In my job I buy stuff every day.

I buy media advertising. I buy printing services. I buy other production services. I buy website development and computer equipment. I buy software and promotional gadgets. Sometimes I giggle at the fact that I get to go to work every day and spend other peoples’ money… But the truth is I have to spend it wisely. And I have to keep my objectives in mind.

And if you’re selling, you need to keep my objectives in mind too.

Obviously how you sell will vary based on what you’re selling, but here are a few ways I think you could make me feel like you care about my business. Caring about how I make buying decisions will go a long way towards improving your sales success.

Know who you’re looking for

If you call my company and don’t know who you’re looking for, even by title or position, you may get transferred to a few people. It happens. We have different people responsible for PR, Events & Sponsorship, Marketing, Retail etc. and sometimes there is overlap and I’m sure this is the case at other medium to large businesses. You either need to do a little digging and find out who you may need to talk to ahead of time or, at the very least, be very explicit with the Receptionist or Guest Services Agent that may answer your call so they know to whom your call should be forwarded.

If you get transferred a couple of times, keep your cool. It’s sort of like buttering up your parents before asking for the car keys. If you get angry with the person you’re trying to sell to, it’s not likely they’re even going to hear what you have to say. They’re going to hear the tone in your voice. No one wants to be told off and then pitched.

Please give those poor junior staff a break and assume they are trying their best to get you put through to the right person.

Know about my company

You don’t need to know every facet of our business, but know what we do as it pertains to what you’re selling. A simple Google search will turn up a vast amount of info on most companies. It’s so hard to say here what you should know; I’m much more inclined to write a list of examples of unpreparedness.

If you are selling advertising, know who my audience is. If you don’t know, phone me with the intention of finding out first, not selling me on your ad space regardless.

If you are selling social media consulting services, make sure my company doesn’t have a larger social media presence than your social media agency.

If you are selling hotel affiliate marketing for instance, know that my company, despite being a ‘resort’ does not actually own or operate a hotel or other accommodations on site. Knowing the business name is not enough to pitch.

On that note, make sure you do know the business name.

It’s odd that when I tell people my email address – m evans at companyname dot com – I get people asking, “Could you spell that, please?” I’m sorry, what? It’s my company name. You need to know that before you call.

Be prepared to email a sales package

I don’t mean this to sound rude at all, but I get a lot of people trying to sell me a lot of stuff. Make my life easier by being ready to email me all the relevant details. This goes back to knowing what business I’m in and what I’m already doing.

Relevancy depends on knowing.

This should not be a giant form email filled with links to your company website; I can’t take the time to browse through. I like a nice PDF attachment – even a couple of them – with your company background, what you do, how you can benefit my company, any deadlines I need to be aware of, and unless you’re trying to sell me something really big i.e. >$20K, your rates. Please give me your rates.

Be persistent with a hint of thick skin

I have ongoing relationships with people who have been trying to sell me stuff for a long time. Publications who really think I should be advertising with them; website who really want me to list there; printers who really want my business… there are sales people I’ve been speaking with for years but have yet to buy from. Now, that’s the extreme case, but I don’t mind talking to them and hearing them out when they tell me about updates to their product or company because I know they’re interested in finding a real fit and developing a relationship with me and my company.

You need to be persistent but not overbearing. I admit you may need to speak to me many times before I’ll feel confident enough in you or your business to align my brand with yours.

Leaving voicemail messages

Effective voicemail messages are essential. You need to leave some information about why you’re calling. Simply leaving a name and phone number is not a good idea, especially if followed by an abrupt, “I would appreciate a return call.” Click. You wouldn’t speak to someone face to face like that, so it’s best not to speak like that in a voicemail.

Give me a quick rundown of what you’re calling about and let me know what you’re looking for from me. Are you asking for time to meet? My email address so you can send me a package? Are you asking if I have any interest? Please ensure you say precisely what you mean.

If you say, “Feel free to give me a call back if this is something you think you might be interested in,” I will only call if I’m interested. Please don’t take offense if I don’t call; I’m doing precisely what you asked of me. If you want a call back, say so: “I’d love an opportunity to discuss this further. Please call me at … If I don’t hear from you, I’ll follow up with you next week/month/Tuesday” or whatever. Then do follow up if you don’t hear from me.

The follow up goes along with the persistence I mentioned earlier. Do be persistent, but please be kind. If you can only be bothered to phone me once or twice and expect to close a sale, sorry. Maybe I need more hand holding than that.

Putting it all together

I really do want to hear about good opportunities that will benefit my company. I want to know about new publications, new printing methods, innovative technologies, your photography portfolio, etc. I want to see all these things, but I only have time to look at what’s really relevant.

  1. Know who to contact: Even just call a customer service rep, receptionist or someone with the title you think you might want. Then ask some questions. You can say “I have a product that I really think can benefit you, but I want to make sure I get it to the right person…” and go from there. Most people will be only too happy to help you find who you need.
  2. Know my company: Check out my company website, do a Google search, check a Google Blog search, Twitter Search or a combination of these. Know what I sell and to whom I sell it before you put together your pitch.
  3. Prepare your pitch: Customize your pitch based on what you find out in step 2. Send me info that’s relevant to my business and my objectives. If you don’t know, call me and ask me first. Phone up and ask for some time – it may be immediately it may mean scheduling a longer phone call for another day – but I would rather you ask me for some time and ask some questions first so you can figure out what part of what you’re selling will benefit me. Then when you do call to pitch me, be prepared to send over the custom pitch by email. I need time to mull it over and discuss it with other members of my team. I don’t tend to make decisions alone.
  4. Be persistent: Your priorities and my priorities are vastly different. Please be understanding and do call back if you haven’t heard back from me. Keep in touch. Send me updates about what you’re doing. I work on a one-year planning cycle. Just because I am not buying this year doesn’t mean I won’t plan it in for next.
  5. Leave effective messages: This really doesn’t only apply to voicemail, but to email as well. Make sure you give enough information that I don’t have to dig for more. You want me to know about your product; please do tell me the parts that will benefit me, and let me know what you’re looking for as a response from me. Please be very clear about your expectations of me.

Now let’s do business.

*** This article originally appeared February 19, 2009 on a blog called im.seeking.balance by Michelle Mackintosh ***

Photo: Zack McCarthy Flickr