The Illusion of Selling

One of the worst objections a salesperson can hear is: “Could you send me some information?” It’s not that you can’t turn that objection around; it’s just that you know the prospect has no intention of ever looking at it. Besides, even if they do look at it do you really think they’re going to fully understand it? And, if they have questions, do you think they’re going to run right to the phone and call you for the answers?

Let’s face it. All information gets shipped to the same address: 1 Garbage Can Drive!

But now, here’s the real issue; many salespeople love to send out information because when you send information you never have to actually hear the word, “No,” while appearing to be doing something. It’s called the illusion of selling. It’s the ability to do sales-like activities where you don’t actually have to ask someone to buy, thereby avoiding rejection.

There are many examples of this:

  • Salespeople who visit the same clients all the time. I say “visit,” because that’s what they do. They don’t actually do any selling. They “Hang out.” It’s a great way of covering your ass, because you can fill out a report that shows you were seeing clients, thereby keeping your manager off your back.
  • Email. What a great non-threatening way of keeping in touch with people without ever having to speak with them and risk the chance they might turn you down for business. I love email, but not as the be-all and end-all, but more as an add-on to actual client contact; such as phone calls and face to face visits.
  • Paperwork. Salespeople love to complain about how much paperwork they have. The standard complaint is: “I’d love to sell more, but I have so much paperwork to do, I don’t have time to make the calls.” However, if you read between the lines the actual comment should be: “If I sit around doing paperwork, I’ll look busy without having to go out and get rejected.” Of course, the best way to eliminate paperwork is to stop selling. Soon there’ll be no paperwork, simply because there’ll be no customers.

The problem with the mediocre to poor salesperson is they will do anything to not have to sell. Here’s a great real-life example sent to me as a blog comment by Brad Trnavsky, a sales and management blogger:

“I had an outside rep that worked for me for about two months. He ignored every piece of advice I gave him and just walked around downtown passing out info packets and collecting business cards. Guess what; in two months he passed out hundreds of info packets and did not make one sale. It’s probably why he only lasted 2 months.

The bummer of it all is, the guy had skill, and could quote every sales book ever written. He was just too afraid to ASK for a sale.”

As you can see, participating in the illusion of selling can only take you so far; 2 months for the salesperson in the example above. This always amazes me because if these same salespeople put as much effort into selling as they do into the illusion of selling, they’d do a lot more business and make a lot more money.

There’s a huge difference between people who are “busy” vs. people who are actually getting things done. It’s great to be a hard worker, but it’s even better to be a smart worker. Even better yet, find someone who can combine both.


Winning Referrals

I just received the following email from Ira, who is a property and casualty insurance agent. He has a very interesting question about referrals and since this is such a big topic among salespeople and business owners, I thought I would share my reply with you:


I just found your site via your BusinessWeek interview, and I really enjoy your content.

I wanted to ask you a question regarding referrals. About a year ago, I got into the commercial insurance industry. I provide small to mid-size companies General Liability coverage, commercial vehicle, property insurance, etc. I am very fortunate in that I am quite often able to lower their costs without sacrificing coverage and am able to provide outstanding service to my clients.

My question is: how do I get these guys to understand that I really am trying to build my business with referrals and have them give me some names, intros, etc, without them feeling like they are putting another sales guy onto them? I feel like if I can save someone 40+%, they should be willing to help me out by giving me some guys to contact.

What are your thoughts?

My first thought is that Ira is hurting himself mainly because of his perceptions (sales sterotypes). Ira is not only providing a valuable service to these business owners, but in his own words states, “I am quite often able to lower their costs without sacrificing coverage and am able to provide outstanding service to my clients.”

Anyone who can do that is not selling; they’re helping, which is what successful salespeople do. A salesperson like Ira who saves clients money while delivering quality service is not another sales guy out there bothering people.

Good salespeople who deliver lower costs, asset protection and quality service are the kind of people clients and prospects WANT to see. This makes it Ira’s obligation to get referrals. Rather than “putting another sales guy on them,” don’t you think Ira’s clients would love to refer him to fellow business associates knowing that if he does the same for them, it wil help their businesses?

I think the issue Ira has is quite common. He’s afraid to ask for referrals. He shouldn’t be, especially since he does such good work for his clients. But while Ira states, “they should be willing to help me out by giving me some guys to contact,” the first rule of referrals is: "You have to ASK!" In referrals and in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You cannot sit around and wait for something to happen; you have to MAKE it happen.

Here’s what Ira should do:

  • Make a courtesy call to each one of his clients.
  • Ask each one of these clients for three names. When asking for referrals always ask for a specific amount. Don’t use open ended questions like, “Do you happen to know anyone who might be able to use my service?” That’s the kind of question that usually gets you a big fat NO!
  • When speaking to his clients, Ira needs them to agree with him that they are more than satisfied with everything he’s done for them and then ask them if they know three other business owners, they are friendly with, who they feel could benefit, much like they are, from his services.

People know and hang out with others who are just like them. In Ira’s case, his clients are business owners. I guarantee each one of them knows other business owners.

Referrals are the life-blood of a successful business. A prospect who has been referred by a satisfied client is more likely to buy and more likely to become a long term repeat client.

So remember the three rules of referrals:

  1. ASK!
  2. ASK for a specific number
  3. ASK the kind of questions that can be answered. (Could you give me the names of three business owners you know who might benefit from this service?)

Links to past articles on winning referrals:



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Time & Territory Management

Is your territory so large or your client list so long that you can’t seem to get to everyone? Do you find it hard to open new accounts when you’re bogged down in paperwork from the old ones? This week, let Warren show some quick and easy ideas to: maximize your client list; develope a formula for seeing the right clients most often; get your paperwork while actually seeing more people than you thought possible. Don’t miss this!


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