Sales, I’m Not Sold: An Open Letter of Concern to My Sales Colleagues
Once upon a time, in a not so distant land, and not so very long ago, marketing and sales got married. Kind of.
You could think of it as slightly more of an “arranged marriage” where the two were tolerating each other (versus embracing the love) as they worked through some collaboration challenges and sorted out each other’s role in an imperfect union. But those two kids have come a long way, and although there’s still some head shaking and minor misunderstandings, marketing and sales need each other now more than ever. So when I encounter an offensively off-base sales email in my inbox or see an unknown number show up on my work phone caller ID (knowing a poorly placed message is soon to follow), it makes me cringe and yearn for us both to reconnect and support each other to do better.
As a marketing employee at a small business and content agency, I receive my fair share of sales outreach, from sellers pawning marketing software and HR/talent solutions to office cleaning services and technology products to strange manufacturing equipment and everything in between. Many of these inquiries and solicitations are from some of the leading business, technology and marketing solution players in the industry – that means recognizable, big name companies with enterprise-level, industry-targeted, trained sales professionals.
And here’s the thing many of the sales professionals reading this may not realize: I do read your emails and listen to your messages, and very often, at least initially respond back. But here is why you’re not getting my serious attention, respect or ultimately the sale – and what you can do about it next time.
Target the Right Person.
First and foremost, take your time honing in on the right individual. Is the contact you’re reaching out to a decision maker over the purchase of your product or service? If not, are they someone who has clear influence over that decision? Or are they just the first or only person you were able to find with contact information? It may be easy to start firing off emails and phone calls to every possible contact you have at a company, but the last thing you want to do is to immediately annoy a contact because you haven’t done your research. Customizing your approach will prove to be your first “do or die” decision.
Do Your Homework on the Company and the Individual.
I cannot reiterate this point enough. More often than not, the sales pitch I receive from a rep immediately reflects their total lack of initial research. For example, I once received a number of emails from a salesperson for an HR hiring platform. They didn’t do their due diligence to ascertain that I am not the person in charge of hiring, that the size of our organization might not warrant the level of service being pitched – and here’s the kicker: the reason we initially were visiting their website was due to a partnership we already had with their organization!
Research skills can be one of your most valuable assets as a salesperson. As evidenced in my example above, it could be the difference between relevance and rejection. Even a few minutes of Googling me, Outlook Marketing Services, our LinkedIn company page, our website and blog and social media channels will give you tremendous insight into what we do, the size of our organization, our team and roles, our clients and key industries, our office locations, our hiring history, the types of services we provide to clients (and in turn, what types of software or services we might need) and key channels to reach us.
Every employee at our company has a bio and a LinkedIn profile, and many of us also use social channels professionally. Through these efforts, you may find out, for example, that the reason I keep showing up on your blog or have hit your lead gen form is because another division of your organization is my client. Or perhaps you’d learn that our headquarters is located in a major office building run by a management company, so we don’t need your outside cleaning services.
You should take all of this information as clues of collective consideration and make sure you use it to refine your targeting and customize your outreach.
Tailor Your Message and Know Your Audience.
With a little research and the right person in sight, you should be able to excel in another key part of the sales process: tailoring your message. Put yourself in your contact’s shoes, and based on your research, craft a message that is personal and friendly. Ask yourself, would you rather receive an email or a phone call from someone you don’t know? Would you be more inclined to open a cryptic subject line, or one that is clear and to the point? Have you clearly explained what your company does in your message, and were you specific about how it will deliver value to the person you’re reaching out to? All of these should be considerations and affect your approach.
Writing sales emails is also an area where your marketing colleagues might be able to lend support, so explore if this is an option and join forces like the team of complementary superheroes you are!
I am not a robot. I am more inclined to keep reading a message that sounds like it came from another human being, that conveys empathy, humor and a clear understanding and acknowledgement of my role, my time and my challenges. If you’re taking the time to do the above three steps AND pairing it with a human touch, you will absolutely connect with someone in a meaningful way. And even if that person isn’t in the market for what you’re selling at the moment, you will ensure you make a positive impression, and perhaps build some loyalty and trust for a future purchase consideration when the time and place is right (or even a word of mouth referral!).
Listen and Acknowledge. Accept No for an Answer.
At a recent sales meeting I attended at a technology company, the sales director said to his team, “‘No’ is the second best answer you can receive from a client.” That says it all. Of course, the best outcome for you is a “Yes, I want to have a conversation”, and “Yes, I want to buy what you’re selling.” But “No” tells you something definitive, too. And you have to respect that. One of the most frustrating things a sales rep can say to me after I’ve taken the time to write them a response clarifying that I am not in the market for their product/service and why, is to pester me for a phone call or further discussion, which tells me they’re choosing to ignore the information I provided and would rather spar with me instead. That’s the quickest way to find yourself in my “Bad Sales Emails” email folder and filed away to reference for a blog post like this.
Fight for Quality, Not Quotas.
There are a lot of incredible sales professionals out there who do their homework, genuinely care about their clients and want to be helpful. To those of you out there who get it: we need you! Elevate the importance of this approach to your sales managers and advocate for it in your organization’s sales team training. Build bridges with marketers and other partners in your company who can each bring respective expertise to better serve your clients. Push for breaking down silos, informing product development, connecting with customer service and the creation of sales-enablement tools. Customers benefit from this collaborative approach, and it helps us each do our jobs better. You have the power to make a better sales process happen.
You’re in Marketing, Not Sales. Why Should I Listen to You?
Why should you be listening to a marketer about how to change your sales tactics? Because oftentimes, I’m your customer. And even when I’m not, my job is to care about the customer and support the sale as much as yours is.
Ultimately, it’s very likely that one day marketing and sales will be one single team – the uptick in CMO departures and Chief Growth Officer roles and the growing emphasis on marketing measurement are all early indicators that revenue responsibility will soon be shouldered by marketing and sales together. Working seamlessly will no longer be a question or a negotiation, but a required reality.
I’ll be digging more into how this all plays out in practice in part two, focusing on how marketing and sales are working together in evolving ways like account-based marketing programs so stay tuned!
Do you have an “I was stalked by a salesperson” or a “this sales pitch made me cringe” story? I’d love to hear from you, as well as from my sales colleagues for their take on the situation! Let me know in the comments or tell us via Twitter @OutlookMktg, LinkedIn or Facebook. You can also catch up on other key B2B marketing and business topics here.
Author: Stephanie Manola, Account Director, Outlook Marketing Services
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