Your Biggest Competitor: Sales Ghosts of the Past

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: November 14, 2016

Christmas decorations are going up in stores, though it’s not even Halloween.   (That is another blog...come on…)  The decor reminds me of the beloved play, “The Christmas Carol.”

It’s the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas. A big part of the story is the ghosts that visit him during the night – the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future. Their visits change the way Scrooge views the world, and he becomes a generous and happy human being.

I often have told sales team members that their biggest competitors are not the obvious ones, but rather, the sales ghosts of the past their prospects have encountered.  When salespeople meet with a new prospect, they forget that he or she may have had unpleasant experiences  with previous salespeople. Memories of prior sales meetings are hanging over their heads---sales ghosts--- and often create guarded and limited conversations. 

Let’s look at a couple of sales ghosts hanging out in your prospect’s office. 

Sales Ghost of the Past – ABC. This salesperson uses outdated selling techniques and subscribes to the mantra of “always be closing.” He asks leading questions, such as, “So if we could … would you want to? Or, “Wouldn’t you agree our solution is better?” Both questions are designed to back the prospect into a corner and shout “uncle.” 

The salesperson’s best approach with prospects visited by this sales ghost is to disarm them by giving them an out. Let the prospect know, upfront, that “no” is OK.  Assure your prospect that you aren’t the going to overcome the objection 17 times.

Sales Ghost of the Present: We live in the Information Age. But still, some salespeople don’t prepare for a sales appointment. They don’t subscribe to any major newspapers, so they have no clue what’s going on in the world – forgetting that the C-suite executives they’re calling upon DO stay informed.

When asked about their company, they deliver a generic value proposition or one focused only on them.  “Well, we are the largest in the world and have a deep bench of expertise.  We’ve been in business for a thousand years.”

They invest no time in preparing thoughtful questions. Instead, they lob yawners at their prospects, such as, “So what keeps you up at night?” (The answer? “Meeting salespeople like you!”)

The only way you will win over this prospect still reeling from this ghost is to show up prepared and as an expert. That means you have designed a customized value proposition based on their position and industry and potential pain.  You are able to discuss trends and how your other clients are responding to the changing demands from their clients and business.  

This preparation results in the prospects saying, “I have never really looked at it from that perspective.” Now, the prospect starts relaxing.  No ghost here and a relevant conversation begins. 

This is a great time of the year to set strategy, and analyze your wins and losses. As you do so, remember that dealing with sales ghosts needs to be part of your strategy to win business.

Good Selling!