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Sales Habits that Decrease Credibility

In sales, credibility is critical. If you are credible, your client or prospect will give you more time, reach out to you for thought leadership, and you can challenge or push back in a respectful way. Without credibility, it's easy to fall into the trap of becoming an order taker or tactical responder rather than a strategic partner, which can be challenging to change. Unfortunately, when most people imagine a salesperson, they think of the pushy used car salesperson.

Who wants to come across like that? No one! Often, salespeople shrink themselves down so they don't come across too pushy, resulting in them lacking assertiveness and refraining from moving the sale forward. Remember, the essential sales skill taught by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

When I refer to "Always Be Closing," I do not mean acting overly aggressive but instead securing another meeting, establishing follow-up, and moving the sale forward. This article will discuss five unconscious habits that can kill your credibility with clients and prospects.

1. Overusing hedging language.

What is hedging language?

When someone uses a hedging word such as kind of, sort of, possibly, potentially, could, I think, or any other word that hedges your answer.

Why is this an issue?

When someone overuses hedging words, it decreases their credibility and makes them come across as less confident. For example, imagine if a prospect asked what you would recommend and you said, "I think you should potentially reduce your costs so you can deal with..." On the other hand, if you said, "You need to reduce your costs so you can deal with XYZ," you come across more clear, confident, and have a point of view.

How do we get rid of these words?

A) Fine-tune your ear so you notice when others use these words. Once you hear them when others say them, you will hear them when you say them.

B) Catch yourself the moment you use hedging words.

C) After you catch yourself, either remove the word or use words with more conviction, such as will, it is, I can, I believe, etc.

One caveat, I am not suggesting eliminating these words altogether because there is a place for hedging words, such as if you cannot commit to an answer. However, many salespeople overuse these words, and it decreases their credibility.

2. Bringing in a specialist too quickly without explanation.

What is this?

A trap many generalist sales executives fall into is bringing in a specialist too quickly. For example, imagine a prospect says, "we are concerned about the risk in the market," and the rep immediately responds, "we can bring in a risk specialist."

Why is this an issue?

You are planting a seed in your prospect's brain that you don't bring much to the table, and they should be speaking with the specialist.

What is the solution here?

A) Make sure your role is clear, so the client understands the value you bring. For example, you can say, "I am going to be your main point of contact. We will get into detail on challenges, solutions, and strategies to determine the best way forward. In some cases, we may bring in a specialist and, I can oversee that process."

B) Before immediately offering to bring in a specialist, ask more questions. For example, "it sounds like you have some challenges around risk, what are the three main areas of concern? What would you like to solve for?" After a few questions and demonstrating credibility, you can frame the need for a specialist. For example, "I want to dig into more detail with our risk specialist to come up with the best way forward. When would be the best time for both of us to come back?"

C) If the specialist joins the meeting, don't hand the discussion over entirely to the specialist. Stay involved in the conversation by doing the following:

  • Simplifying concepts when the specialist gets too complicated

  • Pausing the specialist on essential points, they might gloss over or rush. Bring the conversation back to a strategic level when the specialist goes down a rabbit hole

  • If a specialist is present, it doesn't mean the generalist disappears. It is even more important for the generalist to stay involved to ensure the prospect gets what they need from the discussion

3. Jumping on a product solution too quickly.

What is this?

When you hear a client mention an area where they need help, you immediately provide a solution. Imagine your company sells software that schedules meetings, and the prospect says they need help with scheduling meetings. Once you hear this, you immediately jump in state, "We do that! We offer scheduling software!" Like a puppy who sees a treat, woo hoo a sales opportunity, cha-ching!

Why is this an issue?

You can come across as tactical, less strategic, and in some cases, desperate for the sale, which reduces your credibility.

What is the solution? Slow down and ask more questions and broaden the picture such as the following:

  • What is the impact of this scheduling issue?

  • What would solving this do for you?

  • What type of resources are you willing to deploy toward this?

Then share your significant expertise. i.e., "In my experience, calendar issues are typically part of a larger issue. We have expertise in calendar issues, but we should also discuss the broader systematic challenges that can lead to more significant problems."

4. Asking generic questions.

What are these?

Questions that put pressure on the client to do the heavy lifting, such as:

  • Tell me about your business.

  • What are your biggest challenges?

Why is this an issue?

It's the 2020's, not the 80's, and thanks to google, we must use the information we can access. Generic questions make you come across unprepared as if you do not understand their business, and it doesn't demonstrate the value you will bring but rather the additional work you are adding to their plate.

What is the solution?

Weave your background research and knowledge into your questions such as:

  • On your website, it said XYZ. Can you bring that to life with an example?

  • I see that your vision is to XYZ. How do you feel you are progressing against that bold vision?

5. Generic vs. specificity.

What is this?

A great example is when sales executives use generic round numbers such as "unemployment is roughly 5%" or "growth is about 10%."

Why is this an issue? It will come across as generalizing, and you will appear less detailed and knowledgeable.

What is the solution? Use 2-3 numbers during your conversation to a single decimal place or numbers that do not end in 0 or 5. For example, "unemployment is 4.9%" or "growth is 9%." Don't feel like you have to memorize 25 exact numbers because your not expected to be a genius like Stephen Hawking, but you also don't want to be perceived as an empty suit like Lloyd Christmas. Stating 2-3 specific numbers during your discussion will build your credibility.

It can be difficult, but I challenge you to identify the unconscious habits that decrease your credibility. If you believe you don't fall into any of these habits, be careful because you are shutting down self-reflection, and many seasoned sales reps fall into these traps because they are UNCONSCIOUS. It's painful admitting when we have ineffective habits, but you can take your credibility to the next level if you identify and change these habits.


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