During a sales discussion it’s common for your prospect to want to know the types of clients you have worked with previously. They want to feel reassured that you are the right provider to help them.
And as an eager seller you want to let the prospect know who those previous clients are. You want to convince them that you can “do the job”.
But this eagerness to tell the prospect about the fantastic results you have achieved for other clients, and how good you or your company are, can easily backfire.
In a worst case scenario you can over-use name dropping and appear insensitive to the privacy of clients. For example, in a recent blog post UK executive coach Dr. Graham Wilson recalls a conference speaker who dropped too many names too quickly and thereby appeared ‘desperate to impress’ and lost credibility with the audience.
In his post he also mentions a situation where a potential accountant shared too much detail about other clients in an effort to impress him and his business partner.
But name dropping can be good, can’t it?
The challenge is to strike the right balance between mentioning other ‘names’ (whether that be clients, brands, or other well-known companies or people) and reassuring the prospect that you are a good fit for them too.
Mention too many names and you can appear desperate. Avoid mentioning any names at all and you may appear cagey, vague or even untrustworthy.
Mention too much detail about what you’ve done for other clients and you can appear to breach privacy boundaries (even if you don’t, it’s the perception of your prospect that matters). If you don’t mention enough detail your prospect may wonder how closely you were involved, or why you don’t explain more (maybe, what are you hiding?).
You need the right intent
The key is to have the right intent. I believe the intent should be to help the prospect have confidence in your ability to work with them, and to help them achieve their goals.
If you drop names only when it actually adds value and helps the client see how you would be a good fit for them too, then your job is done.
The challenge in this whole process is to put your ego aside and see the communication from the client perspective.
Put your ego aside
If you have too much of your ego invested you may be tempted to mention another name, and another one, in an effort to assert your suitability or expertise.
Stuart Taylor, author of Assertive Humility: Emerging From The Ego Trap suggests three ways to keep your ego under control that also apply in the context of a sales conversation.
1) More ‘we’ and less ‘me’
Take a genuine interest in your clients situation and needs. Be more compassionate and empathetic in your communications.
Sure, you should acknowledge successes, but recognise the contribution of the team and demonstrate gratitude towards your other clients and colleagues for the success achieved.
2) Try modesty
For people under 30, who have grown up with the rise of the internet, YouTube heroes and ‘instant’ online celebrities, the concept that anyone and everyone is a potential star can create an acceptance of grandstanding and promoting yourself as “the next big thing”.
But that can seriously undermine your efforts to establish a solid relationship with a potential client.
Genuine modesty is still highly valued and can be a valuable addition to any sellers communication style. Certainly mention your successes, and be clear about your contribution to the outcome, but have the confidence to let the results speak for themselves.
3) Show vulnerability
Everyone knows the world is not perfect. And people make mistakes. Even clients who seem to demand perfection usually understand there are certain factors that potentially affect the outcomes.
Rather than letting a strong ego take control and pretend that you – or your company – never make mistakes, a better approach is to recognise where errors or challenges may be experienced and discuss how you can help your clients minimise any detrimental impact or overcome those challenges.
Are you a sales leader in an expertise-based business, or a business owner who would like to accelerate sales?