I got this great email the other day, from some seemingly very nice guy claiming he was the VP of Sales for such&such company, wanting to demo his great software which can revolutionize my business.  I get a lot of these emails every week, along with voicemails, and there are several things wrong with them.

  • They try to sell the product, not the appointment
  • I am usually not the decision maker on those products. (no or bad research on their part)
  • The titles they give out are obviously fake. 

I want to address the fake title thing today, because I know there is a tendency towards title inflation, and not only it doesn’t help, I think it actually ends up hurting you.

Here is what I see as examples of titles sales people use on me:

  • Senior Sales Specialist
  • Marketing Consultant (or even Senior Marketing Consultant)
  • Director of Business Development
  • Regional Director of _______
  • Area Sales Manager
  • Senior Business Consultant
  • Strategic Business Development Specialist

OK, I get it.  You want to diminish the idea that you are selling something to avoid the prospect being on the defensive towards a sales person, however, that is not accomplished by mutilating, or even worse, inflating your title.  Doing this can actually often back fire, on a couple of different levels.

Trust: If you add the word “manager or director” into your title as a front line sales person, you are lying, pure and simple.  Those words imply you manage people, and please trust me when I tell you that eventually, you will get caught in that lie.  Being caught in a lie doesn’t do wonders for trust, which is almost half the buying decision for most prospects.

When someone calls on me, hits me with a pitch and then claims they are a VP or a Director, it really doesn’t help their credibility.  I will either assume they are from a small company, or that they are lying, because most VPs, Directors, and Managers don’t spend their time prospecting at most established companies.

Maybe, MAYBE if you are calling on CFOs, CEOs or CMOs, dropping a title might help a bit, but when you call on Gus, owner of buying agent of XYZ Inc, it just does not ring true, and based on the fact that Gus gets called thousands of time a month, he will sniff it out.  Gus is pretty good at spotting lies from sales people.  He does it every day.

Even if it was true, and it was your real title, it won’t help anyways, because Gus doesn’t care if you are the Senior Grand Poobah of All That is Good and Holy.  If he has head trash on your company, your industry or your specific solution, he’s asking himself one question…..”What’s in it for me?”  I know this to be true because I have personally known VPs who have cold called potential clients demanding a meeting while announcing they are the VP, and the response is usually “Good for you, so what?”.  Spend your time mastering the elements of time qualifying or improving your elevator pitch.  That builds trust. Trust creates opportunity and sales.

Confidence: Ask yourself why you are messing with your title?  Not including a title is certainly one way to avoid your prospect being overly focused on the sales thing, but changing it?  Inflating it?  That speaks to a basic lack of confidence.

It subconsciously states to your prospect that you don’t believe you deserve a chance at a conversation.  It implies that you don’t see enough value in what you do, and what you can do for them.  Realistically speaking, being CEO or SVP doesn’t make you more valuable to Gus.  In fact, probably the opposite.  You, as an Account Executive or Sales Representative, are a specialist at helping a small business owner like Gus solve a specific problem.  The Director or VP of this or that doesn’t do that every day, but YOU do.  The very fact that you live in the trenches day to day adds to your credibility on your prospecting call.  Expertise comes from experience, not from a title.  Do you want the President of GM working on your car, or the car mechanic who does it day in and day out?  Would you feel more confident if the mechanic changed his title to “Senior Regional Director of Automobile Repair and Maintenance”?

Be confident, be honest.  You are an expert at what you do.  Take pride in that.  Believe that you bring value, regardless of what the tag line at bottom of your emails states.  If you want to say you “specialize in working with regional clients”, fine.  If you make that up as your title, the only person you are fooling is you.