Ok professional network I would like your input on something. Here’s the back ground.
As we often do in business, I recently asked a person in my network for an introduction to someone they knew as they used to work together and are connected on LinkedIn.
This is the response they received from requesting a warm introduction for me:
“Thanks. I don't know him. He's a sales person who has been trying to get business for years. I am not interested in pursuing that”
He is a sales person…
That felt like it was supposed to be derogatory and demeaning. Didn’t it?
I am not sure why but this really offended me. All morning I kept thinking about it. I have been ‘a sales person’ for over 30 years and am proud of this profession. As I have gained experience and gray hair, I now have an even better appreciation for the value of the ‘Noble Purpose’ (Lisa Earle McLeod) of putting the needs of the customers first. I am consistently looking for ways to help, not just sell something. Why can’t they figure it out?
I quickly checked my CRM and saw that I had reached out about 10 times over 30 months – several emails and a couple voice messages. Was that too much?
My first thought was that this was a poor reflection of the prospect I was trying to connect with and that they were being narrow minded.
Then, as my fragile old ego started to heal, another thought occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, this is my fault? I must have come across as ‘salesy’, whatever that is. Clearly I have not effectively communicated my intent of exploring ways to help their organization.
I thought about it further and decided that there were a few things I could have done differently. Better. Y'know like the things I train and coach on??
Since we should always learn from setbacks and failure, what have I (re)learned here?
More research - is required prior to reaching out. A generic message likely won’t resonate with anyone. Instead, what will be of specific interest to them? Everything else is just noise. In Hope is Not a Strategy, Rick Page talks of the Arsenal of Competitive Advantage and Linking only what’s relevant to the client. In hindsight I was throwing ‘stuff’ out hoping something would stick. That was dumb.
Shorter emails - I am verbose at times and my subject lines more compelling. There is lots of research that shows short emails with specific messages and compelling subject lines are opened more, increasing the opportunity to connect.
Leverage your network - to learn more about the individual PROIR to reaching out. Spending time preparing better upfront is more effective than potentially wasting time later. Jill Konrath (More Sales Less Time) writes about the benefits of pushing the BETTER button in sales vs the MORE button. If your approach or process is sub optimal, why do even more of it? Figure out how to do it even better.
Negative perception of sales people is still quite prevalent - What can I/we do to help people understand we want to help? Sales is by definition helping, however some people still view sales people as yucky. As per Daniel Pink’s word cloud in To Sell is Human:
As I have written about before, my purpose or mission is to help evolve sales people into even more effective sales professionals through sales training and coaching. This unflattering email response reminded me that we are all a work in progress. Yes, even me. Maybe especially me. It’s easy to get complacent and then reality reminds you there is always room to improve and get ‘more better’.
What recent experience have you had that was a reminder that sales is hard and we need to always be looking to grow and improve professionally?