When I began selling software services years ago, there were a number of assumptions I made about how the world behaved. Specifically, as an engineer, I believed that people were rational, behaviors were predictable, and products / services were bought on the basis of their merit.

What a rude awakening I had.

It turns out that a number of seemingly rational assumptions about the way business is conducted are consistently incorrect, defying my systems-oriented mind. To an experienced salesperson, these will seem obvious. But to others, I hope this can help expedite the learning experience. The full list is long, but today we'll start with three.

These are most applicable to B2B, high-touch sales, but can be applied to many different models.

1. Customers will call you back

Wrong. Nobody will ever call (or email) you. That's your job.

When I train a new salesperson, the expectation often goes like this:

Salesperson: Thanks for watching the demo of our product!

Customer: My pleasure. I'll circle back with my team and let you know.

Salesperson: Great! I'll wait for your email.

...one week later...

Salesperson: Well he never emailed me so I guess he must not like our product. Oh well.

...and congratulations, you just lost the deal. The assumption that a customer hasn't emailed you because they aren't interested in purchasing your product is often (but of course not always) flat out wrong. Eight times out of ten, they actually never "circled back" with their team, and completely forgot about what you showed them.

Which means now it's time for you to follow up!


And again.

And again.

After your first contact with a customer, it is your job to send email after call after email after tweet after email to your customer until you bring this lead to a resolution -- a "yes I'll buy," or "no thank you." In the sales world, these are called touches, and in enterprise sales, you should be sending at least four, five, or six touches per lead.

Now the polite, rational engineer in you is saying "wow, that sounds incredibly obnoxious. I'm going to royally piss off my customers if I send them a barrage of five emails every time they express interest in my product."

Here's the crazy part: You won't. Seriously. Yes, one or two people will be annoyed by the trigger-happy follow-ups, but the vast majority of your prospects need reminders. The entire reason you're sending so many is that your customers are busy people, who missed or ignored the first 8 emails, but will eventually convert from email #9.

If you have not reached out to a lead an embarrassing number of times, keep trying. I cannot tell you how many times I've had a customer ignore me until I sent that 9th email, or picked up the phone and cold called them. The situation in which a customer were going to buy your product, but now changed their mind because you followed up too many times, is virtually non-existent. Whereas those who are truly interested but just busy are simply waiting for your call. And those who finally answer with a "no"? They weren't interested to begin with -- and now you know.

For more information on cold emailing, Yesware's blog has a great list of examples.

2. If you give someone your card, they will contact you

Nope. Never, ever going to happen. With a shocking amount of consistency.

This year, I gave out almost 1,000 business cards to potential customers, contacts, and partners. (I know because I just had to order new cards.)

I can count on two hands the number of inbound emails I have received from these cards. That is a 1% conversion rate.

Not too long ago, you probably had an interaction like this:

You: Nice to meet you! I'd love to show you more about what we're building. Do you have a card?

Them: Oh I just ran out, but if you give me yours I'll shoot you an email.

You: No problem, here you go!

...one week later...

No email.

And now you get to try to remember their name, find them on LinkedIn, and remind them who you were -- because a week has gone by, and they most certainly don't remember meeting you.

There's a rule at Bitmatica: If you don't get their email, they don't count. It's that simple. Don't mistake the number of business cards you've handed out as a metric of success -- you only count the number you've received.

Here's how the script should go instead:

You: Nice to meet you! I'd love to show you more about what we're building. Do you have a card?

Them: Oh I just ran out, but if you give me yours I'll shoot you an email.

You: No problem, here you go! Also let me get your email and I'll send you a note.

Now you write their email down in your phone. Problem solved. It's not that they don't like you, or they don't want to talk to you; they've probably met dozens of people today, and are busy, lazy, or probably both. Do them a favor and send them an email first.

And when you do, don't forget to schedule that perfect meeting.

3. People buy products because they like the product

This one is a bit trickier. Yes, people do buy products they like, but it is not the whole truth.

Especially in services, or in any high-touch sales relationship, people buy from people they like. And as a salesperson, it is your job to build a relationship with your customer.

The more accurate myth is that good products sell themselves, and while in some cases this is true, there is no substitute for building proper relationships with your customers.

Learn their names. Learn where they live, and what type of sports they like. Learn why they like your product, and how they found out about you. Offer them advice, and other solutions to problems not even related to your product.

Ultimately, if your customer is choosing between you and your competitor, your rapport may just be the difference between a win and a lose. Think about the number of local business you enjoy frequenting simply because of the relationship you've built with the proprietor -- the same applies to software.

Just because it's online, doesn't mean feelings don't apply. You are still selling to a person, and that person's opinion of you matters. Even if they don't end up using your product, they may refer you to their network, promote you, or provide a reference down the line. Your customers are your biggest advocates. Treat them right.