Oxford defines a crutch as a prop, a support. While there is nothing wrong with needing a little support, the crutches salespeople rely on harm their results, often without their knowing why. Here we will look at a number of crutches, what salespeople believe they do, and why they prevent sales.
Outdated Talk Tracks for Prospecting
Many salespeople believe a talk track with gimmicks is going to make it easier to command a meeting. They use this crutch because they don't feel like they are a peer of the person they are calling, and worry that they will present as an unserious person in an increasingly serious business world. However, any variation of "Is this a good time?" or "Did I catch you at a bad time?" or "Do you have twenty-seven seconds?" identifies the salesperson as something less than an industry expert who has the ability to help the client improve their results.
What salespeople fail to recognize is that while a few people might engage with you in a conversation using these crutches, the client begins their assessment of whether or not you are worth their time. Being cute and affable isn't the right positioning for someone who is going to create or help the client with a change initiative.
The Salesperson's Company
In first meetings, sharing information about your company is a crutch salespeople use to try to gain credibility and relevance. Salespeople who believe in this crutch don’t understand that they themselves are the value proposition, so it is counterproductive to rely on the credibility of their wildly successful company. Because salespeople have been taught and trained to start a first meeting with this crutch, they believe it helps them position themselves as credible.
What the salesperson doesn't realize is that they are attempting to differentiate themselves in the exact same way as their competitors, with the single difference being the color of the company logos. What's worse is the fact the prospective client finds no value in a history lesson about the salesperson's company.
I personally started to get feedback from clients about this approach in 2001, when clients told me not to open my laptop and to go without slides. The reason salespeople continue to use this crutch is that they don't know there is a better way to gain credibility. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to learn more.
The Salesperson's Clients
Everyone knows that social proof is a powerful force of influence, at least it can be when done well. This attempt to prove the client can trust the company provides the One-Down salesperson a way to avoid impostor syndrome. It’s another attempt to be credible without actually being credible. They believe the fact that BIGCO Inc. works with their company should be enough to position them as being relevant and worthy of the prospective client’s time.
Prospective clients have a greater interest in a different logo: their own company's logo. Your contacts were hoping for a conversation that might help them improve their results. The longer it takes to create value for a client in a meeting, the less likely you are to convert a first meeting to a second meeting. No contact is going to complain about having missed out on seeing your logos slide.
The Salesperson's Product or Service
The crutch of all crutches is the salesperson's product or service, something they have been taught to describe as the solution to their client's problems. The salesperson doesn't believe they are solely responsible for creating value for their client, so they deflect by trying to make the product deliver the value the client needs. The salesperson believes they are selling a drill, while the client is trying to buy a hole.
Only the sales conversation can address the hole. Clients are interested in learning what they need to know to improve their results. This crutch is incapable of handling the conversation the client needs to be able to move forward. Proposing the solution in a first meeting is pitching it too soon. This happens because the salesperson is One-Down.
The Legacy Approaches to Sales
We can lay the blame for these crutches at the feet of the legacy approaches. Many of the strategies salespeople use are more than five decades old, and some are ten decades old.
These approaches have lost their purpose and their efficacy over the last couple of decades of our AC/DC world (Accelerating, Constant, Disruptive Change). The 21st century started with the dot-com bubble, the attacks of 9/11, the Great Recessions, the rise of populism, a global pandemic, supply chain issues, and inflation. It is a different and far more difficult environment than the past.
These approaches are like healing illness by applying leeches to remove a person’s blood. There are better—and more effective—treatments available.
Removing the Crutches
Sales leaders should start identifying ways to remove these crutches and provide their team with an approach that would cause the client to lean in, learn what they need to know, and prefer to buy from the salesperson that guided them through the sales conversation.
Salespeople would do well to start adjusting to the new reality, one where these crutches can’t support credibility. In companies that require salespeople to use these crutches, many salespeople whisper that they long ago dropped them because they prevented them from creating value for their prospective clients and a preference to buy from them.
Losing your crutches may be scary, but what you should fear is not creating enough value in the sales conversation to be successful.