I’d like to have the business,” but the salesperson doesn’t have the guts to ask for it. Guess what – if your prospect has questions, they’re probably smart enough to call you and ask. So why are you trying to diminish the importance of the act of asking for business? The truth is that you have fear, and you need to let it go.

All of these communications habits have something in common – a salesperson who is uncomfortable with the role and task of selling. If you’re using them, take a deep look inside yourself and ask why. You might be startled at what you find out. There’s nothing unimportant about the act of selling, and you shouldn’t diminish the importance of your job with comments like the above.

Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and the President of SalesForce Solutions, a sales training, consulting and recruiting firm. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail, or visit


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