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Ask Haley: A new approach to staffing sales

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Q: My company keeps increasing the number of sales calls I’m required to make each week. I’m spinning the dial, and doing drop by calls, but I’m having a lot of trouble getting people to meet with me. Any suggestions?

A: Before you sell, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  I’ve had a few recent experiences being on the other side of the sales process–as the buyer, not the seller. The view over here isn’t very pretty, and I think my experience will help you with your sales challenges.  I also have some great lessons that I learned which I will share with you too.
Spin the dial. Spin. Spin. Spin. 

Most companies measure sales people on their actions: how many calls did they make; how many drop-offs; number of contacts; etc. The theory is that if the sales person is doing the “basics”, the sales will follow.

Stop.  Consider the other side of the sales process for a minute–consider the person to whom you are trying to make a sale.  Notice I said person, not company.  Even in B2B, people make the decisions and are the prospects to whom we sell. 

Do unto others. Would you really like it if someone called you eight times and left eight messages?  Imagine if you went on a first date and were called over and over again following the date.  In my opinion, that borders on stalking or harassment.  If I didn’t ask for you to call, and I don’t take your call, and you call over and over, what do you really think my opinion is of you? Hint–it probably isn’t favorable.

This scenario just happened to me.  One sales person called me once per week for the past eight weeks.  Oh, I know, persistence pays off.  It takes 17 tries to make a sale.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  I didn’t ask for the call.  It is not scheduled on my calendar, so it is likely not a convenient time for me to take the call.  Plus, I have a fabulous gatekeeper who isn’t letting that call through anyway.  Much of the time, especially after three or four calls, my receptionist knows it’s a sales call and doesn’t even try to connect it.  You’re going straight to voicemail jail buddy!

So the call never made it though. Guess what happened next? Yup, the drop by call! This sales person decided to stop by uninvited, unscheduled with gift in hand.  You know the routine.  Donuts. Chocolates. Treats.  The way to a man’s heart may be his stomach, but it isn’t the way to a sale.  I don’t even eat donuts.  I didn’t take your call.  I’m not going to meet with you if you happen to stop by.  And now I’m “obligated” to say thank you for a gift from someone with whom I have no relationship?  Have you succeeded?  I’ll drop you an email to say thank you because I really don’t want to be rude, but I don’t feel thrilled.  I feel cornered!

Despite all this, I actually did schedule a meeting with this guy. I know–how crazy is that?!  But the truth is, I’m in the market for what he is selling (and I would have called his firm anyway without the barrage of calls and donuts). There are, however, many competitors that I am also interviewing. Unfortunately, this sales person doesn’t even realize that he is starting below the line. My impression is not at all favorable, and I have real concerns that if this company’s sales process is intrusive, the company may not have a strong service culture and the service I receive will be poor as well. 

I’ll let you know how the meeting goes in a future post. But this leads me to another scenario related to this process. The reason I’ve agreed to even meet with this sales rep…

“But I’ll cut my price.”

I happen to be the person responsible for the technology and infrastructure at Haley Marketing.  Recently one of our contracts came up for renewal. Not being very happy with the service we have been receiving, I started shopping for alternatives.

The rep from our current provider has been requesting meetings, calling and emailing me.  I’ve openly said that we are not happy with the service, and we will not sign another contract until we are certain the service issues have been resolved. I even documented the service issues and outages for our vendor.

Her response? “But, I’ll cut my price. I can give you everything you are getting and more for less money than you are spending now.”

Hello? Are you listening? My objection was not the price. My objection was the service. This is a business critical service and when it fails, our company feels real pain. I would even consider paying more if the service was worthy of it (but don’t tell that sales guy I’m meeting with next week!).

Lessons Learned.

  1. People don’t like to be harassed. Yes, you might have the best people, the best jobs, the best service, the best price, but if you can’t respect me, I can’t give you the time you want to get your message through.  What should you do?  Well, there are a lot of ways to non-intrusively get my attention.  Asking for a meeting would be the easiest. (Ok, I probably will still say no.)  So, ask to add me to your email list and promise to provide real value (and then do it!).  Don’t forget to remind me that I can opt-out, no questions asked, at any time.  No go?  How about adding me to your LinkedIn network or following me on Twitter. 
  2. 50 donut holes does not equal one connection. There are people who like being bribed with food and trinkets. I’m not one. I’m a C-level manager with Type A personality. Know your audience! You’d get farther with me by dropping off a whitepaper that says why the service you provide is so important to a business like mine. Provide some value along with some proof (e.g., testimonials, statistics, etc.), so I can’t resist talking with you.
  3. Cutting price does not equal good service. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I equate better service with higher price. That is not to say I want to pay more, but it does say I believe you get what you pay for. If you are so willing to cut price, then something has to give. It sounds like my service isn’t going to be top-notch. I’m willing to pay a fair price for value–most people are. If your price isn’t fair, drop it. If it is, stand by it and prove the value.

If you want more ideas for better ways to get appointments, start by taking a minute to put yourself into your client’s shoes.  Better yet, ask your current clients what you could really do that would be worth their time.  And don’t forget to call Haley Marketing. We can help you find easier and more effective ways to get your foot in the door!


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Get our best marketing tips—one idea a week. You’ll also get invites to our webinars, and exclusive offers on our products and services.

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