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If you want to sell to me, sell me


Good sales staff are worth their weight in gold. Mediocre sales staff are a dime a dozen. But the worst sales staff don’t just phone it in, they get someone else to do it. Mr 1% Spend has had enough.

Not a day goes past without people calling to sell me this, that or the other. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of late, so have a lot of other people I know in the ICT business.

Sales staff don’t make their own calls any more. It’s always someone at a call centre ringing to give me the pitch, which is normally followed up with, “I’d like to book a time for the consultant to come out and see you.” They also have a grandiose title like “Inside Sales Consultant” — what the hell does that mean!? Why can’t the consultant call me themselves? And does this mean they’re the “Outside Sales Consultant”?

Here’s my question to all the companies that use this sales (and I am loathe to call it this) strategy: If the consultant needs Mummy or Daddy to set up a play date, have you thought about how it reflects on your business? Or do you just not care so long as you get the sale?

If you’re a “consultant”, please pay attention to what a prospective customer is about to say. If you can’t pay me the courtesy of trying to get in the door on your own, it tells me that either:

  1. You suck as a sales rep
  2. Your product sucks as much as your selling skills
  3. You think your time is too valuable to find your own customers, which means your selling skills suck, or
  4. The place you work for doesn’t see me as a customer. I’m just another name on a list that’s been bought from somewhere, and they hired you look like you suck rather than letting themselves look like they suck!

Just a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine had one of these experiences. He’d been called by one of the two mobile-only telcos (who are about to merge, so hopefully it’ll reduce the number of these ridiculous calls) and got the canned call centre script but agreed to see the consultant. The guy who walked in the door had no real knowledge of the business he was dealing with, was woefully ill-equipped to answer any questions that fell outside the mundane and had to refer anything that was out of the ordinary back to “head office”.

If you’re like me and pressed find enough hours in the day to do your job, you have to make a value judgement on the worth of the face time with the unknown consultant. This approach doesn’t let me pre-qualify the ability of the caller to meet our needs or their fit for our size organisation. Companies taking this approach seem to believe that it’s better to get someone in the door regardless of the appropriateness of fit than not to get someone in the door.

To all you companies that think this is a good way to mine for new business, let me give you a little tip. Treat your prospective customer like a prospective customer rather than just another name on a list. You might find that even if you don’t get the business the first time, they may come to see you when they need your services.

I got a call from Hutchinson/3 today – the pitch was simple “Hi I’m calling from Hutchinson/3 and we can significantly reduce your call costs. I’m going to have a consultant in your area tomorrow, what time can they come and call on you?”

Firstly that’s a pretty brave approach because I may not be able to see you tomorrow, also whatever happened to asking me if I actually want to see someone rather than assuming I do and just arranging the next play date for the consultant.

Telling me they’ll slash my call costs by 50% is pretty brave given they haven’t seen my phone bill. You can guarantee an approach loaded with chutzpah like this will have escape clauses all over it because it’s just designed to get them in the door. I asked the caller if they could give me an idea of cost so that I could see if it was worth taking time out to talk to the consultant. You know the answer already don’t you… all that type of information was with the consultant who could provide me with all the answers when they came in.

I’ve already made my decision, as have many of my colleagues — this approach just won’t fly. It wastes my time and costs my company money. A call centre just isn’t a substitute for competent sales staff. Period.

The 1% Spend is written by a prominent Australian I.T. consultant who is choosing to remain anonymous (and candid).

Photo: Steven Pam