How Not To Sell Me Crap

So many sales droids keep making the same mistakes, I thought I’d put together a handy primer on how not to sell crap to me.

Imagine that the sales process is a game and you have to score 100 points to win. When you win, I buy your crap. Now, at least 50 of those points comes from "having a good product". Another 25 of those points come from "being easy to work with" which includes having a non-ridiculous price point for whatever it is you’re selling.

The final 25 points come from your company’s track record — have you ever done this before or are you making it up as you go along? A little thing that marketers like to call "success stories" is key here, as well as metrics (numbers, whatever) that demonstrate some kind of return on investment. (I realize that "ROI" is a hackneyed business droid cliche; if you like, we can rephrase it by saying "can my crap make more money if it starts using your crap?" If the answer is yes, then congratulations, we are more than 25% of the way there.)

Now, none of these things can be materially influenced by a conversation with a sales person. You cannot convince me that your crap product is not a crap product in a phone conversation. You cannot invent customer references or stellar features. The best a sales person can hope to do is inform me about the company’s products, track record, and services. (I should pause to mention here that I’m really not "anti-sales" — I’ve actually done many sales and sales-ish jobs over the years, starting when I had my own paper route when I was 12 — but I’m really cognizant of what happens when sales people don’t do their jobs right.)

So, some tips:

1) Do not cunningly divine my telephone number, call me, interrupt my work, and give me your sales pitch. I’m very easy to reach by email and that is the way you should be reaching me if you are not a friend or co-worker. Just because you have my business card does not mean you should call first. Email first, and call if I ask you to. Better yet, wait for me to call you. If you unexpectedly reach me by phone, you’ve already lost about 15 points before you’ve even uttered a word.

2) A kickass demo is worth a whole legion of sales droids. Give me a kickass demo and you’ve gone a long way toward racking up those 50 points for having a kickass product.

3) Do not whine when I tell you that the crap you’re selling is too expensive for us. I work for a deeply strange company whose return-on-investment calculations are of paramount importance; at the same time, the calculations themselves are radically different than the average Silicon Valley company. We are willing to pay the big bucks for the right product at the right time, but our definition of "big bucks" may be different than yours, and it may be on a very different timeline. But ultimately, my company is very cheap and very conservative about who it will do business with. Know this before you start and you will be much happier.

4) Do not attempt to go over my head to my boss or my boss’ boss when I shoot down your sales pitch. My boss and my boss’ boss are experienced professionals, but they know much less about how I do my job than I do. Hence, if you bug these guys, they will laugh at you, then forward the voice mail on to me, where I will laugh at you harder and deduct 25 more points from your score.

5) There is no such thing as a "hard sell". The concept of the "hard sell" is a manifestation of your frustration at not being able to get through to me. It says nothing to me other than "this salesperson does not have the emotional maturity necessary to work with me." I don’t have to put up with it. Get a better product, communicate about it better, or hand me off to someone on your team who can communicate your product’s benefits more effectively. (Preferably you’ll have that person contact me via email.)

6) The customer is always right. Still. Duh.

I realize that a lot of this is going to come off as arrogant. Sorry, but that’s the breaks. I’m really not that hard to do business with if you have some crap that I need. So if you want to sell me your crap, then it’s better you get this information up front than in the kind of nasty post-mortem message I just left on some hapless sales droid’s voice mail.