How to be less Sales-y

Sales Development ‌• June 17, 2016

women on phone looking at laptop

If you’re a sales development representative, and your prospect calls sound like a pre-recorded questionnaire from a political survey, you may have a problem.

If “Hi, my name is ______, from _______, and I would like to speak with “whoever is in charge of your widget production” is the intro of your calls, your problem may be more serious than we thought.

The first step in resolving your “sales-y” problem is, of course, admitting that you have one.  Jeff Carls on outlined a few ways to set yourself up to be less sales-y in his blog post “5 Easy Ways to Sell without Being Pushy or Obnoxious”, written by  (  He says that removing the pressure, taking your time, and letting the prospect do the talking are all steps to engaging a prospect without sounding like selling is your sole purpose.

I have a few more suggestions here that I’d like to suggest may help you remove more of your sales-y lingo?

The key to a sales developer’s success is to not be viewed immediately by a prospect as a sales schlock (that’s a technical term). 🙂  A sales developer’s mission is to create curiosity and intrigue with their intro whether it be by email, phone call, or even in a voicemail you leave. Instead of asking to speak with “the person who ‘heads up this or that’, do some homework on LinkedIn. If your job is to call a company and you do it without references or referrals, and you begin your sales-y pitch immediately with the gatekeeper (by the way – whose job it is to screen you, thank you for your time and hang up on you as quickly as possible), you risk losing potential customers as fast as it took you to dial the company’s phone number in the first place.

So Job #1 is to actually sound like you know who you are asking for.  Ask for the prospect by name, and assert yourself to the gatekeeper as if you know him or her personally. The gatekeeper won’t know if you’re a customer, a sales partner, or even a friend, and your chances of making a non-sales-y first impression go up dramatically.

Try: “Hi, this is ______, from _______. I was hoping to speak with Mark Smith. Is he available today?”  This type of assertive approach has no reference to the topic. It’s presented as one professional wishing to speak with another professional, and it doesn’t give the gatekeeper enough insights to detect that you are a salesperson.

Now, if they ask, “What is this in regards to?” Don’t worry, it’s not over!

Try: “I’ve been trying to get ahold of Mark (or Mr. Smith if that feels more natural to you) in regards to his sales development team.”  Be relaxed and be confident.  You have to realize that no matter what you do, you will ultimately have to reveal some of your cards, but the art of sales development is to try to not sound like a sales person until you absolutely have to.

From an email perspective, you need to follow this same set of rules. You do not want to pigeonhole yourself with an opening salvo in an email or an immediate introduction that makes you sound like bla, bla, bla, selling, selling, selling. Do not introduce a product or a feature, or any other types of specifics that the prospect will recognize as an immediate sales pitch. Try positioning your email around the problems that you are helping other companies address.

For Your Direct Email to your Prospect, Try: “I noticed, Mr. Smith, that you are hiring a number of sales development representatives—that’s at least what your website and your postings on show. I have some examples of how other companies are doing sales development work with fewer sales development representatives.  I believe these same techniques could be leveraged by your firm too. Please let me know if you would have time to have a brief discussion.” This type of opening salvo in an email or even left as a voicemail, sets you up more as an credible expert with a solution to a known problem that lets them know you’ve done your homework.

Of course these are just a few suggestions that will help you sound a little less sales-y.  There are hundreds of ways and ideas that go well beyond these initial examples.  Just remember, if you sound sales-y, your commission check is going to be much smaller than it could be.

If you’d like to learn more about how sales development can be done less sales-y, please give us a call (1-877-742-8880) or visit us at

Sam McCue
Inbound Marketing guru, avid fisherman, and all-around backcountry enthusiast.

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