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Yes, you’re bothering me

Written by Jill Harrington on October 21, 2015 6:00 pm in Sales Challenges, Sales Effectiveness, SalesSHIFT Blog - 11 comments

My clients love to send me prospecting messages they receive from sellers. They know that the content is fabulous fodder for my upcoming book. And, I like to analyze each message as a reminder of what works, and what doesn’t, in prospecting today. Sadly, most fall into the latter category.

Douglas, a senior executive in the US, recently forwarded an e-mail trail from a technology seller. He included his reply to the seller as he was curious to know if his response had crossed a line.

You be the judge.

Here is the seller’s fourth attempt in a string of traditional “feature-laden” e-mails offering no trace of understanding of Douglas’ company.

“Good Day Douglas. Apologies if I am bothering you. I was wondering if my emails are reaching you. It would be really great if you can kindly acknowledge the receipt of the same. It would be wonderful if you could also let us know your thoughts and also a good date and time that work well with your calendar for a brief discussion. Looking forward to your kind reply.”

And Douglas’s response.

“My thoughts are that it is more than a little presumptuous for a cold-calling email string to escalate to a point where you imply I am rude for not acknowledging unsolicited sales calls.  I do not need your services, and I “kindly” suggest you re-think your tactics.”

I’m guessing this wasn’t the reaction this seller was aiming for.

Coincidentally I was hit by a similar hustle from an impatient vendor. After attending a free webinar on accelerating the book writing process (yes, I am still in the process of birthing my first bestseller) and a month of ridiculously frequent e-mails, I received this:

“Dear Jill – About a month ago I first contacted you about helping you become the published authority that people trust. … I haven’t heard from you and can only assume that means you have no interest in doubling or even tripling your business with a book…”

Wow. I’m still reeling from that last line! While I am sure his intent was to either have me rethink my inertia or to elevate my guilt for the wall of silence, the result from my perspective was the obliteration of his credibility.

Here’s what’s sad about this situation. His e-mails landed at a time when I was on the speaking schedule from hell, when sleep was a luxury, clients were a priority and unsolicited sales messages weren’t. I had flagged his earlier e-mails with the intent of connecting with him when I was ready to refocus on my book. This self-centred, and frankly offensive, approach prompted me to remove him from my “to action” file and run to the arms of his competitors.

And so, with no sugar coating, here’s my point.

You may be ready to sell something today but that doesn’t mean your prospect is ready to buy. << Tweet This!

My failure to respond may simply be an indication that I am drowning in the quicksand of my own priorities and have no bandwidth to address yours. Yet.

Sending out mass mailings that require little to no effort on your part will generate more of the same from your prospects. Why should I bother to respond to you if you’ve made no effort beyond the generic “spray and pray” e-mails that are the single biggest credibility suckers in prospecting today?

I’d love to hear from you! What is the single biggest turn off, that you’ve experienced, when it comes to prospecting e-mails? And, have you ever witnessed something that actually worked? Leave your response in the comments below.

Good selling!


11 Comments on 'Yes, you’re bothering me'

    • Yes exactly Joe. Great sellers recognize this. They assure that every message they send delivers value from the prospect’s perspective so that they efficiently earn their place on his or her schedule.

  1. Jill,
    The sellers above certainly crossed a line in to being rude.
    First contact is always a challenge. I could put together the most relevant e-mail in the world, but if my prospects are busy, and if you assume they have relationships with other vendors, it’s unlikely my e-mail will get read. I’ve heard many prospects say they don’t even listen to voicemail except to clear it out now and then.
    I’d love to hear how sellers are having success in just getting that initial contact when the traditional methods–e-mail and phone–are simply becoming ignored regardless of my relevance.

    • Thanks for your comment Nathan. Sadly, many prospects are intuitively suspicious of sales people’s motives. In fact I read that distrust of sales people has tripled since 2004. Trust is earned from providing relevant value over time. So be prepared for prospecting to be a process not an event. And, while e-mail and the phone are a component of this access process, incorporate a mix of methods to accelerate the process. Successful prospectors leverage their networks (online and offline), participate in relevant social channels, obtain qualified referrals, and provide ongoing educational value via numerous educational vehicles.
      I’m sure Nathan would like to hear further ideas from others of you who sell every day so please add a comment.

  2. Great blog post Jill!

    The best cold email came with a resume right after we had made a decision that I needed a marketing assistant. It was the right resume at the right time.

    That part-time summer student became my fulltime Marketing Manager eventually and has gone to do really well for herself.

    Cold emails do work if you target properly and have the right message of value for your target audience. It’s all about timing too. They have to be in the buying mode when you approach them. Pick up the phone and try calling them too to see when is the right time for them to buy.

    • Thanks for your insights Patti. Timing is a big factor. And, as I shared with Nathan, the smart sellers who put thought and effort into their access strategy shorten the time frame dramatically.

  3. Cold emails and cold phone calls are an exercise in futility and a ridiculous way for salespeople to spend their time. I delete every single one. However, it’s not their fault. Someone is holding them accountable for the number of emails and dials they make.

    What’s the best way to reach a prospect? Get a referral introduction from someone your prospect knows and trusts. That’s the one-call meeting that shortens the sales cycle, plummets the cost of sales, eliminates the competition, and converts prospects to clients well more than 50 percent of the time. Try to match that with any other prospecting strategy…

  4. I hate it when I find reps have been sending a standard generic email as in introduction. I’ve seen them listing all features and benefits, price and even business cases for prospects they have never even spoken to. You got to find out what some wants before making any sort of offer. Just a waste of leads that even if they do get back to you are just focus on getting the lowest price possible from you.

  5. Jill:
    The volume of email “shaming” I receive from “cold typers” for being unresponsive is rapidly increasing!
    The upside is I cut and paste the best (worst) ones and use them in my sales training on what NOT to do. I get fresh content every week!
    Now, get crackin’ on that book, I’m looking forward to reading it!

    • I know Tim. We could fill a book with ‘what not to do.’ But the immensely positive side of this, that I constantly reinforce to my smart clients, is that with so much bad prospecting out there you can stand out and get noticed if you put in the thought and effort that others aren’t prepared to invest.

      And yes the book… Have you ever birthed a 10 ton elephant? Of course not but I think I now understand what that might be like. But it’s coming… watch for it in 2016.

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