Don’t ‘Spray and Pray’

For the first time in a while, I came across a really pushy, door-to-door salesman.  It was an experience I’m not keen to repeat!   This particular one was selling an energy supplier.  He brought to mind another person who appeared at my door “selling stuff” out of a large bag.  With the energy salesman I literally (but politely) closed the door on him but he still kept throwing information at me, edging to the side so he could see me through the ever decreasing doorway.   The other guy begged me just to have a look, while he lifted various household cleaning items out of his bag.  Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes I might have bought something, just out of pity.  Given the current economic climate, I kept my five pounds and politely said goodbye.


In each case, they sprayed me with information, praying that some of it might stick.   Now I’m not suggesting that we, in professional services, would ever be so crass… However, having been sold to many times, I have seen examples which might be considered in the same vein.  Brochures landing on my desk, unsolicited phone calls highlighting the latest offer, or even worse, generic responses to an enquiry which did not address my particular needs.

So why does this happen? 


It’s all about the seller’s agenda

Now obviously, if you are a business developer, you are likely to be rewarded on sales.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  However, if the selling techniques used are entirely about what is good for the business developer, it suggests thinking about the client’s needs are somewhere down the list of priorities.  Short terms sales may lead to long-term avoidance of you on behalf of the client.  


In professional services, we are likely to be selling expertise and relationships.  Professional advice is generally a significant investment for our clients – we are unlikely to get the sale based on one “foot in-the-door”.   Our client needs to truly understand and believe that we are competent in their arena – that we understand their particular pressures.   


There is also likely to be an exchange of sensitive and confidential information – there needs to be trust in that relationship.  Our client needs to feel that we are on their side – not worrying about our sales targets. 


Clients will also want to feel that we are compatible – that we will work easily with them and not jar with any of their values.  I vividly remember having to remove a supplier in my last company, who was technically very competent, but whose sexist attitudes led to a complaint from a female member of staff.  Sometimes it’s the values that clash!


The way to avoid this?

  • Decide what your ideal client base should look like.  Which company’s values will match yours? 
  • Build relationships over the long term, without a business development agenda at the forefront.
  • Think like clients – what is important to them?  Can you help?  If not, don’t ‘spray’ them anyway, and ‘pray’ that some of it sticks.


“I’m not a salesperson!”

The other principle reason that business development might go wrong is an (understandable) discomfort with the whole idea of ‘sales’.  For many of us, business development brings to mind the ‘door-to-door salesman’ idea.  Horrible! 

Strangely, in a misguided attempt to generate business we might, however, adopt a similar approach.  We might ask the marketing department to produce a brochure on our latest offering.  We might sponsor some events to ‘get our name out there’.  Or we might have a game of golf with appropriate people and drop into the conversation that we have a new service.


We are paid to be experts after all – we love talking about our professions, or the latest technical challenge.  This might be relevant, but only if the client is interested as well!


Or we might just avoid the whole area.  Business development is seen as rather beneath us – after all, our clients should already know how wonderful we are.  Don’t they know I’m the expert!

So what should we do?

  • Recognise that you are in a business – and businesses need clients.  Take time to get the clients you love working with.
  • Build relationships over time.  Find out about your clients.  Give them focused information when they want it.
  • Stop ‘selling’ and start building the motivation to buy.  Drop the image of ‘spraying and praying’, and imagine your clients running after you, begging you to work for them because they feel you are interested in them.


If you do business development in the right way, doors will be opened to you, and there won’t be a brochure in sight!

Read this article at AccountancyAge: 



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