I consistently receive between 150 and 200 emails a day – a large percentage of them attempting to sell me something. Most are easily disregarded – mass solicitations I shuffle off to the spam filter. But there are always five or ten emails a day from salespeople legitimately attempting to sell me their product or service.
The fact is that I like and admire good salespeople. It is a difficult job, and if you are good at it you are almost always one of the most valuable people in the organization.
But the web seems to have created an entire generation of lazy, ineffective salespeople that use digital solicitations as a crutch. It allows them to disregard some of the basics of good sales techniques, and ultimately just irritate some of their potential buyers. Here are some of the main mistakes I see on a daily basis:
Fear of phone. I know it is incredibly difficult to reach people these days on the phone, but there are still many reasons to actually talk to someone. While I am screened from phone solicitations, I apply a much broader filter to email solicitations, since I receive so many. If you can actually reach a real human being your chance of closing a deal is much better.
Lack of targeting and research. I consistently get emails from salespeople trying to sell me products that I personally don’t buy. My organization has people in charge of buying paper, insurance, and all the other “stuff” that makes a company run. Yet every day I receive very personalized emails wanting to “buy me lunch” so I can hear a pitch on a new printer or employee benefit plan. If a salesperson really want to sell my company something, they should pick up the phone, take the time to find out who the buyer is, and make sure we are a legitimate lead for their product, instead of wasting both our time.
Don’t expect me to do your job. I also frequently receive emails that seek to circumvent the above advice, and expect me to do the work. Every day I get multiple versions of this:
“Tim, I really want to get together to show you our new whiz bang product, and if you don’t want to get together, would your forward this email to the right person, and let me know who I should contact?”
And the answer is no. Much of the time I am not sure who buys those kind of products in my organization, and I am too busy to make phone calls on behalf of someone I don’t know to find out, and then communicate back to them. That falls under the salesperson’s job. The salesperson is more than welcome to call the front desk and ask. We have a “friendly” policy and would be happy to direct them to the right person.
Don’t assume the customer owes you anything. Once again there seems to be an entitlement issue with many salespeople. Here is another common email I received:
“Tim, I have tried to contact you numerous times, but to no avail! It is very important we get together….”
Often there is even an aura of anger to the emails, as if I really offended someone I don’t know who has used an automated email system to reach out to me in an effort to sell me something I don’t want.
The Fake Friend Approach. When I receive a friend request from a person with a seven syllable name employed by a technology company in Mumbai, I make the assumption we didn’t go to high school together, and they are probably just trying to sell me something. Personally, I reserve Facebook for friends and family, and never accept a friend request from a salesperson. I am more liberal on LinkedIn, and do accept general business contact requests if they seem appropriate, but in my profile state “please do not send me job resumes via this site as they will not be properly read.” Still, I receive many job resumes, which bodes even worse for the person applying as it indicates a lack of attention to detail.