Guest Post by Melissa Vigue
I was recently reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld method of dealing with unsolicited sales calls – ask for their number to call them back – when a prospective vendor called my cell phone after hours on a Friday night. While I did not resort to that – and was afraid the vendor might oblige – this did spark heated discussion at the agency and we did a bit of research.
According to the National Sales Executive Association, 80 percent of sales occur between the fifth through 12th contact. So it’s no wonder that as the AOR for a number of Fortune 500 clients, we receive an inordinate number of cold calls and emails each week from newswire, database, monitoring, and tchotchkes vendors, among others. Yet being on the receiving end of these calls has made us wonder… is there a better way?
The issue at hand is that many of these are not targeted directly to our or our client’s needs. Many are very aggressive, and in some recent cases, contain errors in the communication, such as the names of other agencies they have sent the same email to. Here are just a few recent examples of how these types of communications alienate and infuriate the very account managers companies are trying to sell to.
- One contact calls the same two people (who sit next to each other!) each week on the same day at the same time with the same pitch – and gets the same result. “Thanks, we’re all set.” It is important to note that most of us have been receiving calls from this contact for nearly 10 years. A most recent gaffe involved referencing a past project that happened to be a fiasco and almost resulted in litigation. Does anyone wonder why we don’t engage in his pitch?
- A production company specializing in video news releases, satellite media tours, etc. was recently asked to no longer contact our staff. Why? Because in addition to making broad assumptions about shrinking budgets, he was calling every Friday from different phone numbers to lure unsuspecting account people into picking up the phone.
- A recent email from another distribution outfit opened with, “Pardon me for being so direct…” Need I say more?
Is this really how these vendors want to be perceived? In order to succeed on behalf of their clients, agencies need partners, not vendors. We get it, we really do. Targeting potential clients for new business and pitching a story to an editor requires that initial call too. Here are a few things we try to consider before a pitch, cold call, follow-up call, etc.:
- Be courteous and respectful of the recipients’ time. Ask if it’s a good time before launching into a pitch.
- If they say “No, thanks. We’ll call you if a need arises,” they probably don’t have a current need. But if you respect it, they will really call if the need arises!
- Do the research first. Learn about the company and person you are calling, and think about how you can add value.
- Be a resource and be able to offer insight into the industry landscape and trends.
- Uncover the pain. What unmet need does your prospect have?
- Bring some ideas to the table (or at least offer to try), not just “We provide XYZ.”
Finally, in a slumping economy – or for that matter any economy – we all need each other. It is crucial that we forge win-win relationships and work together to provide solutions; otherwise you might be on call 112 before you realize it’s just not working.