Can the Spam

If you’ve ever read a blog post of mine, heard me speak or follow some of my musings on LinkedIn and Twitter, you know that I really hate it when I receive sales spam in my email and/or LinkedIn inbox from people that I do not know. Whether it is a cold call or a cold email, it is still cold.

The effective use of technology presents huge opportunities for the savvy salespeople who get it. These rock stars know that using social media gives them an avenue for building relationships and demonstrating expert credibility BEFORE sales opportunities present themselves. There are however, too many salespeople using technology as a way to send the same boring, boilerplate sales spam to anyone with an email address.

Aside from the fact that the emails are unsolicited junk, they also violate the email marketing CANN-SPAM act, which requires that you give people an easy way to “opt out”. Sending email means I can only get off your list if I block your email. Random emails like random sales phone calls aren’t likely to net you anything of much value. Yes, I know there are raving fans and believers of cold calling who also think there isn’t a thing wrong with slamming out random emails to people that don’t know them. Maybe I won’t change your mind, but over time, when you realize that your sales efforts could be put to better use, maybe you’ll try a different tact.

I thought that I would share a few of the recent emails that have shown up in my inbox lately. Included with each one are my thoughts about the message and approach. Since I’m a professional, I am not including the individuals name and company, though I’ll admit, I’m tempted. But I don’t want to be a jerk about it; I just want to show people that this is NOT the way to sell. I’d love to hear your comments!

Sales Spam Message # 1

Subject Line: Can We Meet Next Week?

Hello Barbara,

I know your time is valuable so I will make this quick.  I provide quality custom clothing for ready-made prices.

My suits start at $295, trousers at $169 and shirts at $88.  No company around is like us and if you’re interested, I would like to meet you.  Please visit our website (link below) at your convenience.  It will answer some immediate questions you may have.

Do you have any free time to meet at your office next week?  Do you need clothes for the summer or have issues with your wardrobe?  Please contact me to schedule an appointment.

XYZ Salesperson

Barb’s comments: If you know my time is valuable then why are you wasting it sending me unsolicited email? I took a minute to browse the website referenced and frankly, I was not impressed. It looks male oriented and even though they say they have a line of executive suits for women, there is not a single testimonial from a female client. Message to said male salesperson…clothing is uniquely personal. Dude, you are a stranger. Do you really think I’m going to allow you to show up at my office and take my clothing measurements? What are you thinking? Biased perhaps, but that’s how it is.

Sales Spam Message # 2

Subject Line: Unbeatable Business Phone Service – Summer Sales

Hello Barbara,

I wanted to let you know about the unbeatable business phone service offer available during 8×8 Summer Sizzle Sale, which starts now!

There has never been a better time to sign up for new business phone service.

Check out the details of this offer:

- Unlimited calling for the unbeatable monthly price as low as $19.99 / extension

- Free account setup

- Free shipping

- Free first month of service

Call today to take advantage of this great offer! Offer expires at midnight June 30th, 2011.

Thank you,
XYZ Salesperson

Barb’s comments: There is nothing here that tells me why I’d want to do business with this person or this company. What does she know about my business? I guess this sales gal thinks “cheap” is all it takes. Why is the service unbeatable? If price is the sole sales strategy then it’s going to be a bumpy ride for her during her sales career. Well, that’s if it lasts at all. Seriously, you can’t do any better with your sales proposition? How do I know that this deal is the best for me? Have you analyzed my business needs? Do you know what telephony tools I use today? Nope, because if you did, you would know that I use Google Voice, which is FREE and includes a voicemail box and a transcription service. All of my voicemails are transcribed and sent via text to my mobile phone. Hard to beat free missy!

Spam Message #3

Subject Line: Fw: Linkedin Groups - The Psychometric Froum

Many contributors to this forum have now criticized aspects of psychometric methodology and have referred to authors that have done so for the past 60 years or more.

Yet common practice still entails the use of limited experimental designs, mostly random controlled trials, weak quantification, weaker assessment methodologies, causal inference based on correlational models …etc. We end up with a rigid theoretical structure and measurements that filter out some of the critical aspects of what we are interested in. But still many psychometrists, statisticians in the field and test designers happily apply their linear approach… Blah, blah, blah… it is a lengthy psycho-babble diatribe that would have just taken up too much space in this post.

Barb’s comments: This is spam, but this time the woman wasn’t selling me anything. I’m including it because it just annoys me. This gal got my name from a coaching website about 18 months ago. Though I have repeatedly said that I’m not interested in her assessments – I sell my own! – she still sends me random crap. For starters, if I was interested in this LinkedIn group, I would have joined myself. What really bugs me is that I don’t know why she is sending me this information at all. What does this have to do with me? Why do I care? No opening comments defining the purpose…she just simply forwarded me the post. I did send an email asking AGAIN that she stop sending me this kind of thing. Her response…”Sorry you feel that way, but I haven’t sent anything all year.” Clueless just got junked!

What’s my point?

For decades, the sales profession has gotten a bad rap. It is unfair, but totally understandable when you encounter people who are completely ignorant to the principles of great selling. I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying from a stranger who sends me an email with today’s “great deal” out of the blue. If you are in sales and feel compelled to send an unsolicited sales pitch to someone, perhaps it might be prudent to stop for a minute and think about what you are doing before you actually hit send.

Burr…Cold Calling Breaks the Rules of Social Sales

When I originally started this post, I was quite firm in my belief that “cold calling” as a tactic for driving sales was largely ineffective. I still am for the most part. But to be fair, I may have generalized a bit too much. Perhaps I’m jaded. As a business owner, I receive some of the dumbest phone sales calls imaginable. Everything from mortgage brokers trying to sell me refinancing for a building that I do not own, budding rap stars looking for their next big break, people selling products that compete with what I offer…really?…the list is endless. Didn’t check the website and clearly didn’t listen to our corporate voicemail message.

Still, during a recent sales program I facilitated, a senior sales executive challenged my assertion that cold calling gets you nowhere saying that, “Cold calling does work.  I’ve brought in a number of large deals as a result of cold calls that I’ve made.” So, I couldn’t help but be curious. What makes it work for you, I asked.  Listening to him answer, I realized that his success was due to his planning and preparation. This executive knew what he wanted to accomplish. He researched his target companies. He planned what he was going to say. And, when he did pick up the phone, he managed to successfully connect with his prospective buyer. So, I’ll change my tune slightly. Cold calling is generally a waste of time, and there are some people who are able to make it work.

For everyone else, here are 5 reasons why cold calling leads to sales frostbite:

  1. It’s about relationships first, sales second. People buy from people that they know, like and trust. If they don’t know you, they are very unlikely to respond favorably to your unsolicited call. Cold calling runs counter to what the social revolution is all about. In the social sales world, it’s all about delivering value in advance of the sale. That requires getting to know a little something about your prospective buyer first and then offering to do for them without expecting an immediate return.
  2. It is an interruption – think phone spam. To do lists are already tough enough to manage, so when you interrupt a busy executive that you have no relationship with at all, you risk blowing your sales opportunity altogether.  Buyers are not looking to have information pushed at them from sources they do not yet trust. Use LinkedIn to learn about the people on your lead generation list. Find commonality and then use your social networks to facilitate warm introductions that lead to securing sales appointments.
  3. The spiel is boring and focuses only on you. Worse than the practice of dialing for dollars (calling a list of people you know nothing about) is that sales scripts are usually not tailored to each person called. More often than not the focus is on the seller not the buyer. Sales scripts are nothing more than a verbal dump of the features of the product on the unsuspecting person who picked up the phone when you called. That isn’t likely to endear you to them.
  4. The world is not your client. This concept is counter-intuitive for sales managers who believe that calling a lead list works, but you can accelerate your sales traction if you go narrow and deep within your particular market space. It means you must first be crystal clear about who your ideal client actually is. Calling a random list of 100 names is far less effective than figuring out who the top 10 right people to call on that list really are. If you are in sales, you want to move from lead to close as quickly as you can, right? Wouldn’t it be easier to determine where those 10 right people might be doing business online and start a conversation there? That moves you right to the head of the sales line if you do it well.
  5. It’s about perception. If you can’t explain quickly, clearly and succinctly why someone would benefit from buying your product, service or idea, you will lose sales, no matter how great what you have to offer is. During a typical cold call sales scenario it is not uncommon for reps to rush through a rambling speech that annoys rather than engages. If this is the first interaction that your prospect has with your company, are you are creating a positive brand impression or harming it?

There was once a time and a place for the sales practice of cold-calling. Those days are long gone. Thankfully.

Cold Calling 2.0?

Since the early days of John Patterson and his NCR sales playbook, “cold calling” seems to be ingrained in the collective sales consciousness as an expected part of the sales process. I still wonder why. Come on. Cold calling doesn’t work (it never has, and I don’t care what that last sales trainer told you).

This ridiculous notion of “dialing for dollars” is so yesterday. Sales people resist cold calling like the plague and with good reason. At some level, they know it doesn’t make any sense to call a stranger and expect them to buy within seconds of receiving their call no matter how charming they may be. Old school sales thinking is that you just call enough numbers and eventually somebody buys. What a waste of time and energy! Not to mention how potential buyers detest this approach. They don’t appreciate your rambling, inarticulate, blathering feature dumps and the evident randomness of the call. As a business owner, I can relate. Maybe I’ll create an audio book one of these days with the “best of the worst” phone calls that I’ve ever received. I save them. Hilarious and painfully sad at the same time. Hint: if you have to cold call then at least do some remedial homework. Make sure I’m in the market for what you sell. Everyone is NOT your customer!

Get over the notion of cold calling. Nobody likes it, it doesn’t work. Instead, what about using social media/social networks, email, Twitter, Facebook, referrals and the like to start paving the way for a great relationship? There is just NO excuse anymore for sales management to think that “dialing for dollars” has much chance at success. Instead, invest time in learning to use social media to augment and extend your sales reach. Insist that your sales people use social tools and social networks to begin conversations that will lead to finding common ground and getting to know each other. Then, when you do reach out to secure that sales appointment there will be nothing cold about it!