The stupid salesman

I hate to rant (again), but last week I met with a vendor who didn’t know anything about me other than my name and title, and who I work for. I put aside an hour or so to see him.

This, as far as I am concerned, is about as stupid as you get. Since I have gone to such lengths to put my thoughts on line and expose what I care about to everyone, surely you would want to have that advantage when you come to meet me? Is it so difficult to type “James Gardner DWP” into Google before you show up?

So I had the standard discussion about our strategy and goals, which is so generic as to be almost completely useless to anyone, and sent him on his way. He will not be meeting me again.

Of course, this goes to something I’ve been saying for a while, and that is that there’s this huge – and widening – gulf between those who are connected and those who aren’t. There is a visible performance gap between the two groups.

Apparently, though, there are all these people who are “too busy” to read blogs, keep up with Twitter, and participate online. I find, increasingly, they are missing the action.

Actually, as a side note, there are some people in my own teams who don’t bother to read this blog. I don’t even feel remotely worried that I’ll offend them by disclosing that, by the way, since they aren’t paying attention.

Anyway, so the sales guy didn’t get anything he wanted from me, which is a further opportunity to engage. Considering he’s a system integrator and wanting to sell services, what would I have expected him to know if he really wanted to talk?

1. He should have known that I think architecture should be firmly grounded in the business we’re trying to make go, and therefore, that' I’d care more about real things happening than models and theories.

2. He should have known that I care deeply about security, but I like a nice risk based assessment of things that lets us move forward rather than a process of shutting things down randomly the moment any potential threat comes up.

3. He should have known that I like strategies to have flexibility, and I hate ivory tower-ism. Strategists that won’t flex are as bad as security people who shut things for down for kicks or architects who are custodians of “the one true way”.

4. He should have known that I think you can build big and important results from innovation groups when you focus on many little things. And that doing a few very big things is the way to failure, since most innovations fail no matter what their size.

Anyway, a little research was apparently a bit too hard. Perhaps he “doesn’t have time” to read blogs and keep up with Twitter and participate in the conversation himself.

But never mind. That’s a sales guy that’s going to get fired, because there are any number of people who do their research before showing up.

As you’d expect, the conversation moves a lot faster once you get beyond “tell me about your role, your issues, and your goals”.

20 Responses to“The stupid salesman”

  1. Joe Young
    November 30, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    That is something you learn in Sales 101. Whether you use social media, the web, or simple pre meeting discussion to find out about your prospect it's imperative that you can have a discussion in the context of their world. Some sales people have to find this out the hard way.

  2. November 30, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    Why don't you start all sales meetings by throwing down your book and a print out of all your blogposts on the desk and saying do you know who I am? 😉

  3. November 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    Aden:
    Because, despite the post I just wrote (and I am cringing as I re-read it), that would be the behaviour of a prima-donna. Post aside, I try not to be one often 🙂

  4. Sunil Gossain
    November 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    So if sales person contacted you and mentioned that they read your recent blog and would like a follow up discussion to discuss an aspect of it, would you respond? How would this request rank in terms of the undoubtedly numerous meeting requests you receive?

  5. Ken Maier
    December 1, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    Hard not to write a comment on this one. It is truly amazing how many salespeople have not figured out how to use web technologies to research accounts and people as part of their sales "due dilligence". Particularly as social media sites such as Facebook and Linkedin continue to expand beyond personal use- into the corporate world.
    However it does make me wonder if age has any influence on who and how web technologies are being used. Younger people tend to be more computer and web savvy as opposed to people my age(?).. I would be curious to know the age of the salesperson…

  6. December 1, 2009 at 3:33 am #

    James – I get this all the time with sales people. Its the mind set of following the script at the interview, run through the presentation. Lead to the key emotional tripper question that will get them the sale. Stupid really as it doesn't work anymore…
    I find age isn't a barrier to this old school behaviour. Its sales experience that makes the difference. The people with lots of experience don't do this at all they do research.

  7. December 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Age is a state of mind. As with all stero types, be careful how you generalize. I find young and old alike saying "not for me" on social media. Their choice. They lose.
    When young and old interact with each other, using a common language, and are open to learning from each other – all win!
    Today it pays for both sides of the conversation to do a little homework and get to know who they will be talking with a little bit better. In the long run, it saves both parties time and makes conversations much more productive.

  8. December 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    Well, if you only get one vendor a week who doesn't know who you are, you're doing well. I get called multiple times weekly by vendors who don't have a clue. Even the limited effort required to look at my business's home page would help. However, I think most of them have been given a list of prospects to call, and they call.
    Given I run a boutique enterprise, perhaps this isn't surprising. But it's a tremendous waste of my time, and frankly it's becoming difficult not to get snappish with people.
    Reading your post gave me an idea to try: writing a short article that says what we are and are not interested in, what business we are in, etc. I could offer to send it to people and ask them to look it over before they call back. As it stands right now, I wind up saying things like "we are not a good prospect for your services".
    Your post also serves the useful function of reminding me what the attitude is likely to be on the other side of the table i.e. when I am talking to (prospective) clients. I'm meeting a prospective client later today, and in all my research, it had not occurred to me to see if the individual has a blog.

  9. Stephen
    December 1, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    Vendors can steal time especially in very heterogeneous environments.
    Keep a pile of Trusted Avisor books handy (only £8 per copy) and tell them to come back only after they have read it.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trusted-Advisor-David-H-M
    If they are rooky salesmen, then put them in the bin.
    Make it clear that you want to understand the value of the proposition.
    If they want partnership, then they need to work really hard and bring true innovation, genuine trust and value.
    Make clear that you are very street wise to amatuer salesmanship and set expectations.
    Win/win requires genuine trust and they need to earn it.
    Stephen

  10. December 2, 2009 at 5:09 am #

    Susan,
    I now use a thing called Gist which tells me *everything* online about everyone. It aggregates everything it can find and makes it available to my address book.
    Naturally, the most interesting people are those with lots of stuff available online about them.

  11. Kuldipmanak
    December 2, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    u r a right tosser.

  12. Ken Maier
    December 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm #

    Friend of mine sent me this link the day after the post and comments about " The Stupid SalesPerson"… check out the video..
    http://sales20network.com/blog/?p=239

  13. December 4, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    Ken: Thanks for posting the link to my blog (sales20network).
    The core issue here (apart from the general lack of prep problem) is that social media, web 2.0 or other such activity – is not something you can check off a list. As a sales person, you need to be immersing yourself in information all the time and learning how to navigate through labyrinth when there's info you need – like, for example, going to meet with James.

  14. James
    December 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    James,
    Out of interest prior to these meetings do you research the Sales guy, his own and his companies achievements with other organisations? Or are you too busy?

  15. Bob
    December 5, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    I felt uneasy ready your post. Do you seriously expect anybody who meets you to be familiar with 4 months of posting in your *personal* blog? Is a prerequisite in order to have 1 hour of your time in a meeting to do 2 days of preparation? It sounds to me like you have a way too high opinion of yourself…

  16. December 6, 2009 at 5:49 am #

    Bob: The post, as I said earlier in the comments, does make me cringe on re-reading it. However, I have to say that if you are coming to a business meeting with me, then I *do* expect you to do some preparation. You can't reasonably anticipate good outcomes without any work in advance, can you? Especially when you are trying to sell something.

  17. December 6, 2009 at 5:51 am #

    James,
    I don't research the sales guy, though I do have a tool called Gist that flags me anything interesting for everyone before I see them.
    But the question is not one of reciprocity. The sales guy is trying to get me to do something… I'm not trying to get *him* to do so.

  18. December 6, 2009 at 5:52 am #

    Sunil:
    Lots of people do ring me up to have the discussion about stuff. If they have a reasonable agenda, and there is a point in having the meeting, then of course I always accept. That's the benefit of being online- you get meeting that you wouldn't have gotten any other way.

  19. James
    December 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, interesting view.
    I look at how the solutions I can offer may help solve your biggest business problems. Everytime I meet with a new client it is an opportunity to find ways that make their company more profitable, deliver an improved customer experience or reduce operating costs. Personally, I never go into a meeting "trying to get him to do something". If I understand the issues and have crediblity in offering a solution then surely both parties can benefit?

  20. Ken Maier
    December 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Glad to see that this has become a popular topic based on the replys.
    Whether we admit it or not we are all in sales(one way or the other) and as a result it becomes encumbent on each of us to be prepared. For example- If James went to the board or directors of DWP with a proposal for a new infrastucture solution- they would expect that he has done his due dilligence including researching options, costs, risks, ROI etc and would be prepared to answer questions.
    Now I am not suggesting that salespeople have to read all of the blogs or spend several days of preparation time for a 1 hour meeting. However simple things such as Google search (or Bing- starting to like that better) even using http://www.slideshare.com
    to see what presentations the person may have given provide a foundation for a more productive meeting. Certainly the interaction and ultimately the outcomes would have a better probability of success if the questions were "tailored" to the prospect.
    I wonder if this is another example of mass customization? Are our meetings we have with prospects "off the shelf",configured, or customized for each situation?

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