Starting The Conversation With A Lie……


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I’m sure you experience the same thing I do.  Everyday, I get inundated with phone calls and emails.  There are some common patterns in the conversation or emails, including:

  • We’ve researched your company carefully and know we can help you……..
  • Having looked at your company, we feel we can help increase leads/sales/profitability [pick one] by 20% [or some other tantalizing number]……..
  • We’ve worked with companies like yours and have produced……..
  • We’re local and want to give you personalized support……

I have to admit to some sadistic pleasure in returning many of those calls and emails, I know what to expect, these prospecting approaches are so predictable.

The sales person is usually ecstatic someone has responded and immediately begins his pitch.  I usually interupt, saying:  “In your message/email, you said you had researched our company carefully.  What is it that you discovered about our business that……?”

There’s a moment of silence on the phone, the sales person responds, “Well, ugh……  ugh….., can you tell me about your business……”

I respond, “In your email you said you had researched us.  You clearly saw some compelling issues that you could help us address, I’m really interested in learning.  What were they?”

Usually, the conversation comes to an end very quickly.  I suppose dealing with these questions was not in the sales person’s script.  Yet, given the prospecting approach, they aren’t unreasonable questions.

There’s another thing I see a lot, it’s based on data we see quoted often, “people are X% more likely to respond to local calls than calls from out of their area.”  As a result, we see people “spoofing” Caller ID’s or having a local number that is actually forwarded to some other place in the world.  There are all sorts of companies advertising this capability to get prospects to pick up the phone.

Yesterday, I get a call from a “local” company.  The Caller ID was “949,”  yet in returning the call, I discovered the caller was in Ogden, Utah.  I ask the sales person, “Are you located in Southern California?”  He responds, “No,….”  I interrupt, “Oh, that’s interesting, how did you have a ‘949’ area code, I thought you were local.”  He responds, “We’ve discovered people are more likely to answer their phones if the call is from a local area code….”  I respond, “Oh, so you really meant to mislead me, tricking me into answering the phone…..”

The calls usually stop at this point.  Again, I suppose responses to this reasonable question aren’t in their scripts.

Let me get to my point.

All of us are challenged in our prospecting.  We struggle with “how do we get the customer to respond.”  Unfortunately, too many of the tactics marketing and sales employ are based on a lies or deceptions.

Is that the most effective way to engage our prospects?  Do our customers want or deserve a relationship that is started based on lies or manipulations?

Do we think so little of our customers that we think they won’t see through these manipulations?

Is it these manipulations that cause prospects to become more difficult to reach–so are we making the problem worse by the tactics we adopt?

Researching and being prepared is critical to our effectiveness in engaging customers at any time.  Don’t claim to have done the research, do it!  Demonstrate to the prospect you really have looked at them, and you have ideas that are likely to be relevant based on your understanding.  Be open about gaps in your understanding.  Until, someone talks to me, I don’t expect them to understand all my priorities, problems, or opportunities.  But with a little research, anyone can have a pretty informed guess.

What’s really interesting is you don’t have to be right!  Some years ago, I wrote a prospecting letter to a CEO.  I started the letter, “I’ve researched your company….”  I followed it with 3 very specific challenges I had discovered, concluded the letter with a request for a meeting to discuss these and how we might help.  I got the meeting, the CEO started it by saying, “Your letter was really interesting.  From what is available publically, it is easy to see how you could arrive at those conclusions and recommendations.  To tell you the truth, we are already working on those things.  But the insight you showed in that letter demonstrated a real understanding and interest in our business.  Now here’s my real problem, and I need you to help me solve it……”

If you don’t know the specific strategies, priorities, problems of a customer, then do enough research to understand the critical issues for their markets, their industries.  Deliver some sort of meaningful insight based on that.  People are always interested in learning more about what’s happening with their customers and industry.

If you think you can help me, you better know why I need the help and that it is a priority for me.

If you want me to think you are local, then you better be local.

We are better than this.  Our customers expect more.  It doesn’t take any more time and effort to do the right things, than it does to figure out how to manipulate the prospect.

Above all, if you want to build a relationship, if you want to establish trust, if you want to help your prospects and clients, the relationship cannot be based on lies or manipulation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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