Do salespeople know the definition of badgering: "to harass or urge persistently; pester; nag" on dictionary.com? None of those words describe anything positive, yet recently my team was badgered by a salesperson who just would not stop. Even after hearing the specific rationale of why the site in question was not appropriate for our client, the salesperson still called team members one-by-one and over and over. I brought this to the attention of the sales director and got an apology. But the apology wasn't for the salesperson's badgering, it was an apology that the salesperson went too far and pissed us off. I don't want to say we are now blackballing this site and salesperson -- but we are on the verge. What can I do to make salespeople understand that we know what's best for our clients -- and no amount of BADGERING is going to change our minds?
Amy says: We all know that Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Perhaps this salesperson was insane. But seriously, I can empathize. It's annoying, but more important, a waste of time for you and your team. And you as the manager have to set the right example of how to work positively with vendors even if they don't seem to be able to do the same.
I would expect that this happens mostly with salespeople who have not previously done business with your agency -- therefore, their knowledge of how you work and their confidence in getting business is low. You may find success in tackling their badgering on a more emotional rather than business-rationale level. By explaining to them the risk they are taking at jeopardizing the relationship right off the bat, you may be able to break through the full court press they are sending your way. Since their sales director reacted as if this kind of behavior is business as usual, it doesn't seem as if the salesperson is going to get this kind of feedback anywhere else. It may also be that they don't even realize how their overzealous approach and (probably) good intentions are really creating the wrong impression. But is it possible that they can be so unaware?
Sales cultures vary from place to place. It sounds like this one that you were exposed to was a very high-pressure, low-encouragement place for the salesperson to work. I'm not sure if this sales approach works and if salespeople realize how ineffective it is, but Jason is here to let us know.
Jason says: Funny you should mention it, because if you look up "salesperson" on dictionary.com there is, in fact, a picture of a badger. Ambrose Bierce defined perseverance as "a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success." However, our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge wrote, "Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." Good salespeople abide somewhere in between these two realms.
It is reassuring to hear that the agency gave the salesperson the specific reasons that the site was not a good fit for the client's objectives. I have mentioned before the need for good, direct and constructive feedback. The most frustrating aspect of sales is not when you are unsuccessful at winning the business (OK, that ranks right up there, too), but when you do not get feedback on why you didn't win the business.
That being said, the fact that the salesperson continued to make calls to the agency during this cycle is reprehensible. Unfortunately, if the director did not understand the ramifications of his behavior, I'm afraid you may see this pattern again the next time this site doesn't get on the plan.
So how does this happen? Math. There simply are not enough good people to go around. When I was starting out in the media business, aspiring salespeople had to pay strict dues before they were allowed on the field. Someone would have to be a planner for anywhere from four to seven years before being moved to the front lines. This apprenticeship allowed them to gain knowledge and experience on how to do things the proper way.
Personally, I was fortunate to start young and work for some truly terrific TV and technology sales executives before getting to carry my own bag and hit the streets. However, over the past 10 years, there have been more media sales enterprises started than ever before. And these media businesses rely heavily on salespeople to drive revenue. No longer do companies have the luxury of hiring only the media elite to cover their front lines. Gone are the days when the only way to get stripes was to earn them over time. The need for people on the street has overtaken the ability to provide the proper training and expertise that is best garnered through experience.
The best way to handle this situation is to address it head-on. If there are people calling on you who are not treating you or your team the right way, i.e., in a professional, courteous and respectful manner, then let the badgering boob know the behavior is unacceptable and counterproductive. If that doesn't work, it is fully within your right to stop inviting them to the table, assuming of course that a badger knows how to check its email.
What's YOUR Story?
We want to highlight what's going on behind the scenes in the community of ad sellers, media buyers, technology vendors and buyers.
Over the years we've come to see that truth is certainly stranger than fiction -- so we want to hear from YOU. Please submit your true stories of the good, bad and ugly that fill our days and nights. The ground rules are simple: you tell us the truth and we'll never reveal you. Submit your story to email@example.com, but don't include your name or company or any overly identifying features of the real characters -- just whose team you play for (buyer or seller of technology or media). Only Amy, Jason and our editor will see the stories.