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5 Sales Techniques That Sound Smart But Usually Flop

By: Aja Frost | @ajavuu | HubSpot

There’s a ton of sales advice floating around out there (trust us, we’d know.) But just because you read an article on a psychological technique or fancy method doesn’t mean you should take it at face value. Let’s be honest: Strategies that sound smart often flop. And not only do these unsuccessful techniques waste your time and energy, they also hurt your chances of closing.

Want to avoid the advice that seems clever but really sucks? Read on for the five worst offenders.

1) Close More Quickly by Manufacturing Urgency

When you’re scrambling to meet your quota at the end of the month or quarter, there’s a real sense of urgency. The problem is, you’re the only one experiencing it.

To ensure your prospects don’t drag their feet, it might seem like a good idea to invent a reason they should buy right now. Michel Fortin, CEO of Workaholics4Hire.com, tells a story about a furniture salesperson who would've given him an extended layaway plan if (and only if) Fortin pulled the trigger that day.

Along similar lines, many reps will give short-term discounts or claim their supply is about to run out.

Sometimes this sleazy tactic might work. But if your buyer really isn’t ready, using a discount to try and move them forward is aggressive and undermines your status as a trusted advisor.

What to Do Instead: There’s nothing wrong with creating a sense of urgency; in fact, it’s a fantastic way to reignite stalled deals. However, you must find a legitimate reason the prospect is suffering every day without your solution. Once they realize the sooner they buy, the better off they’ll be, things will move quickly.

(Need a couple pointers? These 26 questions will help you create genuine urgency in your prospect.)

2) Motivate the Prospect by Referencing Their Competition

Imagine you’ve been neck-and-neck with another professional in your industry for years -- battling each other for the same jobs, going to the same events, and competing for the same opportunities. One day, you hear about your rival’s brand-new project.

Are you immediately going to start an identical project? Not a chance: You’re going to think of an even better one, so ultimately you can come out on top.

The same concept applies when you talk to prospects about their competition. Telling them you work with their direct rivals doesn’t work. Sure, you might get their attention, but in the long run they want a vendor who can put them ahead of the competition -- not beside it.

What to Do Instead: Identify your prospect’s unique pain points and goals, and tailor your messaging accordingly. If they can clearly see the value of your product, you won’t need jealousy.

3) Boost Your Success by Sugarcoating the Truth

The fit between the buyer and the product is never 100% perfect. Unfortunately, some salespeople choose to handle these inevitable issues by sweeping them under the rug. The rep might conveniently “forget” to mention the product doesn’t support international payments, even though he knows some of the prospect’s clients live overseas. A rep might quote prospects the baseline price early in a discovery process to hook his prospect, although the actual cost will be much higher with their estimated usage rates.

Sugarcoating the truth will help you move along the deal -- until, of course, the facts come out. And that means you’ll have invested a lot of time into a pointless relationship. After all, no one’s going to buy when they realize you’ve been misrepresenting the facts.

What to Do Instead: Be honest, but also give them context. If your product doesn’t have a feature the prospect wants, tell them so -- and then offer a workaround or equally compelling reason to buy. If switching to your platform will be time-consuming, say that upfront -- and then mention your dedicated onboarding team. Your integrity is your most valuable asset. Maintain it, and your retention rate will be as high as your close ratio.

4) Get to the “Yes” by Beating Down Objections

It’s easy to think of an objection as something you “beat.” After all, if you can overcome a prospect’s reservations and excuses, then you’re well on your way to an inked deal.

With this mind-set, many reps are extremely aggressive objection-handlers.

“These are the folks that have studied books of objections and how to overcome them,” explains sales expert Darren Fleming. “Whenever a potential lead has an objection, the person is there with an answer. They beat the objections down until the lead has no choice but to surrender.”

It’s a classic scenario of winning the battle but losing the war. Your prospect might go silent -- but they won’t have forgotten their objection.

What to Do Instead: If the prospect is brushing you off, you should creatively out-maneuver them. However, if it’s later in the buyer’s process and they’re truly concerned about something, take the time to understand their specific objection. Once you’ve got a good grip on what they’re thinking and why, you can address their objection calmly and logically -- no bullying necessary.

5) Impress the Buyer by Delivering Instant Answers

The more experience you gain, the easier it is to spot certain trends. And once you’ve identified a commonly held challenge, it’s tempting to swoop in and tell the prospect exactly what they’re facing and how to fix it.

The problem with this approach? If you happen to be right, you’ll gain credibility. But making assumptions is incredibly dangerous -- and if you misjudge the prospect’s situation, you’ll come across as presumptuous and not worth listening to.

What to Do Instead: Use questions to validate your hunches. If you suspect the prospect’s business can’t recruit engineers to save their life, ask, “Many companies in your industry are struggling to hire technical talent -- are you experiencing something similar?”

You’ll avoid coming to the wrong conclusions, but you’ll still get to show off your hard-earned expertise.

In the sales world, separating the great advice from the questionable isn’t always easy. You should always use your best judgment -- if you can picture a tactic going wrong, it’s probably not the best idea.

What’s the worst sales advice you’ve ever followed? Let us know in the comments!