4 Reasons Starting a Sales Call With “I Want” Is a Terrible Idea [Sales]

Published by MJ Hoffman Blog. Curated by Closer Spot - Subscribe to receive top sales & marketing advice each week.

Actions speak louder than words. When salespeople are speaking with their prospects, they shouldn’t tell them what they want to do -- they should simply do it.
And yet, I find that reps often announce their intent during the first and last 30 seconds of a call or meeting -- a mistake, in my opinion.
What does “announcing intent” sound like in conversation? A dead giveaway of announcing intent isBlog CTA.jpg starting a sentence with “I want … ” or “I’d like to … ”
For example, salespeople will set the call agenda by saying something like, “I want to go over these four features,” or “I’d like to delve into your challenges around X.” At the end of the conversation, salespeople soften their close by announcing intent, like so: “I want to show you how your team might use the product. Are you available for a demo next Thursday at noon?”
To be clear, announcing intent isn’t always a bad thing -- but it’s never appropriate at the beginning or end of a call. Here are four major reasons why announcing intent in the first or last 30 seconds is a bad idea.

1.  It’s Inherently Selfish

Announcing intent requires salespeople to talk about what they want to do, which means it can often come across as self-serving. Reps should steer clear of phrases like “I want,” “I’d like,” “I’d love,” or any other statement about their wishes. Buyers don’t care. As soon as they hear these selfish words coming from the salesperson’s mouth, they start to tune out.
If reps want their prospects to take action, they should orient everything around what their prospects want. Rather than saying, “I’d like to show you how X works,” they might say, “X will help you accomplish Y results. Do you want to see how it works?”

2.  It Takes Away the Buyer’s Choice

Announcing intent also dis-empowers prospects. When the rep says, “I’d like you to talk to one of our engineering consultants,” the customer only has two choices: Speak with the consultant, or don’t speak with the consultant. If the rep instead asks, “What do you think makes sense from here?”, they leave the door open for several different next steps.
It’s important to make buyers feel like partners in the conversation, not prisoners. Salespeople should still be guiding them -- after all, sellers have more experience and knowledge in this domain -- but involving customers in the decision-making process increases their engagement and sense of control.

3.  It Forces Your Hand Too Early

Once reps announce intent, they have a limited ability to change their mind and propose a different course of action. Saying “I’d like to do X” at the beginning of a call essentially locks them into that plan.
Let’s say a rep starts a call with their prospect by saying, “If there’s interest, I’d love to set up a demo later in the week.”
But during the call, it becomes clear that that contact isn’t the person the salespeople should be talking to. Because she announced intent at the very beginning of the meeting, she’s stuck giving the demo to the wrong contact.
It’s fairly common for reps to unearth new information during their conversations that change their game plan. If they don’t announce intent when the call begins, they can update their strategy on the fly without their prospects ever knowing.

4.  It Violates the Cardinal Rule of Closing

The rep’s close should require their prospect to immediately make a decision. The operative word is “immediately” -- announcing intent delays the closing question, which gives the customer ample time to prepare a “no.”
To give you an idea, here’s a comparison of two closes:
Announcing intent:
Rep: “Now that we’ve determined mutual interest, I’d like to set up a pricing call so we can discuss your options. Are you free tomorrow at 2 p.m.?”
Prospect: “Well, I don’t know -- I need more time to think.”
Asking directly:
Rep: “Are you free tomorrow at 2 p.m. for a conversation about pricing?”
Prospect: “Yes, that works.”
Announcing intent makes for a messier close. In addition, it often creates opportunities for the rep to over-explain themselves, ramble, or express hesitation -- which may cause their prospect to doubt them. Salespeople sound more confident and relaxed when they get straight to the point.
Announcing intent makes reps seem selfish, cuts their prospects out of the decision-making, prevents them from changing their strategy mid-meeting, and reduces their close’s effectiveness.
That’s why I train salespeople to wait five minutes after the call or meeting has begun to announce their intent. After five minutes have passed, reps usually feel the urge to announce intent has gone away. If you’re having trouble kicking this bad habit, set up a timer and test this trick for yourself.
Happy Selling!
This blog originally appeared on Jeff's Hubspot Blog in 2015.