Dealing with salespeople at work

SimonGeneral8 Comments

One of the less enjoyable parts of my role heading up marketing and PR at Medway Council is the endless stream of salespeople who want a slice of my time.

I think there must be a general sense among salesforces that local authorities are a soft touch – all you need to do is pitch up and an easy-going council officer will just get out the council’s chequebook.

I probably receive three or four phonecalls each day from people trying to sell me something at work. The most common sales calls are for advertising, printing services, graphic design and merchandise.

Each salesperson invariably asks if they could “just pop in and see me for half an hour because they’re sure I’ll be interested”. I’m quite regularly told this before they’ve even asked me about our needs and how they relate to what’s being sold. I just don’t have the time to spend in these meetings, even if I wanted to.

Here are the big mistakes that people make when trying to sell to me at work:

  • get my name wrong – sometimes people call asking for my predecessor by name. He left more than three years ago. I particularly enjoy these calls when they’re from direct marketing agencies or list brokers. These usually end pretty quickly when I suggest they need to sort out their own contacts before trying to sell me direct marketing.
  • not knowing what we do – I work for a council, so don’t bother with sales patter about increasing profits and generating shareholder value – it just makes it really obvious that the salesperson hasn’t done the most basic thinking about what I do at work. Have a look at our website, Google me or my organisation – even the most basic research will reveal more about us than most salespeople know when they call. 
  • assuming I’m interested– unless I’ve been asked and I’ve told the salesperson what I’m working on, they shouldn’t assume they know. Why do so many seem to think they know better than me what products or services I need right now?
  • not taking a hint – if I’m not interested I’ll tell the salesperson politely. I wish they’d take the hint and not fire a list of alternative sales pitches at me in case one sticks.
  • pestering me – if what I’m being sold sounds interesting, but isn’t relevant right now, I’ll probably ask the salesperson to email me details for my files. If ask I for an email that doesn’t mean I want you to email then phone me again, and it doesn’t mean I want a glossy folder or information pack – it’ll go straight in the bin.
  • jumping straight into budget – I get this less frequently now, but it still happens, usually with “old-school” salespeople. If the first, second or third question I’m asked is about how much I want to spend, then the conversation usually stops there. Unless I’ve actually indicated I want to buy, I don’t want to be asked what my budget is – it’s none of their business and I wouldn’t tell them anyway.
  • selling on features not benefits – I’m only briefly interested in what your company, product or service does, and who else it does it for. I’m more interested in how it will help me achieve what I need to do, and to do this you need to understand more about what I’m doing.

Very occasionally I end up dealing with a salesperson who’s a pleasure to deal with. They listen more than talk, don’t pressure me, take the time to understand the marketing and PR objectives I have, and then articulate the benefits of their product against what I want to achieve.

People like this are a pleasure to deal with, and are often from the companies that we end up using over the longer term.

So, am I being unfair on our colleagues in sales or is my experience typical? Do you have any sales experiences or tricks that you’d like to add?

[tags]selling, sales, sales+people, salesman, sales+strategy, sales+tips, adsales[/tags]

8 Comments on “Dealing with salespeople at work”

  1. Andrew Wake

    Totally agree. I used to have much fun stringing along double glazing salespeople before asking about the length of their ladders and letting them know I lived on the 8th floor of a tower block!

  2. Penny Haywood

    We’re just a tiny PR outfit with 2 desks and we also get about 4 calls a day, despite running from a home office (the commuting is dreadful!) that’s TPS registered. I’ve tried the lot – half of them have never heard of TPS. I did try a variant of the one above, stringing conservatory salespeople along, then asking how they’ll handle the legs…
    When it’s obviously a sales call, I’m reduced to pretending not to be me and tell them “she spends her day in meetings or is really busy writing and has a hatred of telephone call as they are so disruptive and intrusive”. Don’t call her and mark that on your database. I helpfully provide an email address so I can decide whether it’s something interesting at my leisure. Most actually thank me for being so helpful so I have a pleasant day and so do they.

    1. Gez

      That all sounds very funny but when you’re wasting someone’s time, you are costing them money. Sales people are usually trying to establish if there is a benefit to you in them selling you the product or service. Of course they think that you will benefit from their product, otherwise you would hope that they wouldn’t bother calling you.

      I’m a salesman and I don’t mind someone telling me that they are not interested as long as I know they have a legitimate reason for me to not pursue an opportunity to save a company money and improve the services they are provided with and even then you can always hang up, rude yes but less rude than wasting their time).

      The more you hide from me the more I chase until I get a yes or a no and as frustrating as it is to not be given a reason I just have to move on and call the next person that might actually be grateful for my call. All this would be so much easier if people were honest and kind, yes even to sales people. Sales people are Sons, Daughters, Mothers, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters. Why waste people’s time because you feel their training has not been sufficient, or because you are afraid to just tell someone that that you may be interested if they call back in 8 months for a review, or you are not interested because it’s not something you need, or this is something that you are not looking to review.

      We are looking for reasons to sell but just as importantly we are looking for reasons to drop you from our contact lists, so that we may find the real opportunities and stop wasting time, money, ink and keyboards.

      Anyone dangling a sales person because you feel cheated that they are trying to call you and 5 individuals have called you today already, please remember, we are not drones we don’t know what other sales people are doing as they are doing them and I know that my service has been really very useful to the same demographic as you.

      I hope each call I make is good one. A good call doesn’t always end in a sale but always ends with a smile. Good luck at being kind and forgiving, these qualities will bring you great pleasure.

  3. Simon

    Andy – I can just imagine you doing that

    Penny – thanks for the comment and for dropping by – it does make you wonder if they actually sell anything – guess they must otherwise they wouldn’t bother!

  4. Pingback: Should journalists be able to opt out of PR? « Heather Yaxley - Greenbanana views of public relations and more

  5. 6digitincome

    Great article. Thought I’d leave a quick note on behalf of the sales community.

    1. “not taking a hint” – I would estimate that our economy would come to a grinding hault if all sales professionals gave up after a prospect “hinted” that they aren’t interested. There could in fact be a perfect fit between vendor and prospect, but the truth would never be uncovered if no objection handling was done.

    I have hundreds of happy clients, all whom I obtained from the cold call, all which had objections at the start. Zero exceptions.

    2. “pestering me”. I can empathize here, yet consider this. If you request an e-mail from a sales professional, you have demonstrated interest, meaning unless the sales person gets a YES or a NO answer, oftentimes they will pursue you in order to “close the loop”. Sales methodology craves closure, one way or another. End the follow-up calls by *picking up your phone* and making a decision. The time you’ll save from picking up the phone and making a decision (5-10 seconds per sales rep) will outweigh the inconvenience of seeing a particular rep’s name show up on your call display so often.

    Good read, thanks.

    1. Simon

      Thanks – always good to hear from “the other side of the fence”. Hopefully some useful points for marketers being sold to here that can make everyone’s days that bit easier!

  6. D. McGreevy ATX

    All an experienced sales person is looking for on an initial call (cold call) is:
    1- Yes/Maybe
    2- No
    3- A Clearly Defined Next Step (appointment)
    4- Referral.

    If you give them any of those I think they’d be more than happy to let you off the hook and you are doing them a kindness similar to helping someone with directions on the street. Sales people should be talking 30% of the time and you the other 70%. If you agree to give them a minute to explain, it should only take a few minutes to determine if it’s a good fit and you can both move on. Keep in mind a sales person might be calling with the next biggest thing to help your company tackle some of your biggest issues, and in the end she/he might end up helping out your career as you helped position the organization with a tool that you might not have figured out on your own. You probably make matters worse by pushing them off and running them in a loop as if they see you as a target until they know to back off, they will persist. Probably easier to embrace a sales person and give them a minute or two, as what you resist usually persists… my two cents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *