Suggestions for Prospective Vendors

First, let me get this out of the way, I have great respect for sales people. It’s a dirty job and someone has to do it; it certainly won’t be me. My father was a salesperson of one type or another his entire life.

I can only imagine how difficult this job is considering the current economy. The stress of being commission based must be severe, which motivates many salespeople to stray from the accepted paths. I always try to be courteous and understanding with salespeople because I know what a rotten job it can be.

However, I would like to send a message to prospective vendors regarding some tactics, which simply do not work or are blatantly irritating and offensive. This post is somewhat similar to my suggestions for vendor support.

Cold calling is dead. This is especially true if there is no connection or specific reason for the call. If I filled out a card at a seminar asking for information, please call. If our connection is because my business happens to use computers, forget it. If you sell a M2M related product, I may give you a few minutes. Nobody likes cold calling, especially you (the salesperson). In college, I worked as a market research phone representative asking boring questions about products and such. I hated my life. Near constant negative feedback was so depressing. Stop cold calling, it doesn’t really work.

Spam is evil, even if I already buy from you. If you have some revolutionary new product, send me an e-mail. However, if I spammed every week with some past product that you dusted off to try to re-sell me, I get annoyed. I didn’t buy it two years ago, and presumably I still know about it, so why would I want to buy it now? This is especially irritating when current vendors send the e-mails directly from the salesperson’s account. I want my account manager’s e-mails to come through in case something important happens with my account, but not the spam. I cannot block the account without losing all of the e-mails.

Bogus Twitter Followers are annoying as well. I will not elaborate much on this because Brent Ozar already covers it.

Your internet presence is troubling. If I am interested in doing business with you, you can bet that I will Google your company. I suspect nothing less about prospective future employers. If they Google “David Stein SQL” and they come across a bunch of negative comments, I will not get the job. Customer service is particularly important in this age of easy information.

Unsolicited appointments are a scourge of marketing. It works like this. A Salesperson gets my e-mail address and sends me an Outlook Meeting Request. Rather than actually asking for a meeting, I am scheduled for it. Often I have never even spoken with them. In fact, the meeting requests usually don’t ask for a meeting either, they simply say something like, “If this time isn’t convenient, when would you like to reschedule?” Umm… How about never? I will never do business with you. How do I handle these situations? I simply leave the appointment on my calendar, and then smile when I get a follow up e-mail complaining about missing the appointment. If I waste enough of their time slots, perhaps they will stop bothering me.

Concealed sales pitches are common as well. Do not try to entice me with offers of free training, and then waste my time with a sales pitch. I don’t respond well to being tricked and will refuse to do business with you. Certain vendors have a notorious reputation for offering little actual value in local and national user group meetings because they are thinly veiled sales pitches. This is particularly odious when my company actually pays for the event. My company does not want to pay several thousand dollars to send me to Vegas simply to listen to sales pitches for new ERP modules or reporting packages. If you want my time (or for that matter my money) you had better provide actual content. One vendor who does this well is Quest software. Many of their products augment and correct shortcomings of the standard Microsoft products. Their Pain of the Week online presentations are particularly good. They will discuss a problem with SQL Server, and how to fix it with the native tools. However, if their product is easier or more efficient, they will demo that as well. Yes, you often get a sales pitch, but it is typically reserved for the end, after you have received valuable information. Incidentally, I do not have any affiliation with Quest, other then using TOAD.

Be professional in all of our communications. Just because we both have experience in the same ERP system, we are not instantly bosom buddies. Salespeople who over extend themselves to be your instant friend give me a slimy feeling. Also, check your messages to me for spelling and grammar errors before sending them. I received the following message recently, which demonstrates another common problem.

Hello {!Contact:First Name;},

My firm is a Business Objects/SAP Partner. They have asked us to follow up with you to see if you require any additional assistance after your download of the {!Contact:Description;} product. I am available to help you and your company in the following capacities:

• Product Purchase Guidance
• Technical Training
• Consulting Services

I’d like to give you a quick call to introduce myself so you feel comfortable contacting me in the future. What is the best number and time to call?

I realize we all make mistakes, but do you think I’m going to do business with a technical company that doesn’t know how to mail merge?

Practice your product demos and look polished during your presentation. I know that accidents happen, laptops die, windows errors pop up, etc. However, if you want to sell your product, know how to run the product. Earlier this year I met with a potential vendor with a new reporting product that did not go well at all. The two man team (sales and technical) managed to lock themselves out of their own product in the first 10 minutes and then wasted the better part of an hour trying to fix it. After giving up, they spent the remaining ten minutes discussing what the product SHOULD be able to do with screen shots. Do you think I bought this product?

Focus on your product, not the competition. Don’t spend your time with me focusing on negative themes. I know that sounds ironic since most of this post is about negative actions of salespeople. Don’t spend too much time tearing down their product, spend it building your product up.

Get the hint if I don’t respond. This theme relates to most the previous points. My company may not be interested in your product for several reasons. Perhaps it is a budget issue. ERP Software in particular is so expensive that switching to another one can be ridiculously expensive. We may already have a business partner and we are happy. Badgering me with sales pitches is not a productive use of your time or mine.

What do you think?

2 comments to Suggestions for Prospective Vendors

  • I’m glad you find value in the Pain of the Week series. We work really hard to make sure the majority of the content is useful for folks who only use the native tools, and that you can get that part without sitting through a sales pitch.

  • Andrew

    I have a salesman who tries the unsolicited appt thing. I cancelled the meeting. I may try your method next time. lol

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