Kindly Don’t Insult my Intelligence: The Keys to Gaining Customers
This is the Linked In message that I received early this morning:
Paul Li 1:31 AM
Hello Julia, It’s nice to get in touch with you. This is Paul, Sales Manager of Baoding Rising Sun Machinery Parts Co., Ltd. Our company has been engaged in casting and OEM spare parts since the year 1988, such as lost foam casting, pre-coated sand casting, water glass precision casting, investment casting, die casting parts and machining parts. I browsed your company web and noticed you may search for supplier of casting spare parts, can you provide us technical drawing or sample? so that we can make full evaluation and offer the best price for you. Email: email@example.com. Wechat/Whatsapp/Cel：861372221532, Skype: paulli0129 Thank you. And by the way, you will be welcomed to visit our foundry anytime
Um, okay, Paul.
Here’s the problem: had Paul Li actually gone to any of my websites he’d have discovered a few key pieces of very obvious information:
- I’m a one-woman training, consulting and leadership skills firm.
- My other work is as an international adventure traveler and blogger.
- In no way, shape or form does anything on my websites indicate that I would have a need for “search for supplier of casting spare parts.”
- I would have no interest whatsoever in visiting a foundry.
- I am most obviously not a potential client.
It’s Competitive Out There
Look, I get it. It’s a highly competitive world out there. You have to hustle to gain clients. However, this is precisely the kind of thoughtless outreach that not only insults the recipient but ensures that Mr. Li will not get any kind of referral, because he is clearly too lazy to actually do what he says he has done. That is a slap in the face of the recipient, and it telegraphs the lack of commitment to quality that the supplier embodies.
No matter who we are in our various businesses, we want top quality. And of course we want it at the best possible price- although to be fair, the very best of the best costs more. Most of us will at least consider paying more so that we don’t make a mistake. Woe to the buyer who opts for cheap to save the company money, only to have that decision end up costing time, dime and embarrassment when parts or service fail, and end up in down time (most especially for a Just in Time operation). That’s when going for the top brand with the best reputation- that often can cost more simply because using them is guaranteed- makes that same buyer look like a hero. Costs are passed along to the customer, but the customer has the confidence that what he bought is going to work or that you are going to perform as promised.
The Say-Do Ratio
Mr. Li’s email clearly indicates that he is a liar. I am sorry if that sounds like harsh language, but he did NOT look at my website. That may not be his intent but that’s the impact. The impact is lasting, and that first impression can kill any chance of a second conversation of any kind.
Your integrity, just like mine, is in part based on the proof that you do what you say you did, are going to do. That’s how we build trust. If I am interested in you as a client, then I am indeed going to peruse your website. Look at your client base. Read about you in the industry rags. Google you, read the news on your website. Do some basic research about your management team. At the very, very, very least I am going to get a solid feel for who you are, what you do and what keeps you up at night.
Then and only then will I look to what’s in my quiver of solutions and see if I’m a fit. If I have good solutions, and a solid track record of solving those issues for similar clients, then I will custom-craft an outreach based on solid research, using your corporate language, and demonstrating that I have the track record that will help you solve your issues. That has to be done in about seven seconds’ reading time, because this is about all we get these days. Same as in person. We have to be client-focused, client-sensitive, and willing to demonstrate what we will do to help the client succeed.
Just Go Get the Business!!!
For too many sales managers — and this especially goes for top salespeople who get promoted not on their ability to manage but on their sales production (which is a dual death-knell in many cases), exhorting their people to produce by any means possible is the best way to not only lose potential clients but also abuse your team. Mr. Li may be under extreme pressure from his boss and therefore he resorts to methods that defeat his purpose. We need only look to how we want to be sold. Nobody wants to feel like a number, with a target on our backs. Ask anyone who has ever walked into a car sales lot or an electronics store where folks are paid on commission (I’ve trained those salespeople myself). You’re the next “up” and you are only worth the commission that they earn. You’re not a human, you’re only a means to an end, as in bragging rights.
To wit: “ I nailed her,” one salesman said loudly as a customer was walking out the door, loudly enough to hear him. She spun on her heels and returned her brand new $7k big screen, to his chagrin and the store manager’s seething anger. I watched this whole scenario unfold at a now-defunct electronics store, what was known as Silo. There’s a good reason they don’t exist any more. Most certainly that is not what I trained him to do, but that was his personal style.
You may NOT abuse the customer.
One car salesman who worked for years at a local Ford dealership in north Denver earned my trust and my loyalty for years because he invested in learning about my lifestyle, my preferences and what I really wanted. When a Taurus of mine developed all kinds of problems he snuck me the insider code to get a replacement without the hassle. I bought a lot of cars from that man and sent him many referrals. I’m sorry he’s not there any more. He was one of a kind. However, he understood that sales is all about an earned relationship, particularly if that company wants a long-term, mutually beneficial collaboration.
It Starts At the Top
Good leaders and sales managers work to their people’s individual strengths, and model the behavior they want to see. That means they invest in their people, help them develop their skills and move past weak areas. They don’t just cascade whatever pressure they are receiving from their own managers onto their sales teams. This way each member of the team feels valued, and they in turn are far more likely to treat potential customers with the respect and courtesy they deserve. Otherwise that manager will be looking at high turnover and burnt out customer bases who will hang up or delete any time communication shows up from their team. In many cases, large sales take long lead times and pushing at folks to close faster will close the door in your face.
We are all customers in one way or another, and we’re sensitive to the treatment we get from those who want our business, be it Girl Scout Cookies or a vacation package to the MGM Grand in Vegas. If it annoys the holy heck out of you to get invasive, dishonest emails from folks who want you to buy their stuff, then why on earth would you do that to your own potential customers?
Like trust, business is earned. Do what you say, say what you will do, under- promise and then over-deliver. We all claim we want customers for life. But very few are willing to do the work to earn them. This is one reason there is so much turnover in so many sales departments. “Sales is a relationship business.” Yep. Everyone says that, we all nod sagely, then we go out and pummel people and expect them to buy from us. No wonder folks are exhausted.
That’s why truly good sales managers and sales people are so successful. They demonstrate integrity, courtesy and respect. And they are rewarded in kind, like my salesman at the Ford dealership. These salespeople are true consultants in the highest sense of the word. When they dedicate themselves to our having an excellent customer experience whether we’re buying millions in car parts or a month’s worth of lawn fertilizer, they guarantee repeat business.
Selling is a great job. I do it all the time, otherwise I wouldn’t have a successful entrepreneurial business. There are great rewards both personally and financially. However they don’t just happen. They’re earned, through respect and regard for our customers- when we as salespeople become consultants rather than con men/women.
Just as you would prefer to be treated.