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Sales Etiquette

Last month, I blogged about how businesses, and in particular, how advertisers, need to treat salespeople with respect and care.  After all, salespeople are professionals trying to do their job in a highly competitive environment.  And they may also be a potential customer, and who wants to alienate potential customers?

Having said that, salespeople also need to recognize that there’s a difference between persistence and pestering.  Between sales calls and intrusions.  Between providing real value and hawking a pre-packaged proposal developed by a sales manager.  Business owners, marketing managers, advertising directors are all very busy and trying to do their jobs in competitive environments.

Having been on both sides of the desk, I understand the challenges of each.  As a business owner, there are daily calls/emails/texts/mail from folks who want to sell stuff.  Most of it I don’t want or need.  Some of it I do.  Generally, I make every effort to reply.  And the ones I do reply to are respectful of my time. They make the effort to research my company and at least try to infer from that research what my needs might be.  They don’t just show up, say “I’m so-and-so from such-and-such and want to learn a bit about your business.”

Learn on your own time.  Know my business and competition.  Make an appointment.  Show up early.  Provide value.  And if you can’t get an appointment, it means you haven’t demonstrated why it’s worth it for someone to take time away from their overflowing to-do list to meet with you.

That doesn’t mean you give up (see “persistence”).  It means you occasionally send articles, notes, links, etc. that show you’re interested in helping your prospect be more successful, effective, profitable.  And then they might, when it’s right for them, be willing to meet with you.  And maybe even buy from you.  And if you and your product are as good as you say, everyone wins.

And winning is a beautiful thing.

Salespeople are also customers

You’re a busy business owner.  Or marketing director.  Or media buyer.  Typically, you’ve got multiple balls in the air, and many hats on your head.  So when you get that call/email/stop-in from a salesperson, it’s often while you’re in the middle of the hundred-and-one things you’re trying to get done so you can go home at a reasonable hour.  The last thing you want is to have to stop to answer questions that you know are designed to, either now or later, get you to buy something you’re not sure you want or need.  And even if you do need “it,” now’s not the time.

So while your better nature normally would have you say “no thanks” or “no thanks, not right now, but let’s schedule a time that works for both of us,” you sometimes gruffly boot that salesperson out the door (literally or figuratively).

Alternately, rather than nicely, but directly say that you don’t want or need the service, you stall.  This sounds like “call me next month,” “I have to talk to my partner,” “send me your brochure/link/etc.”  Sound familiar?  This requires the salesperson to unnecessarily spin wheels and jump through hoops that you know will not change the fact that you’re not gong to buy.

Did you ever consider that the same person you just treated less than civilly, or who’s time you wasted, could also be a customer?  And how does that potential customer now feel about you and your business?

I remember years ago when I was in radio sales, I called on a particular big-ticket item business.  I had sent them info about my station, left messages, and while I hadn’t heard back from them, I was in their neighborhood and decided to stop in to try to introduce myself in person and make an appointment.  I asked for the manager or his assistant, was kept waiting for some time, and when he finally addressed me, it was less than pleasant.  It also happened that I was in the market for a the product that his business sold.  Do you think I bought it from him?

We’re all in sales in some way, whether it’s in our job title or not.  So it behooves each of us to remember that today’s “interruption” could lead to tomorrow’s sale.  Golden Rule, anyone?

Next time: a salesperson’s responsibilities when calling on prospects.

Learning from social media

For the last few weeks, and for a couple more, I’ve been “attending” a webinar course on social media.  It’s offered by www.instantetraining.com and is pretty comprehensive.  I’m learning quite a bit about analytics, tools, content, algorithms, building campaigns, etc.

The main thing I’m learning is that once you think you’ve “got it,” it changes. Google, Facebook, et al continue to improve functionality and capabilities to capture, analyze and use data to more accurately target consumers (and to be more profitable) in ways undreamed of even just a few short years ago.  And those improvements require constant, ongoing education, which as busy and time-starved as we all are today is asking a bunch.

I’ve always been a believer in hiring experts to do that in which they have expertise.  I have a lawyer for legal matters, an accountant for tax/bookkeeping needs, an electrician for when the GFCI in the bathroom keeps resetting.  Coincidentally, and what a surprise, I highly recommend using a professional marketing agency/consultant for developing and executing marketing/advertising plans.

And so it is with social media.  There is so much to absorb to just stay current, let alone ahead of the curve.  So even though I know more than the average bear about social media, and will know even more at the end of the course, I still consult with experts in specific areas to make sure my clients receive the best, most current advice in developing and executing their social media strategies.  I need to know enough to speak intelligently and ask the right questions in order to know on whom to call, but I can’t know it all, all the time.

Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.  As I get older, I seem to be getting wiser.