I used to work for a marketing agency as a sales executive. After any meeting with a potential client (good or bad) I would write them a follow up ‘thank you’ email. All of my emails would start the same:
I'm not sure where I picked this up from, but it used to flow from my fingertips by default. I never thought about why I wrote it, it just sort of happened.
Why was I thanking prospects for their time? It was because I viewed the interaction as the prospect doing me a favor. They were giving me the opportunity to bid on a project. Out of all of my competitors, I was one of the lucky ones. They had all the power, I was another vendor on their short list. By thinking this way I setting myself up to fail.
Your time is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than your prospects.
If you are thanking a prospect for their time, it means you are not providing any real value. If you are not providing value, it means you probably aren't challenging them or getting them to think differently about their business. If you are truly providing your prospects with insights into how they could be doing things differently, they should be thanking YOU. Your time is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than your prospects. You are the sales person which means you are the expert. Throughout the sales process, you should be educating your prospects and understanding their challenges. You should be listening to their pain points, understanding how they make money, and striving to figure out if you can even help them or not.
Why don't more sales people do this? Because running a consultative sales process involves asking tough questions and potentially scaring a prospect away. Most sales execs are so desperate for business scraps, that they don't care if the clients' challenges can actually be solved by what they’re selling.
Your prospects should view you as a trusted advisor and not just another vendor.
If you feel the need to "thank" your prospects, they are helping you, not the other way around. Your prospects should view you as a trusted advisor and not just another vendor.
Most of our mothers taught us it’s polite to say, “please” and “thank you” so we sort of do this out of habit. I’m not saying to stop being polite, sales-people should always be respectful and courteous. However, at the end of a call, when your prospect thanks you, instead of thanking them back, try responding with, “you’re welcome”. It will feel awkward at first, but it will change the tone of the conversation and subsequently how the prospect views you.
Once the prospect believes you are taking time out of your day to help them, you will have achieved "trusted advisor" status so when the time comes for you to present your plan or solution, the prospect will be more than happy to sign on the dotted line.
The 30 Day, "No Thank You" Challenge:
At the end of a sales call, when a prospect says, "thanks", I challenge you to respond with, "you're welcome" instead of thanking them back. It will feel awkward at first, but it will change the conversation and subsequently how the prospect views you. Try it on your next 10 calls and let me know how it goes. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
If you want to read more on saying, "thank you", I recommend Eric Koelma's blog post, "Should We Stop Thanking People For Their Time?"
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