Don’t Waste Your Time on This Stupid Selling Tactic


At some point during your sales career, you may have heard some weird ideas about what you need to do to sell more. Over the years I certainly have heard a few.

Here I’m going to share one sales idea that seems stupid to me and what I would do instead.

Stupid sales idea

A real estate agent announced she was participating in a new seven-week program. In an effort to be “bold,” she was calling 20 people a day. And then during one week, she planned to be even bolder and call 100 people. She had been told taking the time to get in front of 20 people by telephone was a good idea to grow her business and sell more homes

Why it’s stupid

1. The objective: I first thought about the real estate agent’s objective. In her business, she wants to represent either home buyers or sellers. However, buying or selling your home isn’t the type of decision that you wake up one morning and make randomly. Can you imagine a husband sitting at the breakfast table with his wife. He has his morning cup of coffee in one hand and he’s scanning the newspaper headlines with the other. He turns to his wife and says, “Well, honey, it’s going to be a gorgeous day today. Let’s put our home on the market. If a realtor calls today, let’s say yes to selling our home.” That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Of course it does. What’s the real estate agent’s objective for calling people on the phone? To catch them in the nick of time before they list their home to sell with another agent? Or is to be talking to them at the moment they realize they want to move and put their home on the market?

Both objectives would be better achieved with different strategies, and not by wasting time calling 20 or 100 people a day.

2. The content: But what if the strategy were a good one? Let’s say there is value in calling 20 or 100 people a day. What do you think she’s telling people in order to shorten her sales cycle or increase her sales? I would guess she’s trying to become “top of mind” for when people actually start thinking about selling their homes. The idea is to make phone calls now so people will remember later who she is.

And what could she possibly say? I’ll bet if her call is to a former customer, she says, “I’m calling to touch base and see how you’re doing”—and that’s clearly a waste of time. Or perhaps she asks for names of friends, coworkers, or family members who might be moving. But how would a random person know if someone is thinking about moving? Even families don’t always share that information with other family members. What are the odds that this person on the phone would be able to give the names of people who are at that moment thinking about hiring a real estate agent to sell their home? Not very high.

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What to do instead

1. Focus on reaching out to the right people: Instead of focusing on a certain number of people, I would focus on the types of people I want to reach out to. If I were a realtor, I’d think about conditions or life events that cause people to want to move (e.g., divorce or death). And then I would ask myself, who would know prospects that are having these experiences? I then would be building my network with divorce lawyers and probate attorneys. They likely have clients who want to move or need to move in the near future. I might even introduce myself to estate planners to let them know about the services I can offer their clients who are planning to downsize and move after retirement.

I also might network with wedding planners and other professionals who interact with people who may be buying homes. Since not all prospects are necessarily ready to buy at that moment, I would ask for names that I can contact in the future.

2. Say the right thing: For existing clients, you could say, “I always contact my customers a month after they move in, as that’s when they most need my resources for home care and design. Are you thinking about making changes to your home or looking for landscapers or other services?” Offer them the resources they need. And for clients who have been in their homes for four years, 10 years, and more, have a plan of what you’re going to say.

3. Make it easier to get a referral: It can be difficult getting referrals because people don’t necessarily know the types of referrals you’re looking for. You then need to come up with situations where your services will be needed by customers. For example, a home remodeler should seek referrals to people who have recently moved into new homes, since new homeowners often need home improvement services within six months of a home buying purchase.

Also, think about the companies where people you know work. If you’re a realtor, find out if a company has a relocation department, and ask for an introduction to the person managing that department so you can get a referral to the next out-of-town hire.

I’m not against using the telephone to sell; I am against wasting time. That’s stupid. So how can you be smart with the phone? Be more strategic, so you don’t waste your time. And who knows, you just might end up selling more.

RELATED: How to Become More Charming as a Salesperson—And Boost Your Sales

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