Redefining the Foot in the Door

Foot in the DoorI use a spam filter, as do most people these days, to keep out the emails from people with whom I do not wish to communicate. It makes sense. After all I tend to lock my front door, my car and my phone for the same reasons: my space is my own, and other people are allowed in only with permission.

Yet every week I receive plaintive requests from  account reps – ok, let’s call them sales reps – who really, really want to put me on their bulk mailing list in order to send me information about the products they have to sell. They knock on the lintel of my inbox after having been rebuffed by my automatically-generated “you’re not on the list” reply. They ask to be included. At least two of them are my direct competitors. I don’t think they know who I am. I don’t think they realize that if I permitted them to send me their mail, they would be in fact delivering competitive intelligence, including price lists and product descriptions and their innovations, right to my computer.

I think they think they are being all “in” with social media simply because they have the tenacity to knock at my door. Think they think this is what CRM is all about.

But you know what? I didn’t allow your email to come in six weeks ago. I did not allow it to come in five weeks ago. Or four. Or three. Do you see a pattern here? The odds are extremely good that I will not want to receive it next week either. This is not what “establishing rapport with a prospect” means.

The days of using tenacity and persistence to win the 2% return on your mailings are over, just like the days of jamming your shoe in a closing door are over. There are no customers anymore, there is just a customer. That customer will likely have a spam filter on his or her inbox and will likely never answer a phonecall from an unknown number.

What I would like to see is a sales rep who takes all of these rebuffs and puts them in an electronic pile, and then assigns some time to learn more about these prospects. What can be learned about the company they work for? What is happening in the industry? What is the pain that this company is feeling? What solution can the sales rep deliver?

Now wait a moment! That doesn’t sound like new-age sales innovation;  that sounds like something Zig Ziglar might have said. Or Og Mandino. Or Neil Rachkam. It’s sales 101. The time it takes to get to know a customer increases the chances of making a sale, and then a repeat sale, and then a referral sale.

So my question is, with all of the approaches now available to learn about prospects and clients – with all of the methods a sales rep has to demonstrate how much better my life would be as their customer, why are they still knocking?

Statistics show that people now buy more than ever from referral – including from a credible referral they have found on Twitter or FaceBook or Pinterest. I would suggest to any sales rep in the vicinity that I would be more interested in hearing from you if your post-rebuff “knock knock” email invited me to read one of your company’s blogs or tweets regarding a product or trend that affects me. That’s going to generate a need, and that’s what is going to make me want to seek you out.

A sales rep is a human conduit to a product or service, and there exists a universe of social media tools available to reinforce that human connection. Let the smile and dial philosophy go back to the 1950’s where it belongs. Show me instead why I need you; not by showing me what you know about your products, but instead what you know about my needs. For no matter how much technology comes and goes, the ancient human instinct called trust will ultimately make me open up to you. Being tenacious will not win that trust. But understanding me might.

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