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Stop selling to suspects!

An article about the art of poor selling.

This is a true story from a business trade mag who thankfully won’t be getting any of our advertising budget this year…or next.

It was a late Summer afternoon and I’d just completed a days training in Sheffield. I had a missed call on my phone from a number I didn’t recognise but also no voicemail. I decided to call back to see who I had missed.

“Hello – I had a missed call from this number, who is this please?”

“Oh hi, it’s Mr Smith (name changed) from Really Poor Trade Mag (name changed)”

“Oh…hi. How can I help?”

“I wanted to tell you about this amazing opportunity we have to have a feature in our mag for the next 3 months at a brilliant rate of just £1500”

Now I was already out of the equation as I’ll explain later, but I decided to string them along to see where this would go.

“Ok, that sounds a bit steep what do you get?”

“3 Half page ads, we may be able to squeeze in some editorial too”

“Ok, still a bit much…”

“Ok, I can get that price down to £400”.

“Just like that?!” I said confused “I think I’m ok thanks”

Then the sales person changed tac slightly.

“Can I just take some information from you? Tell me about your business”

Now this is an important part that really bugged me. This too and fro had been going on for 5 minutes now and also remember that he called me! They didn’t know my name, or even the company name of who they were calling – yet they had an “amazing opportunity” – how could this be?!


What do the stats tell us?

Now the stats tell us that a buying decision is made 57% of the time before a buyer is invited to meet the seller. I wonder what the chances are of me meeting this sales person or their company with a view of spending anything with them?!

A game of Chinese whispers? (or just benefit of the doubt?!)
I think what has happened here is they have been given my info (phone number only it seems) by a regional Chamber of Commerce as the magazine was the official Chamber mag. However what I find poor and shocking is that neglection of identifying my name, my business, my goals, my purpose for B2B advertising and whether or not I have any sort of budget.

If this is how this person and others in this team are selling, then what on Earth are they doing wasting their time like this?!

It is the most unproductive use of time. There is no value, no win-win, no fact-finding – just your unfortunate, stereotypical ‘sales’ that give the industry a bad name!

I use this real life example of a telesales agent but imagine how many network events we attend or would attend where we are approached instantly by people desperate to sell! Networking should not be a sales pitch. Stop selling to suspects and identify first your prospect pool!

What this sale team have is a list of suspects. What they need to do from this list is create a filtered down list of prospects. But how?

Well, here’s three ways to help distinguish a suspect from a prospect.

  1. Does the person you are speaking with have the decision making authority?
  2. Does the person you are speaking with have a need or want for your product or service
  3. Does the person you are speaking with have the budget to buy what you are selling


I will hazard a guess that 80% of the people on the list of my unfortunate sales rep will not pass any of these tests and therefore the inefficiencies in time are vast, costly and will lead to poor business performance.


If you tirelessly put sales messages to cold audiences (Suspects and prospects) you are ruining a potentially important relationship at the expense of peddling your product whether you feel its right for the person or not. You are operating in the Dead Zone of our 4D quadrant. You need to match your content and conversation with your customers buying journey and awareness & advocacy levels of your brand.

Stop trying to head upstairs on the first date when all you need to do is check out if you want to see the person again!

By operating in the Dead Zone you are wasting your time, your sales teams’ time and your suspects time. Sales will come in such a sporadic and haphazard way that the risk of misaligning activity based on these results will only do future harm to your operation.

Growth plans
Use the 3 points shared in this article to start filtering your lists and begin building meaningful relationships with a potential buyer.

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