Being Sold To
Having been on the sales side of media for so long, it was strange to start receiving emails and calls from other companies selling me stuff. It has proved to be a real eye-opener.
It all starts when you first register your business at Companies House (CH). The post starts arriving from businesses trying to sell me accountancy, tax and legal services. I confess that ALL of it went in the bin. The chances are that most new companies will already have their financial and legal affairs in order, and usually with companies that have been personally recommended to them. Perhaps send it to me after 6 months when my needs might have changed, or when I have discovered that I need to find a new supplier of these services. So, timing is clearly important.
I also get many emails from companies that also operate in the DOOH or Digital Signage space. I am genuinely impressed when someone has taken the time to check out my website and tell me how their product / service will benefit me. I always make sure they at least get a speedy response, if not a sale. However, you also get many generic emails, from people that use a generic email template, once they have spotted you as a potential target. It doesn’t feel personal, doesn’t excite you and actually has the negative effect of making you feel like just another entry on a database.
I was sad to receive such an email from someone looking for a job. They actually had some relevant experience, and spent a long time telling me about it, but it became very obvious that the same email template had been sent to many different companies in the sector. I admire the spirit of someone who takes matters in to their own hands to find a job, it shows real tenacity and desire, but at no point did they explain how they can help my business, or demonstrate any evidence of researching me or my business. Their time would have been much better spent identifying 4 or 5 companies they wanted to work for, doing some research, thinking about their strengths and then demonstrating how they could add value. I genuinely hope they find some work soon, they just need to refine their approach a little.
You can forgive the young job hunter, after all they are right at the start of their career and they will soon learn how to be more effective. However, this concept of ‘carpet-bombing’ prospects is not something limited to industry newcomers. In a previous media sales job, we were forced to take this approach, not stopping for a moment to think if our media offering was in any way relevant for the advertiser. Looking back I cringe, as the management, in their unwavering belief that we were right for everything, set pitch quotas and made us pursue completely unsuitable brands.
It was selling by numbers. The belief was that if you sent out x number of pitches, surely y would convert. For telesales maybe, but as a way of trying to develop brand partnerships it was hopeless and we just ended up looking like fools, with no understanding of the brand in question.
This is why I spent weeks developing a list of clients to approach for the networks I represent, and believe me when I say that we only approach those advertisers for whom we can deliver their target audience. I would rather contact only three advertisers per day, with a thought through pitch, instead of carpet-bombing the entire industry.
To most people, the very term ‘sales’ conjures up images of greasy, quick talking, estate agent types. It implies that you get someone to purchase a product against their will. But when it is done properly, and with some thought, it is nothing like that. Sales should be more like a match-making service; the bringing together of well matched brands and media formats.
If the time is taken to consider who is right for your network, then you can forget all the old sales techniques that you might find in a ‘how to sell’ book – it should simply be the process of working out the best way of using the medium to best achieve their goals, a consultative process.
Having been sold to for the first time in recent months, I am more convinced than ever that it is quality, not quantity, which leads to success.