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This Week, I Became a Salesperson’s Problem

The_Gatekeeper

This week, it occurs to me that I’ve become the kind of person many of our clients find most challenging. You see, there’s this guy—I’ll call him Doug—who’s been reaching out to me by email, asking me to tell him who’s in charge of printed materials at The Center for Sales Strategy.

Over the past few of weeks, he’s sent me several notes, each one demonstrating another degree of persistence. Most recently, he came out very directly and said, “I going to be even more persistent than you are busy,” as if this was a war of attrition that he would eventually win. So I sent him a response, but not the one that he wanted.

I sent him a note explaining that my lack of response had less to do with how busy I am than the fact that his email did not earn a response. He found my name, and somehow, my email address. Other than that, his notes demonstrated little knowledge of my company and zero knowledge of my role in it. I wrote to him that he was asking for a referral, in a way, that he had not earned… asking me to identify the person in charge of buying printed materials for my company. (We don’t really have anyone in charge of that. We print our own.)

In his emails, he claimed that he could help, but offered little understanding of how he could help. I couldn’t tell if he was selling printers, printer ink, or printing services. So I responded to his email, but not in the way he was hoping. Instead, I explained why I wasn’t getting back to him and what he’d have to do to change that outcome. (I gave him a free coaching session on VBRs, I suppose.)

Before you click “Send” on your next introductory message, please scrutinize it with these kinds of questions:

  • Have you investigated the prospect beyond a simple name and email address? (Had he looked at my profile on the CSS website or LinkedIn, Doug would have known I wasn’t in charge of buying printed materials for the company.)
  • Is your message built focused completely on what you sell, or does it enlighten the recipient as to how you might be able to help him or her using the services or products you have available?
  • When you haven’t heard back from someone you’re trying to get in touch with, are you under the assumption that this person is just being rude? Or are you critiquing your message to make sure it has earned a response?
  • Do you understand your prospect’s priorities well enough to fit into their schedule. . . or better stated: their priority-management mindset? There was a link to a corporate video in Doug’s email, and I’m sure I could have learned all about his company and products had I taken the time to sit through that presentation. But I didn’t even click on it, because I didn’t know whether the video was two minutes or two hours long. And seriously, life is often an exercise in time management. I have several priorities to attend to on any given day. This salesperson did not give me a reason to interrupt those priorities for his pitch.  
  • Have you re-read your prospecting messages, and asked whether each one facilitates the swift, convenient understanding of how you can help? Has there been at least a way for the recipient to obtain a sense of your empathy, expertise, and problem-solving capability (like a simple link to your LinkedIn profile)?

This guy’s lack of advance research turned a pretty normal human being—me—into a gatekeeper. (I wasn’t one before, really, but he turned me into one.)

After receiving my note about why I wasn’t responding, Doug made one more attempt. . . far improved, but far from perfect—it was still more product-focused than it was service-focused. I did forward his note on to a couple of folks in the company. And if they have the time to research his company and see the value in a meeting, perhaps they’ll reach out to the guy. But because I did not give Doug their names or email addresses, I would bet that he still sees me as his problem—the gatekeeper. 

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Topics: Sales, sales leads