When it comes to throwing a party, there are two types of people: those who do it all themselves, from the Pinterest-worthy décor to the homemade canapes to carefully constructed playlist, and those who don’t. I’m talking about the slackers who order the food, put guests to work, and consider it foolish to clean before a party.
I’m proud to say I fall into the latter category. If you ask, “What can I bring?” prepare to get an answer (and it won’t be “nothing”). In fact, I asked my cousin to make the cupcakes for my kids’ birthday four different times — not just because she’s an amazing baker, but because it meant one less thing to do. That’s the kind of host I am.
And so, when I was getting ready for my kids’ party a few weeks ago (and by “getting ready,” I mean shoveling things into a closet and finding a Pandora music station), I didn’t hear the doorbell when it rang. I assumed it was an early guest; I was wrong. Standing at the front door (which was open) was an internet provider salesperson. Apparently I didn’t answer soon enough, so he started speaking to my 5-year-old twins, who he could see through the door.
“What do you have there, a juice box?” he asked my daughter, who, thankfully, responded with the scowl that she learned from me.
“Hi, I’m Sam from XYZ Cable. Do you have a few minutes to talk about your internet service?”
“No, this isn’t a good time,” I said, walking toward the door, about to close it. “I’m getting ready for my kids’ party.”
“Okay, sure. I’ll come back… maybe around 5?” he asked, though it sounded more like a statement.
“Today’s not good. Thanks,” I said, through clenched teeth.
Before he could propose another time — perhaps Sunday at 8 a.m. — I closed the door, still in disbelief.
What on earth would lead a door-to-door sales person to believe it’s acceptable to stand at my door and start talking to my children? Has that approach ever resulted in anything other than an invitation to leave? It reminded me of some of the LinkedIn posts I’ve seen where executives vent about the poor tactics used by sales people to get a foot in the door.
Here are a few examples:
- Calling incessantly, which often includes leaving multiple messages, each one less polite.
- Digging around. One executive reported that, after being turned down, a salesperson asked to know which vendor they had Really? Someone who has rejected your offer is going to take the time to dish about your competitor?
- The hard sell. In one post, a senior strategist called out a vendor who tried to initiate a conversation by insulting the company’s current marketing strategy. Perhaps the intent was pure, but the execution? Horrible.
- Inbox trickery. Then there’s the old trick of sending an invitation right to the person in question, despite the fact that no meeting was agreed upon, in hopes that his/her admin accepts it. Sadly, this actually happens quite often, and all it does is get the company blacklisted.
None of these are going to score points with a decision-maker. And, for that matter, neither will sending swag packages, pretending to be an acquaintance, or downright bullying (“I’ve called you repeatedly with NO answer!”).
What does work, you ask? Being honest and transparent, and taking the time to get to know someone. And by that, I don’t mean saying something like this: “Hey! I see from your Twitter page that you’re a Packers fan. Let’s schedule a call!” Unless that call involves discussing Aaron Rodgers’ awesomeness, it’s not going to work, because it’s insincere. And if you ever hope to cultivate a relationship, you need to start things off right. In a blog post last year, Dan Morreale, CIO at Hunterdon Health, likened it to a dance that must have a “delicate start.” That start, he wrote, “is not a sales pitch. It is neither a PowerPoint nor a list of the other health systems that have vastly adopted your service or offering. It is not a platitude on how busy I must be, or an occasion to take me for a meal. A delicate start is a discussion, a chat, a conversation, and it does not much matter on the topic.”
Morreale recalled a story about a sales person named Bill who peaked his attention by asking about the robot collection in his office, something he was happy to chat about. By being genuine, Bill was able to earn his trust, and eventually, land the account.
To Morreale, if someone is willing to put the time in to build a real relationship, he or she will be more likely to respond if something goes wrong. To me, that makes total sense. I know that if I’m going to make an investment — whether it’s something as big as a storage provider or as small as a cable provider — I’m going to choose someone who wants to get to know me and my organization. Not someone who’s just trying to force a foot in the door.