Salespeople of the World – 5 Ways to Improve your Pitch

sales repA sales rep visited our library earlier today (Recorded Books was showing off their fledgling Rdio for Libraries product). Cool product, though I’ll guess not many libraries will go for it – bad pricing model, and no way to brand it as coming from the library. Just my opinion of course – prove me wrong, please!

But that’s beside the point. The sales rep, of course, was fine – he presented the info we needed to assess the product. It was an interesting meeting on a new model for music in libraries. What’s not to love about that?

But on the other hand, he did a couple of things that I have seen A LOT of sales reps do over the years, and it reminded me of other things I’ve seen in other product demo meetings.

So – Sales People of the World. Here are 5 ways to improve your pitch:

  1. Know how to use your own technology. I’ve seen this more than once – a sales rep takes us through a Powerpoint presentation, but never actually uses … um … the presentation mode. Instead, they have scrolled through the individual slides with a mouse. Or they advanced one slide too many, then didn’t know how to go back to the previous slide. Or simply didn’t know how to plug their laptop up to an LCD projector. All that says is that you don’t know how to use technology … even thought you are trying to sell us a technology product. Not. Good.
  2. Know technology in general. Be familiar with general technology terms, especially when it relates to the product you’re trying to sell. For example, don’t ever confuse downloading and online streaming. Two very different things. If you confuse those pretty basic things … and you’re selling a technology-related product … why should I trust you with my organization’s money? Ever?
  3. Don’t be negative about your own product. I’ve seen this many times. Either the rep will say the pricing will turn off many libraries, or the product isn’t really ready yet. Really? Then why are you here, wasting my time?
  4. Know your product. This happened in today’s meeting. Part of the coolness of the product is that it connects to Facebook and Twitter. If that’s the case, then by golly gee whiz, you had better show us what it does by clicking the Facebook button and hooking it up through your Facebook account – instead of saying “I don’t have a Facebook account yet.” One more example: I remember … granted, a LONG time ago … seeing the first web-based GEAC interface (that’d be a library catalog system). It didn’t display call numbers.Really. The rep didn’t seem to notice this in his product, until I pointed it out to him. Then he proceeded to blame the “home office” for it. Not the best way to sell a product, I’m thinking… which leads me to #5:
  5. Don’t blame the home office. If you don’t know stuff, never say “they didn’t tell us that.” I could care less who told/didn’t tell you, and it makes it sound like the sales staff and the home office are somehow at odds with each other. Instead, just say “Great question! I don’t know, but I’ll find out. What’s your email address?”
So – what else? Any of you notice something that sales people do in product demos that really just drives you crazy? Name it … and then tell us what they can do to improve!
image by Celal Teber
  • Gary A.

    Technically speaking, this didn’t happen in a sales demo, but after we bought the product, but I’ll toss it out there anyway.  Don’t insult the people you are trying to sell to/support/etc.  We had a situation where a vendor rep came to show the staff how to use the product and people asked realistic, although admittedly basic, questions.  The rep acted appalled that we would be so dumb as to ask something that any idiot (in his view of course) would know. 

    Not a good way to start our relationship. 

  • AnaMaranhao

    I hate when they simple ignore librarians and the library itself and make the presentation focusing only at faculty, if we have any present, trying to show that they can ignore the library and its staff and services. Tip: always include and value the staff of the library and its services during the presentation, you never know what is the weight it will have when considering buying or not your prouct.

  • Civillibrarian

    Don’t answer every single question about functionality that doesn’t currently exist with, “Not yet, but it’s definitely in development”.

  • davidleeking

    Oh, that’s a good one – I’ve heard it a lot. Instead, just say “I don’t know.” Or even “no.”

  • Brian Herzog

    This is a great post David.  I can only echo the need for tech-awareness with a few things I’ve encountered:
    -it’s annoying to wait through a bunch of unnecessary programs that launch at startup on a salesperson’s laptop
    -know how to turn off your IM/Twitter clients and email, so your presentation isn’t constantly interrupted by new message notifications
    -a bewilderingly-cluttered desktop can be distracting to organization-driven librarians (or at least to me)

  • davidleeking

    Brian – great additions. I’ve seen each of those! Honestly, I’d LOVE to see more message notifications though – it would at least show that the sales rep was actively using social media! That would be way different than the usual sales rep, ya know?

  • Terry Morris

    Awesome posting, I hope I did the good things and didn’t do the bad things :) Terry Morris Polaris Library Systems

  • davidleeking

    Ha! Terry, you were fine. I have seen another ILS vendor’s rep who really didn’t know how to use his laptop – it was sorta embarrassing.

  • Kathy S

    I was at ALA and a saleslady was trying to show off a new ereading product, but couldn’t get it to do what she thought it should do. My thought was that a) she should know how to use the product -even if it’s a demo- and b) if it is so complicated that she can’t figure it out, how are our patrons going to be able to figure it out? How long does she think the average user is going to want to spend putzing around trying to get it to work the way they want before giving up in frostration?

  • LynneW

    And the corollary to that is: don’t tell us your software can do something, when it can’t, never could, and never will. We recently sat through a sales presentation where I queried an assumption and was told it was an established element of the product. I asked more questions, and the presenter offered to forward me the specifics. When I got them, it wasn’t at all what I had been asking about,and had nothing to do with what he was talking about either. He obviously didn’t have a clue what his product or its audience were about.

  • Steph

    I’d add “Know your competition” — you don’t have to know everything, but I need to know why your product is better than the others out there. This is especially so regarding eBook vendors. Don’t tell me you’re going to bring down the giant if you don’t even know anything about the giant!