When Selling Should Stop

Masthead for Too Much Sales
“That project fizzled over 2 years ago,” I patiently explained. Actually, I patiently explained again for about the 6th time to probably the fourth salesperson who had contacted me. Here’s the story:

A couple of years ago, I was researching a direct mail project for a client in the healthcare industry. They were interested in targeting a segmented audience: women under 40 with Type 1 diabetes. I had received a mailer from a data company that offered specialty address lists, including several medical lists. It impressed me enough to keep the mailer, and I called them when the possible project came up. In hindsight, that was a mistake.

The company was responsive enough. They sent a count that matched the specs I gave them. The client decided to go a different direction, so the campaign never came about. The sales rep I talked with followed up appropriately, and I explained that we wouldn’t be doing the project. That exchange occurred in September of 2014. I didn’t expect another call.

Since then, I have received a phone call every three months from various representatives of the company. None of them seemed at all aware of the previous conversations. Every call has started something like this, “Richard, I’m calling to follow up on your list inquiry. Are you ready to purchase the healthcare list you inquired about?” Last week’s call added a new annoying feature. The sales rep first tried to add me as a contact via LinkedIn. I declined. His call started with “Richard, I tried to reach out via LinkedIn, but maybe you missed the contact request. Are you ready to purchase the healthcare list you inquired about?”

The call was short, and my impatience was probably evident. It ended with a direct request, “Please take me off your call list and remove my name from your CRM.”

Missed Opportunity

The irony of this tale is obvious. The list vendor is misusing their own house list. An appropriate response to the first (or even second) call to me would have been a note in their CRM. It could have been something like this: Project dead. Small marketing company. Keep on mailing list.

That would have been great. I do occasionally purchase targeted lists for my clients and I would have welcomed an occasional email or direct mail piece that informed me about availability of new lists or services. It’s likely that I would have called again for another count if a new project came up. Instead, I received irrelevant and irritating sales calls – lots of them. The list company succeeded in making an impression with me. Their name is indelibly impressed in my brain. I’ll never call them again.

Make good use of your CRM. Qualify your lists.

Nimble CRM Screenshot

Nimble CRM is my current favorite.

Customer Relationship Management platforms have been around for a while. Most companies have a CRM in place, even if they don’t use it to it’s optimum capability.  You should be using your CRM to categorize your contacts. It’s a great way to avoid aggravating folks who don’t want to hear from you so often.

Every CRM I’ve ever used allows you to segment contacts. The platform I use now (Nimble, it’s great) allows you to qualify your leads all kinds of ways and to engage with them directly via email and social media. You get an easy to read snapshot of recent communication every time you call up a contact that allows you to stay relevant when you follow up. When a phone call is appropriate, I use the CRM to schedule it and I record the important points covered in the conversation. It helps me to stay on track and to avoid being intrusive.

Differentiate between sales lists and marketing lists.

There is an appropriate time for a sales call, but you should be aware that there is also a time to quit selling. Timing is everything, but ultimately it’s your customer who determines the time for a transaction. Appropriate marketing can keep your brand top of mind and increase the likelihood that a conversation will happen when the time is right. Nagging sales calls can assure that the opposite will happen.

his may seem self-evident, but lots of small businesses blow it. They assign a new salesperson an “inactive list” and the cold phone calls begin. Some simple and appropriate segmentation can allow you to keep in touch without becoming a royal pain in the tuchus.

Here are a few tips to help with the timing for  marketing and selling:

  1. Forget about suspects and prospects – Instead, assign the sales folks qualified leads. Qualified leads have expressed interest in a transaction and there is the potential for a customer relationship. That’s what you want, right?
  2. Provide information that can lead to engagement – If you’re providing relevant information, you’ll get the call, Information can be provided to an unqualified audience through email newsletters, and direct mail. Always include an offer and a call to action that can lead to closer engagement.
  3. Use social media appropriately – Social media provides excellent opportunities to engage and to offer help, but it’s generally not a great place for direct sales. Use social media to build audience and brand awareness and to look for opportunities to engage with contacts who might be interested.
  4. Direct contact is ok when it’s helpful – I’ll frequently send an article or a note to a contact that’s relevant to an interest they’ve expressed. It’s not a sales message. Usually, it’s a direct email that starts with, “I saw this article today and thought you might be interested . . .”
  5. Use technology and engage when it’s appropriate – Google and Facebook provide easy solutions that allow you to track website visitors and target them with remarketing messages. If they respond, it’s appropriate to identify them as a warm lead. Follow up immediately with an email and ask if a conversation would be welcomed. You’re much more likely to get results from a scheduled conversation.

What are you asking your salespeople to do?

Today’s customers expect you to know about their businesses and their needs. You can’t presume you have a solution if you don’t know their problems. Cold calling to dead lists is a waste of time and sales productivity, especially when there are so many ways to gauge potential interest and qualify prospects.

Old school sales techniques can be counterproductive. In today’s business environment, successful sales requires the right combination of marketing, lead generation, engagement, and appropriate follow up. You’ll need to find a formula that fits your business and your target market.

Maybe it’s time to take a close look at what your salespeople are doing, measure the results, and do some fine tuning. Get in touch if you need some help.


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