Tag Archives: Rapport

“I’m Not a Salesperson,” and Other Lies You Tell Yourself

If there’s anything that is guaranteed to drive me up a wall, it’s when salespeople refuse to call themselves salespeople.  In fact, when someone is selling to me and they say, “I’m not a salesperson,” I immediately put my hand on my wallet and leave it there.  I’m just amazed at the amount of people who think that the route to credibility lies in not claiming their role and responsibilities.

Look, I get it. A 2022 HubSpot survey showed that only 3% of the public trust salespeople.  That sucks, but it’s reality (at least we beat out politicians and lobbyists).  And – let’s be honest – that reputation has been earned by generations of salespeople who were, in fact, less than trustworthy.  But still, our profession, done right, is one of the noblest and one of the most important roles in business and our economy.  And when you disclaim your profession, you can actually harm your customer’s trust in you.  I’ll explain why.

My definition of selling (and my opinion about selling matters to you; otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article) is:  Selling is the act of helping customers make positive buying decisions.  And, when you are engaged in the act of helping customers make positive buying decisions through interpersonal contact, you are selling, and therefore you are a salesperson.  We can all agree with that, right?  And again, I fully recognize that many of our predecessors didn’t worry about whether the customer was making a positive buying decision. It was “sell at all costs.”  I worked with some of those guys and worked for some of those guys.  Guess what?  They’re obsolete.

The tactics that those past salespeople used relied on a lack of transparency and the customer’s lack of access to information.  Today, customers can learn more about you in ten minutes than they could in half a day 20 years ago.  That’s changed the dynamic. Today’s customers are smarter, more informed, more savvy, and more empowered, and they expect their intelligence, knowledge, savvy, and empowerment to be respected by the salesperson.  Which brings me back to the issue of trust.

Here’s something you need to understand, because your customer understands it:  When you tell the customer that you’re “not a salesperson,” when you obviously are, you are lying to your customer.  Worse, your customer knows that you are lying.  And when you begin your interactions with your customer on a lie, they’re probably not going to believe anything else you say.  It’s no coincidence that the “I’m not a salesperson” people are usually the least effective at selling.

There’s another level to this, too.  These days, there are a ton of job titles that are an attempt to mask the salesperson’s responsibility in selling.  “Business Development,” “Account Manager,” “Customer Consultant,” “Territory Manager,” and others are a way to try to elevate the salesperson in the eyes of the customer (and others that they encounter) and hide the fact that the holder of that title is, in fact, a salesperson.  Guess what?  Your customer knows.  They’re not stupid.

And, to take another side street in this route, those of you who are business owners, solopreneurs, consultants, and freelancers – when you are engaging your customers in an attempt to help them make positive buying decisions that go in your favor, you’re salespeople too.  Own it.  Be proud of it.

Selling – done right – is probably the most important role in our companies and our economy. To say that “nothing happens until someone sells something” is a true statement.  Without an order, no factory can build a machine, which in turn means that they can’t hire workers, which means that those workers can’t buy a cheeseburger, which means that nobody can open a burger joint, and…well, you get the idea.  Heck, last week, I had a speaking engagement at a company back east that makes corrugated boxes.  They had recently redone the plant to be almost fully automated.  And, as I was watching this huge, multi-million dollar machine convert corrugated cardboard rolls into finished, printed boxes, my first thought was, “Damn, I bet the guy who sold that machine had a great weekend after!”

Because, at some point, someone had to call on the owner of this company.  They had to ask questions to determine the needs.  They had to customize and make a presentation and communicate value.  They had to craft a proposal to show that value and ROI.  There was probably some negotiation involved and persuasion.  And then the sale had to be closed.  That’s the responsibility of a salesperson. Oh, and as a side note – nobody lost their job at that plant; people got reassigned and made the company much more efficient.

As you’ve probably figured out, I’m not a fan of titles that mask what we do, nor salespeople who disavow our great profession.  I’m the Sales Navigator.  I’m a consultant, I’m a trainer, I’m a coach, I’m a speaker, and I’m an author.  But at the root of all of these things is that I’m a salesman, and I’m damned proud of it.  You should be, too.

How to Do Cold LinkedIn Outreach

Most salespeople don’t know how to do cold LinkedIn outreach.  Many salespeople try to do cold LinkedIn outreach and do it badly.  Houston, we have a problem!  Don’t we? I’m in a fairly good place to talk about this, because I do LinkedIn outreach and I teach how to do LinkedIn outreach.  However, most importantly, I’m the recipient of a lot of LinkedIn outreach – and nearly all of it is awful.

When you’re a trainer, a coach, or a speaker, you quickly learn that there is an entire industry of people just dying to separate you from your money by promising miraculous growth – if you’ll just pay them to market you or help you market yourself.  This entire industry focuses on reaching out on LinkedIn.  I get somewhere between four and six messages a day.  Most of them follow the same format.  “Hello, Troy, you should know that I’m different and here’s why…” not realizing that they sound exactly the same as everyone else.  Well, I received a message a few days ago from a guy who started that way. When I didn’t respond, he messaged again the next day.  His message was a bit longer than most.  I decided to try an experiment.  Here’s how I responded to him:

“I suppose I’d be open to a brief strategy call.  However, you should know this – you might ‘be the opposite of every LinkedIn marketing company,’ but you sound exactly like every other LinkedIn marketing company that bombs me with messages every day.  There’s no shortage of people ready to separate coaches like me from their money, with big promises and crap returns.  And of course, you’ve done the typical move of reaching out with a hard-sell message right away with no attempt at getting to know me or building a relationship that would give you credibility with me. So – with all that said, if you’d like to schedule a short call, I’m open to it, and I’m always open to learning ways to build my business.  That said, I don’t apologize for being direct and protective of my time.  But here’s my expectation for that call:

  1. You will have at least viewed my website to get an understanding of what I do.
  2. No small talk or cheap rapport building.  I don’t schedule these calls to talk football.
  3. Your questions should be to gain understanding, not lead me.
  4. You be ready to tell me, in simple and straightforward terms, how you can help based on what you have learned about my business.

The ball is in your court.”

He has read that message, but I haven’t heard back from him.  I doubt that I will.  He’s sending out hundreds of these per week, and probably half of those people are blocking him immediately.  But, since he’s working on the law of large numbers, I’m sure he’s getting some appointments.  And that message will put him off because he’ll figure that I’m a jerk, or too tough, and there are easier marks.

Here’s what this guy doesn’t know about me and probably won’t ever get to learn:  I’m a tough sale but once I’m sold, I’m SOLD.  I’m loyal as hell, and if someone helps me, I will evangelize for them at every opportunity.  But I’m protective of my time.  When someone wants to sell to me, I expect them to have their act together.  They should have a basic knowledge of what I do and be able to fit their services into that context.  I’m happy the Chiefs won the Super Bowl (will I get sued by the NFL for using the name, or should I have said “the Big Game?”), but it’s neither the focus of my life nor something I’m interested in talking about during a sales call.  And I expect a straightforward dialogue with no manipulative BS.

In other words, I’m like most of your prospects, and that’s where this worm is going to turn.  You see, the guy who messaged me works nationwide to a big industry.  There are some 4 million people in the USA alone who are engaged in some form of speaking or coaching – so if he burns some potential leads, who cares?  He has a monstrous base of prospects.  Most of you are measuring your prospect list in the thousands, hundreds, or even tens.  You can’t afford to burn too many of them.  So, if you want to avoid failing in your cold LinkedIn outreach, here’s how to do cold LinkedIn outreach right:

  1. No immediate hard sell. I’ll be honest; I cringe when I accept connection requests from people in certain lines of business.  That’s because I know that, within minutes, I’m going to get a hard-sell message for how they can revolutionize my business.  This hard-sell message is going to be incredibly generic and not speak to me as an individual at all, and there will be no attempt at relationship building.  Try this:  When your request is accepted, just send a soft message thanking them for accepting and telling them that you’re looking forward to networking with them here.  And leave it at that.  Believe it or not, you will stand out and be memorable by NOT telling them how awesome you are and how you can solve all their problems!
  2. Engage. Now that you’re connected, engage with them and their posts. Why do people post on social media?  They want ATTENTION.  Give it to them.  Like their posts.  Comment on them when it’s appropriate – and the comment shouldn’t be, “You know, if you buy from me, you can do that even better!”  We get just a little dopamine hit when we see that someone has liked or commented on our posts, and very few people actually do that.  When you do, your name appears and they remember it.  Don’t be a stalker, of course – but give them a little attention.  You might find that they give it back.
  3. Post meaningful content. Post about more than your current product line.  Post interesting articles that you’ve read (this one, maybe?), post tips on how to do business better, even a personal post every now and then is good.  But be active.  I’m not talking about posting all the time.  One post every day or two keeps you alive on LinkedIn.  Between #2 above and this tip, you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in 30 minutes a day.
  4. Cold LinkedIn Outreach should be appropriate and individualized. When you do reach out directly (no less than 3 weeks from initial connection), it should be individual, specific, and appropriate.  It should display some knowledge of who they are and what they do, and speak directly to how you can help them.  For instance, “Hey, Stan, I saw you’re opening a new branch in Peoria.  You might not know this, but we have a great service center in Peoria that can help you with the startup and maintenance of that building.”  No generic hard-sell crap.
  5. No fake rapport. Two things I’m sick of when someone tries to sell to me.  “How about those Chiefs?” and “Kansas City?  Great barbecue there.”  I’m sick of it for two reasons.  First, it’s an assumption – if you’re from Kansas City, you must be a dyed in the wool Chiefs fan, right?  Er, not so much.  Like I said, I’m a good Kansas Citian, I’m glad (and surprised) that they won, and I attended my friends’ watch parties.  But football does not absorb my life.  And if you’re from Kansas City, you’re big into barbecue, right?  Well….yeah, I am.  I have my own smoker and I’m convinced that the best ribs in Kansas City come from it.  But that doesn’t mean that I want to spend time that I’ve allocated for a business conversation on a topic that the salesperson probably doesn’t have any real interest in.  It’s fake and inauthentic, and it works against building rapport.  Want to really build rapport?  Ask a couple of good questions about your prospect that both demonstrate that you’ve done a bit of homework and that you want to dive deeper.  Then LISTEN to the answer.

Unlike the people who approach me, I’m guessing that you can’t really use the “law of large numbers” to generate a prospect flow, and that you can’t afford to have half of those you approach block you.  So, understand that prospecting and outreach are a slow play now. Instead of doing outreach for next week’s appointments, you’re going to do cold LinkedIn outreach for next month’s appointments – or next quarter’s.  That’s okay.  Those appointments will likely be better and more productive.