In a recent post over on the HBR blogs, Steve W. Martin describes a salesperson’s seven deadly sins. Many sales people indulge in one or more of these sins, and you can use this to your advantage to avoid negotiating a deal you don’t want to make (as some sales people won’t stop calling until they get a meeting since their mantra is to prospect, prospect, prospect until they have a purchase order or a restraining order).
In the order they were presented by Mr. Martin, here is how to use the seven deadly sins of sales people to your advantage.
For whatever reason, some salespeople just can’t keep their sassy mouths shut. If you know that you don’t want what the salespeople are selling, but can’t get out of the meeting / call (because your supervisor bound you to it), you can avoid getting to the “negotiation” entirely by asking a question every time the salespeople come up for air. This will keep them talking until time’s up when you can bid them good day (and good riddance).
Some salespeople are more interested in the meal than the sale. If you know a bit about food, you can avoid a discussion of the salesperson’s product or service entirely by suggesting a fine establishment unfamiliar to the sales person where you will spend the meal discussing the restaurant and the food. Plus, the sales person will be happy because he “bonded” with you.
Some sales people are way too focussed on the here and now, to the point where they’ll ignore the future to their significant detriment. If you don’t want them bidding on a big contract next quarter, but don’t want to upset them because you want to continue to do business with them where other products or services are concerned, you can easily distract them by diverting their attention to a contract that is closing sooner that they can bid on.
Salespeople often have no clue who does and does not have buying authority and think that a manager is a manager is a manager. If you want to divert their attention or get them off your back, you can keep them tied up for months by redirecting them to another employee of “equal” rank who is interested in their product (but who will take months to decide such product is best), but who ultimately has no buying authority. When the salespeople ultimately finally find out that Manger of Quality Assurance has no spending authority, they might just give up completely and go away.
Some salespeople don’t know their product or service well enough to answer a simple question. A great way to get them off your back is to ask a dozen detailed questions that they have no shot of answering without having to go to engineering / service delivery (whose priorities will not be the same of the salesperson) and to indicate that it will be impossible to proceed until the questions are answered in detail.
Some salespeople will happily assume what they don’t know in order to make “progress”. This can work to your advantage if you suggest that you require a key feature, on the future roadmap that won’t be completed for at least a year, in such a way that they presume you won’t go forward without that feature.
Some salespeople don’t realize the importance of a contact that tells them what is happening behind closed doors, that defends them when they are not around, and that disseminates propaganda on their behalf. Other salespeople will believe anyone who says they are on the salesperson’s side. If you’re willing to stretch the truth and make lies of omissions, you can convince the sales person you are fighting a losing battle tooth-and-nail on their behalf and that the best thing they can do is stay away and be patient while you slowly wear your peers down while you are, in fact, doing absolutely nothing. After all, ignorance is bliss!