For some companies’ sales operations, you really would not think there was a recession on at the moment at all and that efficiency should not be guiding the decision process.
Of course, one still has to ‘speculate to accumulate’ and organisations are quite right to spend money on sales and marketing campaigns as my own firm does on a daily ongoing basis.
However, recently I have seen money horrifically squandered by companies pitching for business in entirely unconstructive ways. As a senior EA in a multinational organisation, I am well aware of the need for us to be kept aware of what products and services that are out in the market place especially those that could enhance the prospects for my business. This is the meeting point a sales professional should be satisfying and, should we see merit in the value that professional can bring to us, we will, naturally, want to learn more and, ultimately, buy into what he or she is selling.
Yet I see time and time again, pitches, often wildly extravagant ones, coming in and totally missing the mark. For example, we have seen a rash of ‘cold mail’ where the literature making the pitch comes together with gifts and, very often, quite expensive ones. In the past few weeks, for instance, mail has been opened by my junior staff containing digital photo frames, high- end binoculars and, the usual, bottles of vintage champagne.
Now, these may have some relevance if the product or service was related to a photography business wanting to show off its capabilities in a digital photo frame, an optics manufacturer pitching for survey equipment or a catering company trying to win our rather lucrative off-site hospitality contract. They do not, however, have any relevance whatsoever to the company selling its corporate cleaning service, the copy
machine manufacturer pitching for the replacement of our aging stock or the taxi service trying to grab the contract for ferrying clients and executives to and from office and airports!
How is it that the sales forces, and particularly the managers, can not see that these extravagances often have completely the wrong effect on the potential customer because, if the pitch is so divorced from the product or service, the prospect is bound to ask, ‘how in touch are these people with their market?’ So, straight away, there is a seed of doubt sown in the mind of the corporate customer and, in these lightening-quick digital days, that seed is flicked into the waste bin as quickly as the marketing bumpf the inappropriate present arrived with.
Much in the same way, some marketing surveys arrive with a £5 note attached to pay for the time to fill it in! I hate that, not least for the fact that if they think my hourly rate justifies spending 10 minutes for a fiver they are sorely mistaken!
I am reminded of a story from two different executives talking about having some work done to their homes. One of them received a visit by a landscape garden salesman, who arrived in a brand new Mercedes-Benz E Class, an image that jarred so much he virtually slammed the door in the poor chap’s face. The other told of a double-glazing company owner whose pitch was on saving energy and using recycled plastics for his products and he turned up in a business logoed Smart car. Our executive knows he runs a Ferrari 599 GTB on weekends while his wife takes the kids to school in a Porsche Cayenne S – but his sales pitch was right and the new conservatory is being fitted even as we speak!
So the lesson is clear. If you are going to try to stand out by attaching presents to your ‘cold mail’ at least make it relevant to what you provide because that’s the best way to get noticed.