I have a few pet peeves (okay, maybe a lot). But let's focus for the moment on my short fuse for salespeople who give the profession a bad name. You know exactly who I mean: the brokers who walked out of "Boiler Room," the car dealer who has "Always Be Closing" tattooed to his arm instead of "Mom" and the furniture sales woman who asks, "what is it going to take to have you take this couch home today?"
Whenever I encounter such a salesperson, I find myself wondering how do they get hired, let alone make a living in this age of one-to-one marketing, social engagement and transparency? With this in mind, I've compiled some tips to help the awful salespeople in your world start down the path of reform. It should also provide some insight for anyone interested in selling to busy marketing people.
1. If it has not worked so far, then by all means do more of the same
Because my office phone is listed on our company website, trade show collateral and more, I almost never answer it. After several years, it is now essentially a pitch line. Whatever or whoever people are trying to sell to Affinity Express, I get the messages--software license renewals, recruiting services, even roof repair for our office. As a result, I get a pretty good view of people who have their act together.
And then there is the guy who calls me. Every. Single. Day. (I'm talking to you, Trevor.). He sells print and online ad space for an industry association. I never once responded to his weekly messages, so he started calling me more frequently. Brilliant! He has something to sell, so it is just a matter of time before I can't resist and place my ad, right? He's even tried to go through our main phone number, preying on our new admin. Now there are two people at the company who dodge him. More is not more in telemarketing.
If you are not getting a response when you call, why not try email or even snail mail? What is the right frequency for your prospect (rather than your publication deadline)? Are you offering something that is of interest to the contact or just to you in meeting your quota. Have you looked at how the target's competitors are working with you and offered a solution to better position this company? There's a theme to all of these questions: put the prospect first and call to provide value not noise.
2. Be mysterious
Rather use my voice mail as an opportunity to tell me you understand my business and pain points and share your value proposition, just leave a name and number. Your sly approach is so intriguing, I'm absolutely going to put returning your call at the top of my priority list. Not! By the way, do you know they have machines now that can replace you in this function?
Even if you are reaching voice mail, you have an opportunity to connect and build a relationship. Use that time wisely. Mention a great article you just read and point out where the contact can find it or volunteer to send it if an email is provided. Talk about an emerging trend and ask if you could have a conversation to discuss how it affects the prospect's business. Whatever you do, make sure the association with your name and your company is a positive one. It's true, you might not be able to make sixty calls an hour but the ones you make will have a much greater chance of getting you appointments and sales.
3. Don't listen
I love it when people tell me they went into sales because they've always been "great talkers." I notice these folks never seem to pick up the check for lunch and suspect the reason is that they really are not that successful. The key is to LISTEN not talk.
It starts when someone gets my voice mail or me live on the phone. I say, "Kelly Glass" and then they ask to speak to me. That totally sets the tone . . . the dial tone. There are times when I'll have conversations to explore new vendors, tools, consultants, etc. Occasionally, the conversation progresses in a completely one-sided way with me saying nothing. I can't speak for everyone but this inevitably causes me to tune out.
You are supposed to be having dialog where you learn what you will ultimately enable you to sell (or get a referral to someone who is buying). Think about what is necessary to allow your contact to be successful, what challenges he or she has, and his or her objectives. At the very least, if you have gone three sentences without a word from your prospect, ask a question so the prospect is participating rather than answering email.
4. Don't bother to learn anything about my company or me
It's not like we have a website or a blog. I'm not on LinkedIn or anything and have never spoken or written anything that might be floating around. Who has time to research when you have so much talking to do?
I'm okay if people don't completely understand the Affinity Express services or if they don't have details of my marketing budget or trade show schedule. But there's no excuse for not asking because, like most marketers, I enjoy talking about my goals and ideas. Just last week, I had a demo and took the time to explain our business. The follow-up communication from the salesperson had case studies featuring ad agencies but I specifically told him that is not our business.
Try emailing your prospect before phone meetings and calling your in advance of in-person meetings. Request a few moments to get the information that will enable you to craft a thoughtful presentation. Guess what, most would actually think better of you and your offering.
5. Slap a new logo on and sell the same thing to everyone!
Several months ago, I contacted a couple of newspapers because I wanted to get details on how they might be able to promote Affinity Express online. One salesperson told me he specialized in selling print ad space to colleges and universities. Guess what? He tried to sell me the same program. A college equals a B2B marketing production company . . . how? Take my word for it, when you do this, we all know you haven't made an effort. Do your homework.
When we wanted to get in the door to a major retailer, we dissected and rebuilt their weekly circular using copy about what we could do for them. We listed only the services that made sense based on their marketing practices and stressed benefits that addressed the chief marketing officer's concerns about changing providers. This was not a quick project but it got attention and made the contact feel like we had a laser focus on earning her business.
6. Ignore how I might have interacted with your company in the past
Don't log into the CRM, reference previous salespeople's notes or ask colleagues in other divisions. It's so much more fun to fly completely blind and hope you close a big deal!
You are establishing a relationship on behalf of your company with prospects. Build on previous positive encounters others have had with the contact at trade shows or by conducting demos. You'll have an opening to begin a conversation and update the person on relevant new developments.
7. Forget about saying "thank you" or following up
I should be thanking you for your scintillating sales prowess and wit, right? Wrong. Even if there is no hope of selling me anything ever, say thank you. I am likely to recommend or rank on you to my network as appropriate. And you never know where you'll meet me again.
If you've promised some information, a case study, a white paper or whatever, go ahead and provide it in a timely way. I may be able to connect you to your next big deal because I respect and like working with you. These are the times when you want to under-promise and over-deliver. When a consultant recently promised a proposal on Monday, I told my boss. But the guy was late and that meant I couldn't discuss the program at my weekly meeting. I may have lost a week on the discussion but the salesperson lost a week on the buying decision.
Unfortunately, it is not just in business that we encounter less-than-great salespeople . They are everywhere. One rainy day, I decided to check out a bedding store because I had a coupon for a free pillow and wondered how expensive these fancy mattresses are. The salesperson was from another era. He kept talking to the man with me (even asked his profession but not mine) when I was asking the questions. When my friend saw my fists start to clench, he pointed out that I was the one buying the bed. Yet, the salesperson persisted in trying to close him. Needless to say, he lost the sale. And whenever I decide to get the bed, I will go out of my way to buy from anyone but him.
Sales is a skill and an art which requires hard work. I'm grateful for the fantastic pros that have educated me, guided my decisions and made me look good to my company. Those of you cutting corners and thinking quantity of interactions is more important that quality should go shopping for a bed (or a car).