In my role, I get contacted by sales representatives all the time.
They flog rapid authoring tools, simulation software, learning management systems, mobile platforms, content libraries, courseware development, project management… the list goes on.
I’m not complaining. I appreciate everyone needs to put food on the table. And besides, many of my friends and family are (or have been) sales reps. I myself have been in a sales support role. It’s a tough gig and I know it.
That’s why I’m prepared to share with you some inside tips.
Please don’t think of this as me mocking you or having a dig. On the contrary, I hope it gives you valuable insight into your customer’s expectations – which of course you can use to your advantage.
Obviously I have my own reasons for doing this too, so let’s call it a “win-win” situation! :0)
1. I am busy – No, I’m not just saying that to sound important. I am seriously busy. The legacy of the GFC is less people in the company expected to do more than ever before. You want to meet me for an hour, but I can only really spare 20 minutes. So you need to get to the point.
2. We are not a giant ATM – Yes, I work for a big corporation, but one that strictly manages its costs. We have an internal chargeback model with budgets and cost centres. Other companies might splash their cash around like it’s lolly water. We don’t.
3. We already have preferred providers – We’ve been doing what we do for a long time without you. To be brutally honest, that means we don’t need you.
4. You don’t offer me anything different – You may think your products or services are special, and I’m not sure if you genuinely believe that or you’re just trying to pull the wool over my eyes, but I can rattle off a bunch of other providers who offer more-or-less the same thing. So you need to clarify your point of difference. By the way, everyone picks glorious customer service, so pick something else.
5. I don’t want to organise a litepro for you – If you need one, bring it yourself. In fact, why not just show me on your tablet.
6. Pay for the coffee – Remember, you wanted to see me, not vice versa. To be fair, this one rarely happens, but it does happen. A sales rep who doesn’t pay for the coffee won’t hear from me ever again.
7. Answer the phone – It’s OK if you’re not available at the moment I call, but don’t ever let the phone run dead. Either have a secretary take a message or buy a machine. And return my call soon.
8. Put your contact details in your email signature – The number of sales reps who sign off emails with merely their first name astounds me. If you think I’m going to ferret through my burgeoning pile of business cards to find your phone number, you’re dreaming.
9. Flag your emails as urgent only when they are urgent – You might be bursting with excitement about what you’re sending me, but that doesn’t mean it’s urgent. Have you read Aesop’s fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf…? I know how to use mail rules in Outlook – don’t make me use them.
10. Ask me if I’m available – When you call me, odds are you’ll disturb me from something I was concentrating on. So from the get-go you’re not my favourite person right now. The least you can do is ask me if I have a few minutes to spare. You telling me that you’ll only be a few minutes doesn’t count.
11. I know the difference between mutton and lamb – When I am a current customer, don’t insult my intelligence by offering me quarterly “support” calls. You just want to make sure I keep pushing your product so that we don’t can it. You know it, I know it, so quit the charade.
12. Embrace CRM – If you’re going to cold call, keep track of who you’re doing it to. I kid you not, there is this one vendor who calls me every quarter without fail. It’s someone different every time, and it’s obvious they have no idea that numerous of their colleagues have been down this road before. I will never buy anything from these clowns.
13. My name is Ryan, not Tracey – And Tracey has an “e” in it. I usually don’t mind, but if you can’t get the little things right, how can I trust you with the big things?
14. If I decline to meet you, don’t take it personally – Maybe it’s not the right time, or we simply don’t need what you’re offering. That’s not your fault, it’s just the way it is. I’d rather you spend your time and effort on someone who is genuinely interested.
15. Sales is a long ball game – Sure, I know you have monthly sales targets and a manager breathing down your neck, but that won’t change anything at my end. If we don’t need what you’re offering right now, we’re not going to buy it. But if I like you and you’re professional, you never know… times change.