the takeaway is to annoy them

This graphic popped up on my LinkedIn feed today. Many people were amen-ing and high-fiving the content in the post’s comments.  I suppose it backs up why I’m a horrible salesperson and why I dislike so many salespeople. Apparently, the key to successful sales is to annoy people to death.

sales

I’d rather people buy things from me because they have said “this is something I want and need” rather than “alright, I’ll take it to get you off my back”. I think that leads to the 2nd sale.

shutdown

I can tell there’s been a new training program shift for B2B cold call telemarketers. They’re now all asking the same self-deflating question to me.

TYPICAL CALL

ME: Hello.

TM: Are you the person in the business responsible for buying snow blowers?! I’m selling snow blowers  Your business needs one now! (plus 30-45 seconds more of non-paused script which, frankly, I don’t have the energy to re-create here in this fictional exchange.)

ME: We’re not interested, thanks.

TM: Can I ask why not?

ME: It doesn’t snow here.

TM: Oh.

The sales seminar down at the airport Marriott would advise you to ask questions to overcome objections which I assume is where this question is coming from.

But the reality is that, in sales, you should never allow the opportunity to paint yourself into a corner. The same advice applies if you are an actual floor painter.

(Full disclosure: It actually does snow here.)

no one cares about your company’s history

I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you.

Someone is making a sales pitch or educational presentation to you. They need your attention. Then as they begin, they say…

but before we get started let me tell you a little about our company. It was founded by Joe Whatsisname back in 1923. We merged with Whatsicallit Corp in 1934. The new company decided…

And on it goes for the next several slides and minutes.

Why lead with this?

It’s the equivalent of pulling out slides of your parent’s trip to the Grand Canyon when visitors enter your front door. It’s only mildly interesting to the person presenting. It’s sheer boredom to the audience and the potential customer.

But you might say they need to know the history of the company so they can see our longevity in the market and make an informed purchase decision…

Okay. Then in the first 5 minutes of your next job interview, tell the interviewer about the writing award you got in 7th grade.

It falls back to one of my fundamental precepts of marketing and communication. Approach all communication from the audience’s perception, not yours.

Tell them things they care about and want to know, not what you (or corporate) want to tell them.

sell. don’t beg.

One of the analogies I probably wear out is comparing bad salespeople to the kids selling ads for school yearbooks.

At several times in my career, I was in charge of the marketing for local small businesses. In each job, I would get a call (sometimes a visit) each year from a member of the local middle or high school yearbook staff. The exchange would normally go something like this:

Me: Hello
Them: (mumble) Wanna buy a yearbook ad?
Me: No
Them: Bye

Aside from the fact that yearbook ads are not marketing (they’re donations), I may have entertained the idea of buying “an ad” if the kid had prepared SOME sort of sales presentation that focused on my marketing needs. You know, something like: the ad will be seen by parents who are your customers, people will see these ads in 20 years, etc.  Anything in additon to just asking.

These days I hear lots of salespeople say, “I asked them if they wanted to buy _____ and they said no.”  

If your sales pitch is just asking, you’re missing alot of potential sales.
(There’s also the problem of salespeople who just talk to the customer and never ASK for the sale — but that’s another post)

If you’re just asking people to buy, then you’re not a salesperson. You’re a beggar. It’s a small distinction, but an important one.

Most of this problem (and most sales problems) can be traced back to the salesperson’s motivation. Are they wanting to make a sale or are they trying to solve the customer’s problem?

People just trying to make a sale do make a few (the yearbook always has ads in it) — but problem solvers are always successful salespeople.

expecting this call

Concerning this MediaShift post:

Hi! I’m calling from your local newspaper. As you may know, over the past few years our industry completely missed the boat on how to succeed online. As a matter of fact, we’re still arguing with each other on how to compete and win online. The reason I’m calling is that we’d like for you to put your trust in us to handle your online marketing strategy!

I will agree with the post’s point (and have said before) that the concept of “mass media” on the web does not work and that old-media can’t seem to get that idea out of their heads.

The big problem I have with the idea is the concept of a media property operating as as any sort of marketing or ad agency. I’ve witnessed the fast crash/burn of a media property that tried to start an ad agency. And I’ve seen several media salespeople who “help handle” all the advertising for a small biz client.

In case it’s not obvious to you (and apparently with the number of small buisnesses who do it, it’s not), media properties and salespeople are a bit biased to have your money spent with them. It’s not the best idea to trust all of your ad/marketing dollars with someone who has ad space to sell.

someone tried to proposition me in a hotel lobby

Last week, I was in Chicago speaking to a group. The hotel had an afternoon social time that I stopped at one afternoon to grab a snack. While I was sitting there, a young guy came in and started talking to me. He said he was from the area and had an appointment with someone staying at the hotel.

He was unusually chatty and a little cheesy in our conversation. But he was a young guy and I figured he was awkwardly trying to “network”. He said he had his own business and wanted to know what I did. I explained I was there to speak to the group. He said he might have a need for sales/business speaker in his new business. I gave him a card, said goodbye, and went to my room to crash.

A few days later, I get a call from the guy. He wants to know if I’m keeping my options open for “business opportunities”. And he goes into a pitch about his “system”.

It then dawns on me that the dude cruises business hotel lobbies to pick up leads. He has now taken the title of “most pathetic schemer” from the guy who tried to do the same thing to me in an aisle at Staples a few years ago.

I broke into his pitch and tried to politely tell him I wasn’t interested. He responded testily – “Does that mean you don’t want to keep your options open?”

I told him my options are pretty much closed. And I hung up.

But I wish I had stayed on the phone a bit longer and told him some simple truths:

  • The reason that my “options” are closed is that I’ve already been through that stage of life without getting sucked in. I’m now (much?) older and wiser. When I was in college and immediately afterwards, I wasted several hours going to “job interviews” that turned out to be MLM schemes like Primerica or worse.
    (Advice to the marketing kids — never respond to a job listing that refers to “sports marketing” or sports-minded marketing”)
  • If you’re hanging out in office supply stores or hotel lobbies trying to bottomfeed, you really need to reexamine your sales strategy. (and reexamine your life)
  • If you have to trick people into a meeting, you’re probably selling crap.

I’ve said it before. Sure, stuff like this works in the short term. But for long term success (in sales, marketing, or whatever), you HAVE to have honest conversations and relationships with your targets.

on the phone

A salesguy got in contact with me this morning in reference to a service we’re looking at signing up with. I typed the following as I was on the phone with him.

Why would you start out this call with the most boring information? I don’t care how long your company has been in business. I don’t care what companies just signed up with you. Let’s talk about my company instead of yours.

I swear, if you use the word “leverage” one more time, I’m coming through the phone at you.

Is this call really necessary? We filled out your online contact form because we are almost ready to buy. We just need a proposal. Why are you trying to sell me something I’ve already decided to buy?

What are you doing in addition to talking to me? I can hear you doing something else. I’ve stopped listening to you and I’m trying to figure it out.

Why did you just ask me for my phone number and my email? You just called me and you have the online contact form that I filled out.

This bad call is not out of the ordinary. I look at new products and services all the time and sit through these calls about twice a month. They’re all similar to this one.

on the front lines

Interesting article in this month’s issue of Fast Company.

Alex Frankel is the author of the soon to be released book — “Punching In: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee“. His two years of research for the book involved him taking a series of entry-level jobs and exploring the way that front end employees and the company’s relationship with them impacts the organization.

It’s the same reason that I used to get frostbite on my fingers when I had to “front” the merchandise in the frozen food section at Winn-Dixie. Or the joy that I experienced cleaning out the grease sludge collector on the grill when I was a short-order cook. — I was just researching a future book. — Anyway…

Frankle actually applied and worked at various retail outlets such as Container Store, Gap, an Apple store, and others. He discovered what people with common sense already know: Good people on the floor sell products and management has to find and cultivate good people.

But, as you may have discovered, there is a lack of common sense in the business world today.

Even in small companies, management tends to forget how the employees in the trenches work. Or even worse, they DO remember what it was like when they were in the trenches. Today, if management is making decisions based on their entry-level experiences, they’re making bad decisions. The world, the market, and customers are vastly different in 2007 than in 1997, 1987, or whenever management was paying their entry-level dues. As Frankel says, “There’s no doubt about it: You get a different view from the ground floor than from the corner office.”

It’s a part of marketing that so many companies forget but is so essential. No matter how slick the marketing plan, true marketing success lies in the few moments of interaction between the customer and whoever (or whatever) you’ve placed on the front lines to deal with them.

Management needs to learn how to put that part in place before any of the other parts.

Hopefully, the right people will read Frankel’s book and take his lessons to heart. It looks to be an interesting read.

What are you selling?

In my hometown, there’s an annual downtown event that celebrates different nationalities. During this celebration of different cultures, there has been a three-on-three basketball tournament, “Teen Idol” competition, and they sell lots of funnelcakes and corndogs. The organizers say that the festival really shows the international flavor of the community.

The question is: Is it a celebration of ethnic cultures — or a circus/carnival?

A couple of years ago, the A.D. at the local college was excited about the fact that alcohol was now allowed on campus during certain sports event. He was bragging about increased attendance at the baseball games. He said it was because people were really behind the team.

The question is: Are you running a collegiate athletic program — or a bar?

A radio station decided it would be a good idea to sell sponsorships to their advertisers on refrigerator magnets that had emergency numbers on them. It was a huge success. But the sales manager can’t figure out why sales are down on radio airtime.

The question is: Does a media outlet sell quick-profit gimmicks and promotions — or their media reach?

There’s nothing wrong with carnivals, bars, and magnets. But you have to be true to your core mission if you want to be successful in the long term.

Because a few of those people attending the ethnic festival want to see the mariachis, eat an egg roll, and watch the spanish dancers. Each year as the corndog crowd grows, these core users will fade away. And then what will the organizers be left with?

It’s dangerous to look at this week’s sales numbers or attendance at the last ballgame and try to figure out a gimmick to get them up for next time. You might see short-term gains. But make sure your short-term gain isn’t killing your long term prospects.