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. 

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8 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale: 'Call Me Next Year'".
  1. Dave Kohl from First In Promotions , December 1, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
    We should be asking this "buyer" why he/she is annoyed at sales calls when it is his/her job to handle the buying. The so-called annoying sales person shouldn't have to be calling for 10 months in order to get an answer. People who don't return business phone calls, especially when it is their job to do so reflect poorly on the business they represent. Personally, I've been on both sides of that fence over the years. The best method is let "inquiry calls" know right away how to get your business. The reason these "buyers" claim to get so many calls is mainly because they don't follow up right away like a true professional should.
  2. Eric Schmidt from Winfield & Associates Marketing & Advertising , December 1, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.
    How about a little honesty? I make and receive sales calls. If someone has no intention of buying from me ever, say so. I'm a big boy and can handle it. Stringing me along with "call back in 3 months" annoys everybody, so just stop it. When I am contacted by someone who I know I won't buy from because of established relationships, I tell them that up front. There is no need to waste their time or mine. Most salespeople are surprised when I am honest with them because they are so used to hearing crap excuses.
  3. Matt Johnson from Outdoor Hub , December 1, 2011 at 2:11 p.m.
    Amen Dave - I spent 8 years on the agency side working my way through the media ranks and now the last 4 years I'm on the digital sales side of the equation. Part of my job on the agency side was to know what all the media options are out there and who the players are. Once I know that (the best that I can that is) then I go to work on the media plan...if the plan is in play and I know there's no incremental budget, I told the sales person as such and the estimated time I'd be planning again. I take this same approach when I call on buyers now....is there anything in play now or when is planning taking place in which we can reconnect. If they hear from me - it's because I have something new to share with them. We're not annoying - we're just doing our job and the buyer should do theirs as well and tell us what's up.
  4. Richard Aylward from Hallmark Data Services , December 1, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
    Simply put, a salesperson's job is to get to yes or no. If you want to end the sales process, a buyer needs communicate one or the other as quickly as possible. If its "not never, just not now" that works too. A pro will back off. But a salesperson's job is also build enough of a relationship with the buyer to allow us to educate them so they can make the right decision. Any good salesperson can creatively focus on that goal first. Or just ask if you may call them at home Christmas morning.
  5. Clay Wallin from Liquor.com , December 1, 2011 at 4:17 p.m.
    How would buyers know about great new media sites and communities if not for sales people sharing the knowledge? Our company has grown so fast that many (most) buyers are not aware. Being on the bizdev side, I have received many positive responses from buyers who are excited to learn of our platform and who express interest in including us in 2012 RFPs. No answer is not a professional approach. I do wear big boy pants most days and appreciate honest feedback. By the way Amy, please check your email. :)
  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , December 1, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
    Surprisingly, you all still missed major points. The salesperson is pressured, heavily pressured to report every call made and what they said. If no sale, the salesperson is pressured again to recall that person even though they may know the score. The buyer, in any business will not make a salesperson disappear. The salesperson may change and certainly the buyer revolving door will change seats. If a buyer still wants to be left alone, then take the time to write a glowing report about the salesperson to their managers and explain the circumstances. That will help keeping some of the sharks and barracudas from circling their door when it is impossible for the salesforce to stop making calls. Besides, as a few buyers have said, "You never know when I may need that product/service here or at my next employer's. Plus, you never know who will work for whom when and who has info I may need one day."
  7. Wendy Hidenrick from AddThis , February 14, 2012 at 10:57 a.m.
    Thank you Dave Kohl for pointing out the obvious. This is the primary reason all sellers who strongly believe they are a fit for a client should make sure to create a client-direct relationship. And if that media company is truly a fit, the relationship between a seller and a client-direct can occasionly last longer than a client's relationship with it's agency. One primary reason clients become dissatisfied with their agency is that they aren't optimizing campaigns by trying out new partners and truly discovering new opportunities.
  8. Darien Werfhorst from Dictionary.com , March 6, 2012 at 1:49 p.m.
    The most efficient way I've seen this handled is an agency I work with who every month send an email with an update on the account to their entire list of sites pitching them. They tell you where or where they might not be an opportunity for which brands, what the demo and objectives are, and then when the next email will come out. I figure the whole things takes them an hour a month to write and also helps organize their strategy so it's a win win. Don't understand why more agencies don't do this.