Dear Tech Sales and Marketing People: Someone who loves you really wants you to succeed. All you need to do is to quit acting like you’re working in the 90s. Here’s what to avoid.
Everyone needs sales. Everyone needs marketing. So why are most of us allergic to sales pitches?
My perspective as a tech customer is this: it’s because so many do it wrong, and we’re embarrassed for them. They reveal a lack of sophistication, profound laziness, and frankly, throwback techniques from the days where mass marketing was cool.
Mass marketing was the rage for years: the practice of throwing a whole bunch of spaghetti against the wall and seeing if something stuck. “Surely I can get a 1% take rate, so if I call 10,000 people, I’ll get 100 to sign up?”
NO. That’s so over.
What’s so now?
First of all, marketing and selling is now operating in an “information-rich” atmosphere. Not to be too much of a Dan Pink fanboy, but his book, “To Sell Is Human” makes the fantastic point that nowadays, it’s “Seller Beware,” not “Buyer Beware,” because of the incredible amount of information available at your fingertips. (Think Yelp, or Amazon reviews: buyers know instantly when a seller is not credible.)
Second, the Internet has made the world extraordinarily crowded. It seems like every 30 seconds, a new sales pitch lands in my inbox or voice mail. This did NOT happen in the 90s, when I got exactly ZERO calls from an India- or Singapore-based marketing company. The need for filtering has never been higher.
This all adds up to one inescapable conclusion: sales and marketing must be intentional and credible, not willy-nilly and scammy.
Here are a few things that you must not do if you want to appear like a smart new-marketing salesperson, and not like some obsolete used car salesperson from the 90s:
- Offer An Information Update. Do not call anyone and ask “for a few minutes of your time to update your information.” Why the hell would anyone give you, someone THEY DON’T KNOW, an “information update?” In this age of security breaches and identity theft, do you really think that the smart, motivated folks that you want to reach (the ones who will go the extra mile to secure funding to be able to buy what you’re selling) are going to be comfortable UPDATING THEIR INFORMATION with you? No!
- Start Vaguebooking. “Do you have time for a quick call or meeting in the next couple of weeks to go over how we can help?” Uh… what exactly did you want to help with? In this case (drawn from an actual pitch email), the vendor wanted to help “with your IT infrastructure.” That’s a big dang pot of stuff, sales-dude. If I was someone who just loved to have meetings so that I didn’t have to do any work, that might work. But, no, I am very intentional with meetings, and actually want them to accomplish something. If I met with just about everybody I ran into from the coffee shop down the street and on Twitter, I would quickly have zero time to do anything. For the love of God, target your pitch!
- Show That You Didn’t Do Your Homework. If you want to be taken seriously, do your homework. Seriously, I have people who pitch me all the time who want to know if I have ever heard of cloud disaster recovery. Heard of it? I was an early adopter. I’ve written half a dozen reports, articles, and postings about it. It makes you look like you haven’t done your homework if you’re talking to me as if I’ve never heard of it.
- Talk Down To Your Audience Even if there is no evidence that your target isn’t using whatever you’re pitching, don’t talk down to your audience. Assume that the person that you’re pitching has half a brain and tries to keep up with new tech, and might, just might, be ambitious and possibly even somewhat familiar on whatever new thingy you’re pitching. If they’re not, feel free to explain it. But do not assume you’re talking to an idiot or an ignoramus. That is not the way to make friends and influence people.
- Never, ever, going away. I try to answer pitches that are researched, well done, and don’t exhibit the above errors. Sometimes we go further, do more research, and become a customer. Hooray for everyone! But sometimes, it’s not a fit. You have to be OK with that. We do not all of a sudden have a deep relationship because you pitched me and I responded. I understand that sometimes your CRM robots aren’t configured right or you forgot to update your CRM. But you must understand that this makes you look bad, and, frankly, is not the way to make me welcome your next contact about the next big thing.
- Fail To Address Business Benefit. You’re seeking action from your audience. You want them to buy. I get that. But if you fail to address what your product or service will do to advance business goals, forget about it. For example, this pitch ALMOST sounds awesome. But, although it is specific, and the writer has done some homework, it fails: “when is a good time to connect on how we are helping CIOs become enablers of private cloud?” Yes, you’ve done a little bit of homework, I do a lot with cloud computing. But I really don’t care about enabling private cloud computing just to enable cloud computing, I care about solving business problems. If private cloud computing helps me to do that, tell me about how, and offer me some proof. If you don’t, expect your pitch to get ignored.
If any of the above sound like you or someone you love, you must believe me: it’s painful for both parties, and it doesn’t have to be that way. It is worth learning about the new face of marketing, about building relationships based on value exchange and the coin of credibility.
The smartest people that I know who teach the new marketing are the folks at Copyblogger. I went to their Authority conference last year because I think that CIOs need to learn the new world of marketing, too. I’m going back this year, and I’m really excited about it. In fact, Dan Pink, author of the book that I’m referring to above, will be there keynoting. Woot!
Here’s some exciting news, which you are among the first to know: last night, our friends at Copyblogger told me, thanks to the awesome support of their sponsors, they are lowering the ticket price for everyone to $795, which is about half the usual price! We’re talking three days of jam-up knowledge, friends.
So, sign up here, or send this post to a sales or marketing person that you love. I hope to see y’all this May in Denver!