For salespeople, transitioning from one sector to another can be tricky. Some handle it better than others, but what is universally difficult is the transition from mass sales to premium sales. I have seen many people face this difficulty because I am a consultant who specialises in sales, so I have given more than 100 workshops about the topic. I mostly train existing sales teams that are underperforming or newly formed teams that are launching a complex product. In both cases, salespeople underperform when they take tricks and gimmicks that work well in the mass market and then try to apply them in the premium sector. They inevitably flop.
Trick 1 — “My boss will laugh at me!”
While purchasing a business service product for my firm, I was negotiating with a sales representative. Several times throughout the conversation, the sales agent mentioned that he was limited in what he could do because of his boss. We all have bosses, so everyone can empathise with a guy who has a stickler of a boss, right? So, when it came to basic agreements, all was well and good, but then this boss topic came up yet again when we reached an important sticking point. I asked for a certain term regarding an opt-out option after 1 year instead of 2, and the agent responded quickly that it was just impossible, that he could not even ask his boss because his boss would laugh at him. My response: “I could not care less if your boss laughs at you; I need this term or I will go to your competitors”. But the damage was done; I had no interest in doing business with someone who was clearly trying to manipulate me.
Trick 2 — “Let me do you a favour.”
If you are in sales, you are making money based on commission. You have a boss, who may or may not laugh at you, and they have given you a certain amount of leeway in offering incentives and discounts. What is incredibly frustrating for any real businessperson is when a sales agent pretends that they are doing you a “huge favour” when providing basic incentives. Any person who has spent time in business knows the gig, and they know that you are trying to pretend that you doing your job is something we should be grateful for. I can handle it when someone does not want to show all their cards during a negotiation, but it is exhausting when they pretend that they are going through great lengths to offer you a pre-determined list of incentives. When salespeople oversell these favours, that’s when they get into trouble.
Trick 3 — “If you respond by next Friday…”
We get it, you are trying to establish a timeframe into which I need to respond in order to motivate me to make a decision. The more time I have to think, the more time I have to research competitors. The more time I have to think, the more time I have to lose interest. But most of the time, this time pressure is entirely fabricated. Real time crunches certainly exist. For example, a company decides to raise their hourly rates across the board as of January 1, it may be difficult to secure the same discount that they were able to provide in the previous year. But if you are telling me, in the middle of July, that a rate or promotion will suddenly disappear, it really feels a lot like the “BUY NOW and get one free!” infomercials playing at 3 AM.
Most salespeople learn on their own that these tactics do not work when applied to the premium sector or a complex service. The most intelligent ones realise it and make drastic changes to their approach. There are, for example, intelligent ways to pressure clients to make deals, but you do not have to be ridiculous when applying this pressure. The ones who cannot adjust often end up blaming the product and not themselves. Their justification: “I was excellent at my last company”. Yes, and every player on every NBA bench was the best player on their college team.