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Persistence ... or STALKING?

I am proud to tell people that my background is in sales, it is a profession that I hold in high regard and one without which most companies could not exist! We do however suffer, like many professions, from a couple of drawbacks:

(a) people still associate the sales profession with some of the "old school" tactics employed by some car salesmen in times gone by; and
(b) there are still salespeople today who give our profession a bad name through their less than professional tactics.

I wrote a blog entry called The Profession of Selling back in September that talked about the need to listen to clients, to understand their "pain" and only then to understand how our product or service might help.

Three years ago, in July 2007, I wrote a blog entry about Cold Calling ... which had some tips about this sales tool, and how to be effective in cold calling. The subject of today's blog entry is related to cold calling.

An unnamed company in the investment business has recently "rattled my cage" a little, prompting this blog entry. As a company they are aggressively pursuing new clients and for that I applaud them ... the problem comes in the implementation of their strategy, which could be a company problem or a sales person problem. It is always the company that "wears it", when a sales person creates the wrong impression such as in this case.

Their strategy is a classic one ... send a "piece" in the mail, differentiate yourself in some way (in this case they enclose a one dollar US bill) and then follow up by phone.

By differentiating in the mailer the sales person has something to open a conversation with, that will hopefully lead to a more meaningful discussion ... nothing wrong so far.

However ...

1. the dollar bill does not buy any rights with the prospect. To "assume" (as in this case) that the client should now spend time talking with you is arrogant and "off putting" for many people; and
2. IF the tactic does not get you what you want, then you need to find another way to get the prospects attention. In the case of this company, the salesperson felt that if they called every day then at some point we would break down and call back, or accept their call. NEVER going to happen!

As a professional salesperson you are always trying to get "mind space" with your prospects ... there are MANY ways to do that and the most effective ways involve referrals and getting to know something that interests your prospect before you try to batter down their door! Just pounding on the door is annoying and not very effective. Once you annoy your prospect, you lose!

There is a fine line between persistence and stalking ... calling someone every day is absolutely stalking! Calling on a weekly basis with the right message (professional, courteous and demonstrating some willingness to bring value) is probably OK ... but even that in some cases could be borderline.

Sales people need to build credibility with their clients in order to be successful, this particular guy is going about it the wrong way! In doing that he perpetuates the perceptions that all salespeople employ these type of tactics ... not good for our profession, not good for his company and hopefully he finds a different profession soon!