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Friday, December 04, 2009

The "on behalf of" call -- and other ineffective sales tricks

As Chase and Daniel Smith continued to work at Construct Canada yesterday, I spent some time in the office putting out fires and catching problems. Screw ups in our invoicing system, a mistakenly placed ad (which I caught with the help of our administrator just in time), and the writing of marketing materials for future projects took up much of my time.

And there was the inbound call I did not return.

"Hi, I'm calling on behalf of the Society for Marketing Professional Services . . .",
I listened a few more seconds, then hit "delete".

But wait. Readers here know that I'm a true believer in SMPS and will do everything I can possible to support the organization. Surely, it would take me only a few minutes to return the call. I'm busy, I know, but not that busy.

But I had good reason to delete the message, and this is my message to my staff and anyone else that sells for a living.

If you can't clearly state why you are calling in a message, and you dare to say you are calling "on behalf of" a respected organization, you are most likely selling some way overpriced marketing or promotional stuff, but don't have the courage to be direct about it in your call. You really don't know me, do you . . . Since the answer is 'no', I might as well save my time and not answer at all.
(If the rep is persistent and calls again, I will return his call, but the answer will still be 'no.')

Frankly, I'm afraid that in the past, our less-than-effective sales reps fell into the same trap when they called from a qualified, relationship-focused list we provide them. It almost is the natural thing to do, to find yourself reading from a mental script, and repeating your 'standard' message.

In some cases, I suppose, the process still works. A few will buy, and a few will say 'Yes"; so you can handle the "Nos", the "no answers" and the banality of rejection.

The same generally ineffective (but far too common) sales process applies in many other situations.

Every year, at Construct Canada, a few people approach our booth -- and every other one in the show -- cheating the rules and trying to sell us something. If they are caught, they can be kicked out of the show. We are usually reasonably courteous to them, however, because they are in our face.

Other reps send scripted, "personalized" emails, which reek of standardization. (The really bad ones don't even bother with purported personalization. They join the ranks of services which tell me I've won a million in the lottery, or can have my sexual powers increased with little blue pills.)

And bad canvassers, knock on my home door, with the clipboard in hand and big name tag on their shirt. (I slam the door on them, though readers here know that I acknowledge canvassing can be cost-effective and in fact a truly valid business survival strategy in certain circumstances.)

If you are a sales representative, you must be getting a little frustrated with this posting. How can you reach the real decision-makers when they give you this sort of rather blunt and unfortunate response.

I will give you one simple, but effective, answer.
Know who you are calling, and why, as an individual, and know why they really should listen to you before you make that call.
Think of this carefully.

If you spend more time carefully considering and relating to the needs of your potential client you will have a much greater chance of achieving a valid connection and results.

You may say this model works for extremely high ticket relationships, and not smaller ones, and I agree, to a point. But some effort to learn about the individuals you are calling can be relatively easily achieved often with simple online resources ( is truly effective) and the time you spend on this research will be far better spent than griding through the lists.

Back to my first example.

I'm not exactly invisible on the Web, of course. The caller working the SMPS list could have quickly learned of my relationship with the association and some of the things I've done, and communicated by a personal email before phoning.

(We are currently evaluating a sales candidate who passed this initial screening test brilliantly. Seeing the public advertisement for the salaried opportunity, he checked, discovered much about me, and then sent a highly personalized email. I invited him to continue with our evaluation process, which he is doing, now. He has earned his introduction.)

Simply put: If you are a sales representative and have a "call list" put the phone down and hold off the introductory email until you actually know who you are calling. And when you do, have a valid reason for connecting, hopefully to give value rather than sell stuff. I promise I won't hang up on you or ignore your call if you follow these rules.

1 comment:

Steve Constructions said...

"If you spend more time carefully considering and relating to the needs of your potential client you will have a much greater chance of achieving a valid connection and results". I like your blog...