This column is by Daniel Englebretson, Director, Integrated Content Marketing, Acuity Brands
As an experienced B2B marketer at a large enterprise, I have spent many years exploring, understanding, implementing and optimizing marketing technologies to achieve specific goals. Like many of my peers (I am sure), I have become inundated with countless marketing technology applications that can cover a seemingly unlimited number of opportunities to improve. If you don’t believe me, check out this powerful infographic from chiefmartec.com.
To make matters worse, I would definitely consider myself an early adopter, or at least an avid fanboy of marketing technology. Combine that with an active LinkedIn profile, a decent network of connections, attendance to at least 1 or 2 DreamForce-like events per year, and a perceived relatively huge marketing budget, and I (apparently) make an excellent target for sales people.
Lastly, I like to demo new technologies. It is how I stay in-the-know about new technologies and how they are applied to help achieve marketing targets. And if things are bad enough, let’s not forget that I myself am a practitioner of some fairly sophisticated lead generation strategies.
Taking all of this into consideration, I can tell you that as a prospect/customer I have sat through many sales calls, I’ve read many prospecting emails, and I’ve spoken with many many sales people. Today, there are a number of “best practices” that teams use that I’ve learned to immediately shut down. I am sharing them today in the spirit of that holy grail of continuous improvement.
#1 – Obnoxious Discovery Calls
At the top of my list of SaaS Sales Practices that Need to Die is the obnoxious discovery call. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe that in Sales (and Marketing) the customer comes first. For you to schedule a call with me, to take my time to listen to you about your product, and then waste it with a litany of discovery questions like, “how big is your company,” “what are your goals,” “what is your budget,” etc., is very frustrating. I understand that this information is important to you, but what about what is important to me? How about you tell me about your company, how you solve challenges, how your pricing works, and then we can talk about me.
#2 – Bait and Switch 2.0
Maybe it is just me, but I feel like this is happening all of the time right now. Sales teams will hire “cute” girls to harass me on LinkedIn and via email to schedule a call. It will be all fun and happy. Then, when the call rolls around there is no more “cute” girl – it’s just the proverbial Frank and Joe taking care of business. I am sorry, but this is obnoxious. And, Ladies, be offended. I actually talked to a company whose business it is is to sell fake profiles of these ladies to bait and switch folks like me into talking to you. Sure, maybe it was flattering the first time that “Sally” wanted to talk to me, but now it is just sad. For those of you who engage in this practice, it is time to put this one to bed.
#3 – Pay Up Front Annual Agreements
I respect the fact that you have a business to run. You need to deliver on your commitments to your third round of venture capital or whatever, but this is just not good for the customer. It seems like everyone’s model is to sell a product, for a monthly fee, and to charge for the entire year up front. Guys – the secret is out. You run a 90% margin business and you want it all now. Well, unfortunately for me as soon as you require all $20, $30, $40 thousand dollars up front it means that I have to do a LOT more work. And, in the end, almost every time, you cave-in and give me some kind of split payment terms. But, little do you know, if there was even one competitor that offered the same service but with no annual agreement you better believe that I am not even going to bother with the paperwork for your annual agreement. This one is for you sales management – offer flexible payment terms.
#4 – “Quick Question”
I am fairly confident there was a book written on this one. Someone has convinced an untold number of sales people to use the subject line “Quick Question” and then to follow with some kind of unassuming question like “hey Daniel, I was talking to your VP and he told me to reach out to you about this free [insert sales tool], can we schedule 10 min to go over this.” Just so that we’re all clear, the subject line “quick question” is a fast track to the delete button. Not to mention that lying to me (if you are) is not a great way to start off.
#5 – Bad Marketing Automation
As a practitioner of Marketing Automation, this one is near and dear to me. If you are going to use personalization, please make sure your data is clean. It is annoying to get an email that says “Hello ,,”. It is also an immediate indication that this is automated. Usually this is paired with obvious omissions on the CAN-SPAM act. If you are going to sell to a marketer, and you are going to use Marketing Automation, make sure you bring your “A” game. It is offensive to assume that I will not notice that. And, if you are going to use Marketing Automation, please just own up to it. I can tell that you are not real.
#6 – Failure to Do Homework
This is a no-brainer, but it happens all of the time. Before you get on a call with me, please make sure you know the name of my company, who owns it, what we sell, who we sell to, and maybe some cross referencing on LinkedIn to see how that might be relevant to any conversation you are about to have with me. This is an easy one. Do a little homework and impress. Do no homework and just come off lazy and uninformed.
#7 – Name Dropping 2.0
Yes, I get it, you have talked to someone at my parent company. That is GREAT! And, you think that because you know someone’s name that you are in. Please do not spend my time telling me about how my parent company does things and therefore I should do no due diligence and just buy your product. This one is tricky because I do care if you have an established relationship, but I don’t want you marginalizing our own relationship before we’ve even built one. It is very frustrating.
Special Note: There are many sales teams out there that are excellent, and not all of these top 7 apply in every case. However, I hope that this insight can provide you with process improvements to make the experience better for the customer. As a Marketer, we have the duty to think of things from the customer’s point of view, and only when we do this well can we truly excel. Happy hunting.
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Image Credit: Hubspot