A sign of the times in USA is that it doesn’t make a difference if I mention that I am a customer when I am sales calling

10 years ago if I mentioned to a potential client that I was a customer of their company, they were much more likely to respond to my voice mail or email.  For example, I was having difficulty reaching a Director at Alaska Airlines in that she wouldn’t answer my calls or return my messages (why would she?  Her job description doesn’t include returning calls of Sales Guys); then I mentioned in an email that I was an MVP of her airline – she returned my email that day.  So I did that for awhile, and it worked, except for a regional Pharmacy (who I have not gone to since).  I went to a new role for several years where I didn’t call on places where I was a custtomer.  

The past two years I’ve returned to a role where I have the opportunity to mention people I am a customer.  I’ve mentioned I am a policy holder to Symetra (true), that my office makes field trips to donate to the local blood bank (true), and so on – only one person has returned my message when I’ve mentioned that.  To me, that is a sign of the times – people are too busy and too disposable too care, to give a courtesy return call to someone giving their business to them.  In the 2000s US, we are all out for ourselves (with some exceptions, of course) and not playing in this thing called life as a team.  It is too bad.  It is also a missed opportunity for companies…

A couple of years ago,  I reached a CTO at a rapidly growing start-up company.  He listened to my brief introduction for a moment, then asked if my company was a customer of his company.  “No,” I said.  “Listen, I’m interested, but we try only to do business with companies that do business with us.”  He was sincere and respectful, and honestly I loved it.  He told me if we became a customer of his company, to call him back.  What was the first thing I did?  I marched down the hall to my boss and asked if we could consider taking a look at this CTO’s solutions.  Brilliant.

When companies and/or managers don’t respond to a sales guy who is also a customer, it is a missed opportunity. It also has cost a few companies my business.  And, most importantly, a sign that our country has (temporarily?) lost its soul.

This didn’t happen overnight.  It started in the 80s, when offshoring and layoffs and union-busting and tax breaks that fueled income disparity began. Then post 9/11, when companies became incredibly automated and efficient with fewer workers, it continued.  We are all disposable in 2010s USA.  So of course a VP won’t care that I am a customer of their company, when they don’t know if they will have a job next month due to profit-fueled layoffs and when the bloated company alread has 10s of millions of customersf.

A sign of the times in USA is that it doesn’t make a difference if I mention that I am a customer when I am sales calling

Thankfully, I think the sales person trend of sending calendar invitations to prospects then showing up in the lobby has passed

A few years ago, it seems there was a trend of sales “professionals” sending calendar invitations to prospects (via outlook) then showing up in the lobby at the proposed time if the person didn’t respond.  I remember one peer I had in particular used to say, “I never cold call anyone.  I just send them a calendar invitation.”   

I always felt like that was a pushy tactic and was never a fan of it* so am glad that the trend seems to have run its course.  I think there were a few reasons for this trend: one is the silly obsession sales VPs have with meeting metrics, i.e. requiring sales people to have a certain number of meetings in a week and threatening to fire them if they don’t meet it. In this case, by sending a calendar invitation a sales person is more likely to end up with a meeting in some shape or form, and if they show up in the lobby and the client is passive aggressive and doesn’t show then the sales rep can still claim they had the meeting since it shows on their calendar.  The second is in a highly competitive sales world where managers are deluged with calls and emails from sales people, it was a way of trying anything to get a few minutes of a Decision Maker’s time.  Lastly, it was like anything else, a few more people started doing it, which led to a few more people doing it, and so on until there was a snowball effect, which like most snowball effects run their course until they dwindle.  But, again, it does seem like the popularity of this tactic has run its course, thankfully.

In my experience, there is no magic formula — such as unsoliced calendar invitations — to reaching all managers all the time. As someone who has been in management so has received my share of unsolicited calls, my pet peeve are reps who ask for 15 minutes of time via email but really don’t provide any information on what they are offering.  Why would I possibly commit to 15 minutes of time I don’t have when I don’t even know what the rep is offering? 🙂

* Except if I met with a client and the client owed me follow up or made a commitment and wasn’t following through on it – I don’t mind if managers don’t want to take my call or to meet or aren’t interested, but it is a pet peeve of mine if they take my time and make some promises then don’t follow up That is, I won’t waste their time, but don’t waste mine either 🙂 ). 

Thankfully, I think the sales person trend of sending calendar invitations to prospects then showing up in the lobby has passed

Sales Calling activity Today — summarized

In addition to other activitites, made the following sales calls/activities in my Enterprise List:

  • Reviewed 20 Decision Makers.
  • Reached out to 17 (sent 5 emails, made 15 calls (a few I both emailed and called)).
  • Reached 4.
  • 1 Meeting, 1 Referral, 1 Passive referral, 1 No: 1 was not interested, 1 gave me the name of the Exec who makes those decisions, 1 referred me to their procurement department, 1 said to set up a meeting in November.  Nobody was rude, 2 of the 4 were friendly and informative.
Sales Calling activity Today — summarized