Desperation turns people off fast. If you've ever cooled on a suitor or friend because of overt neediness and constant invitations to meet up, you'll know what I mean.
Most of us know not to cross the line between eagerness and desperation in social situations. However, when your job is on the line, good judgment can fly out the window. Salespeople need to make a certain amount of sales each month in order to hit their number, and the pressure can sometimes make them come off a bit too strong with their prospects.
But in their quest to make quota, reps often don't even realize what they're doing is emitting a desperate vibe. If you're guilty of any of these nine behaviors, stop immediately before you send your prospects running.
1) Assuming the prospect is interested.
"Lots of salespeople come off as desperate because they don’t ask the prospect if they’re interested -- they just assume they are," said Pete Caputa, VP of sales at HubSpot.
One way this behavior manifests itself is when a salesperson suggests a meeting or call in their first outreach. According to Caputa, this is a bit presumptive considering the rep can't truly know at this early stage whether the prospect is a good opportunity or not. And what reads as presumptuous to some translates as desperate to others.
2) Pressing for a meeting too hard.
Prospects will often dismiss salespeople with a quick "We're not interested," or "Now's not a good time," and good reps are adept at maneuvering past these knee-jerk brush-offs. However, if a rep determines that a prospect is legitimately not interested, they should back off -- or risk being labeled as desperate.
But how can a rep ferret out true interest? Caputa recommends posing a simple question: "Do you not want to set a time to talk because you're busy, or because I haven't established enough value for you to take another call with me?"
If the prospect replies that they're buried, the rep understands it's a "not now" instead of a "not ever." However, a prospect who doesn't see the value in what you sell isn't likely to be a good opportunity, and following up their rejection with "Well, but I really think you'd be a great fit," or "I understand, but all the other competitors in your space are doing it," will just sound pleading. Give them an out, and if they take it, let them go.
3) Jumping on problems too quickly.
Reps ask prospects discovery questions to get a feel for their pain points, and understand if a specific product or service can help remedy these issues. However, while it's great when there's a match between problem and solution, reps shouldn't be too eager to make the connection.
"The ideal sales process involves the prospect realizing on their own that yours is the right solution. By the rep asking questions and telling stories about other people like them, the prospect should see themselves in the stories," Caputa said.
But instead of letting the prospect connect the dots in their own mind, "a lot of times salespeople say, 'Oh, we can help you with that!' and explain how you can solve problem X with solution Y," Caputa added. "And that might not be the way they want to do it."
Highlighting your product from the get-go seems salesy, and can drive away a good opportunity. Resist the urge.
4) Making side agreements.
Reps desperate to make a sale can be tempted to bend the rules. As Andrew Quinn, HubSpot's director of training and development, pointed out, this often takes the form of an add-on perk that falls outside the terms and conditions of the deal.
A rep might think these types of "side agreements" are relatively harmless. After all, the prospect signed, right? But remember that this behavior sets up a dangerous precedent of catering to exceptions and dealing with inflated expectations. The prospect who was brought on in this manner is likely to be a poor customer.
5) Issuing ultimatums.
A salesperson has to be at the end of their rope to present an ultimatum or threat to a prospect, but according to Quinn, it happens. This is the category that such utterances as "I'm not leaving here until you make the right choice!" or "If I don't make this deal happen I'm going to lose my job. Please do this for me ... " fall into.
Ultimatums, threats, and begging don't make anyone feel good. Don't go there.
6) Letting your voice communicate nerves.
The more confident a salesperson sounds, the more confident a prospect will feel in moving forward with a buying decision. With this in mind, Quinn cautioned that reps should never let nerves or desperation creep into their voices. Even if you're nowhere near quota and it's the last day of the month, reps should speak with an air of cool and calm.
Not sure what a desperate voice sounds like? Here's a prime example from Ol' Gil, The Simpsons' resident Willy Loman:
7) Being too accommodating.
A salesperson should serve their customers, but that doesn't mean they should act like a servant. For instance, if a prospect is demanding features far outside the bounds of normal service, salespeople shouldn't simply acquiesce with an "I'll see what I can do." Instead, Caputa recommends reps dig into each and every one of a prospect's additional requests to understand why they need it, and if it's truly vital.
Another example of this behavior Caputa cited is allowing a prospect to disrespect your time. When a prospect cancels a call at the last minute, they'll likely apologize the next time they meet with the rep. Whereas most salespeople would respond to this apology with "No problem!" this is wrong in Caputa's opinion, since it implies the rep's time is less valuable than the prospect's. Instead, he suggests asking, "Is everything okay?" and then moving on with the conversation.
"You should be respected as someone who adds value, and when you let a prospect treat you with disrespect, you show you're desperate for the business," Caputa said.
8) Refusing to take a hint.
Statistically speaking, the vast majority of your sales opportunities won't go anywhere. Sometimes prospects won't even answer your email or return your call. And that's okay.
What's not is refusing to move on, and sending email after email after email after email after email. It was exhausting just typing that sentence -- can you imagine how desperate that kind of relentless messaging comes off to buyers? I think it's safe to say "very."
(Need a way to break up with your prospects? Check out three templates that'll help you close the loop.)
9) Offering a discount too early.
Nothing screams “I need this deal” more than offering a discount before your prospect has even asked. While discounts have their place in the sales process, you should only bring them up once your prospect has realized your product’s value. If you start the conversation by saying you’re flexible on price, not only will your product seem cheaper (and therefore less desirable), your prospect will infer that you’re eager to close at any cost.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2015, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.