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 🙂 ).
ALthough I have always had individual responsibility, I have had management responsibility much of the past 5 years, which means I am not only making sales calls but receiving them from other sales people, too. It is wonderfully helpful – I can see what I like, what I don’t like and what trends are and adapt my own approach accordingly.
For example, several years ago I would tell people up front in an email that they didn’t know me, and coincidentally many of the emails I receive lately from sales people start out with “we’ve never met” or “I hope you are having a good day.” That tells me to tweak that approach, since everyone else is doing it.
The other thing is, I don’t like when sales people ask for a call or a meeting yet give no information about their solution other than a few words. I don’t have time for a 15 minute “chat,” and even if I did I don’t want to talk to a sales person for 15 minutes, so in my mind better is to be clear up front about what is being offered/proposed.
Finally, I don’t take calls from other area codes, since 99% of the time it is a sales person. Instead, I let it go to voice mail. They have just a few seconds before I delete them, so those few seconds better be good, and I will never ever listen to an automated call or a call that sounds like it comes from a call center.
Anyway, sometimes the best teacher — at least for me — is watching other people in action 🙂
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.
Am sales calling this morning. As sometimes happens (especially after a weekend of social commitments, which this weekend was), after a few calls I started hoping people *didn’t* answer the phone, which is not a good thing to wish in sales. Sometimes when I feel this way, making a few more calls gets me over the peak and I get my drive back, and sometimes it indicates I don’t have “it” at the moment (i.e. I’ve temporarily lost the edge) and it’s better to do something else for a little while. OVercoming this feeling and which approach to take isn’t a science – I kind of have to feel out my mood a little bit and see which way I go. Right now, I thikn I need to take a little break from the calling and hit it again in 15-20 minutes.
Part of my job as a Sales Person is reaching out to “new” Decision Makers. It is a part of the job that most experienced sales people hate, but honestly it is an important part of keeping revenue potential high when you/I don’t work for a big and established firm. Before my illness, I never used my last name (“Hi, this is Robert with ABC Company”) when I called, and never emailed someone I hadn’t met before – primarily because I didn’t want someone recognizing my name in a personal setting (a fear of at a dinner party someone saying, “Hey, I know you, aren’t you that sales person who called and emailed me last week?”). But my potentially fatal illness a few years ago changed that – now I am okay emailing strangers, and using my full name when I call someone. Why? Because everything in life is so temporary, and at the end of the day, no one’s opinion really matters any more (note: I still do the ethical thing, but not because I fear being judged — I do it because it is how I am wired to be). That summer when I was coming off treatment, when I didn’t know yet if I would survive, the world seemed like a shadow and I didn’t feel like I belong in the world; for the most part that has passed, but in some ways I still maintain that couldn’t-care-less-what-you-think mentality. HOnestly, it’s quite pleasant and yet another gift my illness bestowed upon me.
Often when I make a sales call, the person who picks up states they are in a meeting but recommends my calling “in 15 minutes” or “tomorrow morning around 9:30.” What I’ve found over the years is that this is far from a commitment from the customer – they are no more likely to pick up at that time than if I simply cold called them. Additionally, sometimes I feel pushy if I call at the exact minute of a loosely suggested time. So what I often do is wait until a minute or two after the suggested time. But generally, I have low expectations that I will reach the person, so do call them but also continue to call them here and there in the days and weeks that follow. On the other side of the coin, I once had a sales person call me, I told them to call me the next day at 2 PM, put it on my calendar then didn’t hear from them at all for 3 days, at which point they left a voice mail with no mention at all about our brief conversation and suggested time a few days earlier Needless to say, their credibility plummeted in my book and I haven’t taken their call since J the little things do matter.
I have two pretty good opportunities, but they are not slam dunks. Both will still take a lot of work to complte with a variety of moving components and are by no means 100% even if I do invest my time in them. For someone like me, someone who is not afraid to drop everything to hunt for more opportunities and who has a wide open territory, it is difficult to drop the instinct to hunt for new business as opposed to giving the two other opportunities the extra attention. But the reality is, there are never slam dunks – it takes a little common sense, a lot of faith and — if something has a reasonable chance of closing — seeing it through to the end.
There is a line of course. The problem with many reps is the opposite — they hate to hunt so will stick with a bad opportunity much too long.
What I need to do right now, stay on the closing side of the line for these. Make a few calls — a rep always should — but also do my due diligence to close the two in front of me, especially since I tend to be more skeptical than most on what a real opp is 🙂