In Sandler, one of the things we talk about frequently is that your competition is every other salesperson your prospect has ever run into. In other words, they have assumptions on how you'll act based on everyone else in sales they've ever run into.
Here are a couple of stories that illustrate the power of that.
A while back, I got an email from a client sharing a story. Everyone at his organization was in one room having a staff meeting, when a salesperson showed up. He walked through their front office, and opened the door to their staff meeting.
"Hey, we're in the middle of something here," one of the people shared with him.
"It's okay," he responded, "I'm not annoying, I'm a salesperson." He then proceeded to disrupt their staff meeting with a sales pitch.
Do you think they'll have a positive image of salespeople in the future, or a negative one?
Here's another story. A while back I got a voicemail from a company asking for a quote for some sales training. Since I was in meetings all day, it was a couple hours before I actually listened to the voicemail. By that time, I had several emails from them as well, all essentially saying, "Help, we need a quote for a client and we're in a hurry! Here's an RFP."
The RFP didn't have much information in it, other than a little information about the company—not the company's name—and the fact that they needed sales training.
I picked up the phone and called the individual back. "Let me see if I can help your client," I said. "What are they looking to accomplish with the sales training?"
He paused for a moment. "That's not in the RFP."
"Okay, how many people will be at the training?"
Again, the person replied, "That's not in the RFP."
"How many sessions?"
"That's not in the RFP."
"Is there anything in the RFP other than a little bit about their company and that they want a quote for sales training?"
"Nope," he responded
"Okay," I said, doing my best to sound confused. "How in the world could I put together a proposals with knowing objectives, number of sessions, location, people…"
Turns out, the three other companies he'd called about sales training had given him a proposal without even talking on the phone with him!
Did the salespeople from those other three companies give him any reason to expect other salespeople to ask intelligent questions? His expectation was that all salespeople jump at the chance to send in a proposal or quote because they're desperate for the business.
Both groups of people were left with a distinct impression of the salespeople they interacted with. So when you approach them—or others—in a sales role, it becomes part of your job to overcome those impressions, so you can have a real conversation about whether you should work together or not.