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I’ve been broke before. (Actually, broke was my next goal, up from negative net worth.)

I regularly give workshops to groups ranging from ten people, to a couple thousand.

I’ve risked hundreds of thousands of dollars–of my own money–on business decisions.

But none of that is as nerve-wracking as when my daughter is on the pitcher’s mound at the state high school softball tournament.

And what absolutely drives me bonkers is when she’ll have two strikes on a batter, maybe throw a ball or two, and someone in the stands will yell, “Don’t lose her.”

How dumb is THAT?

Luckily, she’s focused and doesn’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the stands, and she’s way too polite  for this, but just once I’d like to see her–or some pitcher in the same situation–walk over to the fence  and say, “Thanks for that piece of brilliant advice.  I was considering walking this batter, after ringing up two strikes on her, but now I won’t because of your profound suggestion.”

There is a sales point here … let me find it …

… oh yeah … about negative suggestions, thoughts and assumptions usually coming true.

People focus and often act on what is suggested to them and what we think about.

Tell someone what NOT to do, and they think about … you guessed it … doing it.

Right now, DON’T think about pizza.

Got ya.

When a weekend golfer stands over a shot that must carry a lake, and he thinks, “Pleeeeeeze don’t go in the lake,” he just as well should toss the ball in the water and save the embarrassment of the swing.

The same is true with sales.What we focus on often becomes reality.

You’re probably familiar with that old saying about assumptions: “Never assume, because it makes an ____ out of ‘U’ and me.” If you’re regularly making assumptions regarding your selling, particularly the functions you’re performing by phone, I assure you that you’re also flushing sales down the drain.

I returned a call to a fellow who simply left his name (no company) on my voice mail, with no message other than to phone back. His voice tone sounded as if he was suffering through a thunderous hangover, slurring words like his jowls were packed with oatmeal. I checked my database and saw no trace of him. “Probably a non-customer who either wants to pick my brain and not buy anything, or a salesperson who likely will end up as fodder for my newsletter.  What a waste this will be,” I thought as I dialed the number. WRONGO!

About a minute into the call I was stunned to learn that he actually was a highly-placed decision-maker in a huge company that wanted to hire me to do some training. Luckily I recovered nicely to salvage the call. The experience reminded me of the potentially disastrous assumptions we make as salespeople.

Assumptions are dangerous because they place you in a frame of mind where you’ve already made a conclusion, one based on incomplete or erroneous information. And after you’ve made that conclusion you won’t go out of your way to contradict it. Worse, your subsequent actions validate and reinforce the assumption. Your sales call becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, picture a sales rep saying, This list of chiropractors is no good. They don’t want to talk to us, and when they do, all they want is to beat us down on price.” And whaddya know, on the very next call he gets a question on price, filters it through his negative mind set as a price shopper looking for a freebie.  Consequently, the rep acts indignantly and blows any chance at a sale. He turns to his cubicle-neighbor and says, “See, just got another cheapskate. Told’ja this list wasn’t any good.”

Let’s look at some areas where salespeople make assumptions, particularly as they relate to phone selling and prospecting.

Lead Sources. Who amongst us hasn’t called a bingo card lead, only to have the “prospect” say, “Huh? I never replied to anything like that.” Get a few of those in a row, and naturally your outlook can be a bit tainted. The same can be said for trade show leads, business reply cards, and so on. Keep this point in mind, though: one gold strike can make mining through some sludge worthwhile. Plus, if you’re working from any type of response list, your odds are always better than laboring through cold, compiled lists. I also know a few sales reps who beg for the inactive and orphaned accounts that no one else wants, and have made very comfortable livings off of these.

Company Names. What do you think of when you see an individual’s name followed by the word “Enterprises,” or “and Associates”? Some feel it’s just a wannabe business operated out of a briefcase or corner of a guest bedroom. You can’t be so sure. As you read this, salespeople are closing big sales to substantial operations with these types of names.

Locations. Reps will make crazy comments like, “Oh, the South isn’t a good territory. They’re not good buyers.” Or, “That’s a rundown part of town. They couldn’t afford what we have.” Or, you might have heard this before: “People on the East coast are rude and intimidating.” Again, assumptive callers get what they expect.

Job Titles. Don’t assume that a “Research Assistant” can’t buy from you, or that a Vice President can make the decision on her own. You still need to ask the  questions to learn the buying process.

Negative Call Histories and Notes From Others. If you’ve ever inherited the meager remains of account records from reps who’ve moved on, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen account notes containing, “She’s a real witch, and won’t give any information.” So what would that do to your call preparation and attitude? The tendency is to approach the call like a SWAT team member at a hostage situation. Instead, view with skepticism everything negative you see in notes that weren’t your own, especially if the rep was fired, or left because he wasn’t doing well. After all, if he was doing superbly, he’d likely still be there, making a fortune.

Time of Day, Week, Month, Year. “Mornings are bad for decisions,” “People are on vacation in the summer,” “Everyone leaves early on Fridays,” “No one buys before or after the holidays,” whine, whine, whine. Funny, I never hear these assumptive excuses from top producers. That’s because they’re too busy on the phone, proving the assumptions false, leaving others coughing in their dust.

The Sound of Their Voice. What image comes to mind when you hear a prospect answer the phone sounding like Elmer Fudd on valium? Yes, I’m amazed that people who sound like this can climb their way to top decision-making positions, but it happens often. Particularly true with entrepreneurial self-made millionaires whose advancement relies much more on results than on image. If you write these people off within seconds of hearing their voices, you might also be tossing away easy and profitable sales. Conversely, how about fast-talking, gruff-sounding individuals who give the impression they rank your status just slightly below the pizza delivery boy? Or, are there certain personalities, accents, or tones of voice that intimidate you and reduce you to a shivering puppy? Get over these assumptions and stereotypes, and focus on executing your well-planned call strategy.

If you must assume anything, let it be that this next call will be your best ever. And if you have to doubt anything, doubt your limitations. You’ll see better results.

By Art Sobczak

Retrieved 11 Jan 2011 from

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