I'm fuming right now so apologies if this blog post comes across as a bit of a rant. But I think there's some lessons to be learned here for all of us.
I‘ve just got off the phone with a salesperson from an email marketing company (I originally put their name in the post but I want the post to be more about learning than beating them up). It's probably the worst series of interactions I've had with a company in my recent memory.
I've been bleating for a long time now about how busy we all are these days, and how that means that if you want to sell someone something you've got to respect their time and give them something of value up front.
This company are a perfect example of how not to do that.
Firstly I get a cold email from their sales person.
Usual cold pitch. He was “keen to understand if there is an opportunity to have a conversation in relation to your email marketing?”
The rest of the email was the usual blather about sending timely, targeted emails to your subscribers. About deliverability guidelines, how their emails rendered on smartphones etc. All the normal stuff every email system does.
It was clear the guy hadn't bothered to look up who I was or what I knew about email. So I flashed him a message back saying “Tell me what you know about me and how I do email marketing already, and how you think your product might benefit me over and above what I do now”.
Rather than taking the hint and doing some proper research, he got straight back…
“…well first of all I see that you are collecting data on your website, however I got your details from a friend of mine who passes me everything that goes into their junk folder as this is always an opportunity for us as we provide email services to ensure you are hitting the inbox and the last mailings you have sent have gone straight to junk.
Are you only mailing to opt in address or have you purchased data. Do you know how many emails are actually being delivered ie inbox placed?”
Great. So now people are subscribing to our emails so they can set loose an email marketing company with scare stories.
Here's the thing. With 5 minutes of work this guy could have subscribed to my emails and seen who I used as a provider. He then would have known whether his system had better deliverability and better features than mine. He could have given me a tailored email suggesting where his system was better. He would even have been able to compare the pricing structures between the two systems.
I emailed him back to tell him that. And also that since I sold a course on email marketing I was familiar with pretty much every vendor on the market (ie don't ask me stupid questions).
Not taking the hint, he then phoned me up and continued the pitch. As I got angrier and angrier instead of doing as I suggested and doing his homework first he proceeded to ask me about email volumes. When I told him I send about 80,000 emails a month he said they could save me money (without knowing how much I was currently paying).
When I then proceeded to tell him that it wasn't really worth discussing as I used my system for membership sites, shopping cart etc, he told me his system did all that (they don't mention it on the website).
In exasperation I told him – “look, do your homework. Check out your system vs mine and tell me what the benefits are. You're really wasting my time right now”.
At which point he decided he'd insult me. He didn't want me as a customer. I was too critical. I was wasting my own time.
Of course, that wasn't enough for him. After we'd hung up he emailed to tell me I was being very short sighted because they have over 200 customers using their software (wow!) that they could promote me too.
OK, so apart from the benefits of venting my anger a bit – what can we learn from this.
There's the usual customer service stuff like not arguing with potential customers.
But I think the bigger lesson is about doing your homework.
At minimum, he should have done some research on me rather than just firing off a couple of emails and calling me with no real idea of who I was and what I was already doing.
A simple visit to my website and a signup to my emails would have told him all he needed to know and allowed him to add some value in his first interaction with me.
Instead he wasted my time.
When you contact potential clients, do you do your homework? Do you check what they're already doing so you don't insult them by going through stuff they already know? Or waste their time talking to them about something that won't help them?
Or do you begin your conversation by gently suggesting some opportunities for them based on what you've already researched?
Do you say “why don't we speak on the phone to find out more about each other's businesses?” (to which the only real answer is an inward groan) or do you already suggest how your businesses might fit together based on what you've seen?
Do your homework. Bring something useful to the table. 10 years ago you could get away with bringing nothing. Today it makes your prospects angry.