How Not To Annoy Your Prospects


Written by CMG News Contributor, Paul Schmidt

I once had a conversation with a freelancer who said to me, "You know what? I don't like sales. I don't like marketing. I feel like I'm pestering people." I think many freelancers, solopreneurs, and creatives who are more introverted, new to the idea of reaching out to complete strangers around (especially a new) commercial endeavor, bristle at the idea.

There’s an old adage that goes, “Nothing happens [in business] until someone sells something.” What would happen if life-saving equipment was never sold to hospitals? If doorknobs were never sold to people who have doors? If homes were never sold to people who need them? The fact is we all have needs that need to be filled. And as a society, we do that through the commerce of goods and services.

So where did this idea of pestering or annoying come from? Years ago, IBM created BANT, a framework for prequalifying people to be good prospects for buying a product or service:

Budget – Do they have the resources to buy?

Authority – Do they have the power to make the decision to buy?

Need – Do they have a need that can be satisfied or a problem that can be solved by the product or service?

Timeline – When are they planning to solve the need by buying?

When we don’t prequalify someone by establishing that the BANT criteria are met, we run a high risk of annoying or pestering. Lazy, unskilled, untrained (or poorly trained) sales people who don’t do their homework don’t prequalify or target prospects by using solid criteria.

It is perfectly reasonable to reach out to complete strangers who meet or are likely to meet the BANT criteria. You’ve established, by doing your homework, that this person has a need that can be satisfied by your product or service and has the resources and power to make that decision in the actionable future. That’s not to say that everyone who prequalifies will buy, or even turn out to have a need or have all the resources or the power to buy. Maybe they solidly meet all the criteria but already have a solution and are very happy with it.

The point of prequalification is to establish likelihood to buy so that you don’t waste the prospect’s time or yours. It’s respectful. It’s kind. It’s crucial. And by the way, if they ain’t got it, they ain’t got it. You’re not going to create need, budget, authority or timeline in someone else.

Another way to annoy and pester is to be transactional. And this is where many sales managers often build rotten sales cultures, and as a result, many “trained” sales people falter. Being transactional means they’re all about the sale, the numbers, the quota, and the money in their pocket. They’ll take $1000 today rather than $5000 next year. They can be inauthentic, manipulative, even sneaky. The worst will say and promise anything to get the deal done. The classic plaid jacketed used car salesman of yesteryear.

Sales and marketing are all about building relationships. Transactional sales people don’t take the time to build the relationship. They try to close the deal way too early (“Hi, I’m Bob, let’s get married”). Or they close the deal and disappear until the next one is one the table. They don’t take a genuine interest in the people they’re dealing with and defining and solving their problem (meeting their need). Don’t get me wrong, sales goals are extremely useful and have real value. But often times we reward the results too heavily without rewarding enough of the positive, relationship- and trust-building behaviors that lead to strong results.

The best sales people in the world are collaborative, empathetic, and authentic. They truly enjoy helping people, not just with what they’re selling. The best, if they can’t help, will point you to someone who can.

Good sales people, in fact good business people, aren’t pests. They’re helpers.

Paul Schmidt has been a freelance voice actor for 22 years. In addition to his voiceover business, Paul has launched Paul Schmidt Coaching to help freelancers, creative entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs develop a replicable, scalable, effective sales/business development practice. To contact Paul directly, please email him at paul@paulschmidtvoice.com.

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