Woe The Digital Sale: 'Call Me Next Year'
Question from buyer: Do salespeople ever give up? I've had the same vendor calling me now for 10 months. Why won't he take the hint?
Jason says: All salespeople have a quota. They must have at least two restraining orders against them at any given time.
The simple answer is, he wants you to buy something. The economy has ebbed and money is tight. It's tough to be a buyer. It's tough to be a seller. Why do you think Amy and I make all this money giving out advice? (By the way, look out for our radio show, live webcast and feature film.)
Ambitious entrepreneurs are starting new digital companies every day. When these companies begin to show some success, they get a lot more money from venture capitalists. Business plans are formed, advertising sales opportunities arise and a sales force is hired. Even if ad revenue was not part of the original business plan, these companies can pivot quickly to make it so. The sales team is, then, given a product to sell and territories on which to call. (Most of the time, this is a highly thought-out process -- though occasionally, a manager just hires a person, gives her a computer and a phone and says, "Make some calls.") Every salesperson is given a quota to hit, and then, those quotas are raised year after year.
So, what does this mean for the asker above, who, I can just tell, has a large ad budget to spend? You’re going to get called… a lot. I don’t think the, “I’ll ignore this person until they go away,” tact is the most prudent policy. Let’s call this the, “hot girl is badgered by annoying, geeky guy,” scenario. Girl gets mad, ignores said geek, tells all her friends how annoying (and geeky) he is. All the while, he is emboldened by her clear lack of rejection and thinks he is wearing her down.
I’d like to see a different approach from the buy side. How about, every buyer commits herself to calling/emailing a salesperson within three days of the first contact? You can reply, “I’m not now, nor will I ever be interested,” “I’m not the right person. Mr. Jones is better for you,” or “I have no time for you now, but please call me back in three months.” This is, “hot girl gets called by lots of guys, but because she is so nice, only the guys who really have something to offer wind up calling.”
Amy, can we get some buy-side commitment to get prompt, definitive feedback and stop the silly games?
Amy says: It's almost time for New Year’s resolutions. But just like resolving to lose weight or go to the gym, certain resolutions are almost impossible to keep. If talking to sellers was the only line item in my job description, I might stand a chance.
I like your ideas for responses that buyers can use. I’ve tried most of them with moderate success. My favorite is the call me back in 3 months. It usually works well especially if I can also say that there isn’t any planning going on at the moment so it doesn’t make sense to meet.
The “I’m not interested” answer doesn’t work great if there is someone who really believes their site is a fit and won’t hear anything contrary to that. It’s tricky because sometimes the caller represents a hidden gem that sounds uninteresting on the phone but turns out to be the best new thing.
The real challenge with all of this is time. Buyers do get too many calls; let’s say at least a dozen every few days. This could be a conservative estimate. If it takes 10 minutes per call, that is two hours every couple of days that a buyer can’t be spending on other work. Agencies are in the client service business -- and two hours away from deck writing and going to meetings etc. is a big part of the day. And it so it is the raison d’être of our column to contemplate how we can find a better balance of the one buyer to hundreds of sellers ratio and help everyone get along.
In grand scheme of things, does it matter if it takes 10 months to connect with a buyer? I probably have at least 10 sellers on my call-back list and even more emails sitting in my inbox. Better late than never seems to be the preference for sellers who just want an answer if they are not going to ever to get an insertion order.
So I will make a New Year’s resolution: I will try to act like the hot girl who gets all the good guys with something to offer. I will be honest and upfront about why or why not a seller’s offering would work for my client. The only hitch: It still may take me 10 months to actually have the conversation.