How (Not) To Sell to Technologists

It’s the first quarter of the year, so it must be time to get a whole bevy of emails from company salespeople that all follow the same basic template:

Dear Daniel,
 I hope you are doing well. As we grow as a company, we are forced to realign the sales and support resources that work with your account. As such, I'd like to introduce <<insert new name here>> who will be your new Account Manager (also exactly the same with this new "Customer Success Manager" role which seems to be in high fashion of late). <<New Name>> would like to set up a call to get to to know you in the next couple weeks so that we can do make this transition smooth. Thanks for being a valued customer!
 <<Name of Former Contact>>

There is so much here that gets me frustrated, as a customer. Let me call out a few things (and some that go beyond the example email):

  1. To get a new Account Manager or Customer Success Manager as a matter of your reorganisation every year makes me feel the opposite of a valued customer; it makes me feel like I am being shuffled off to someone else that doesn’t know what is going on with my account. This is less impactful (but still not transparent) for those companies that I don’t have significant ongoing interactions with or long, drawn-out support cases open with. To have to teach a new <<insert role here>> takes my time, and since I expect that this whole process will happen again in 12 months, have no real driver to invest time in <<New Name>>.  I understand people leave roles, but internal reorganisation every year is beyond my desire to support your change.
  2. Why does the new rep have to meet or set up a 1 hour call with me and why do they (effectively) mandate it?  If, in my response to the above letter, I indicate that I am OK with just keeping the name and email address on file for when it is needed, why, must they keep  bothering until there is a meeting set up which basically consists of saying “Hi, I’m <<New Name>> and I’m here to help. Tell me about how you use <<Product Name>>” and then the call is over. What is the value to me in doing so?
  3. I am extremely happy that the vendor’s company is growing rapidly, but why is your growth and expansion causing me to have to spend additional meetings and education time? If you are so insistent that this change happen, then you do the internal training and have the info you have gathered and stored in SalesForce.com and make it available to the new Account Manager or Customer Success Manager rather than me having to educate the new contact from the ground-up.
  4. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.  The more you call me, the more messages you leave, the more you (try to) interrupt my day, the less chance I will engage your company. Did you know I have a published phone number whose job it is only to take your voicemails, indicate the name of the company you are calling from and delete the audio w/o being listened to?  That’s right… your voicemails are not being heard (not even the “cute” ones in which you pretend that I must have accidentally deleted the one you left previously and were so upset that I couldn’t undelete it that I pined until you called again 24 hours later). Trust me, none of us want to hear from you.  When we are ready to talk, we will find you. Trust me, we know how to find your website and get in touch. No really, we are fine with this.
  5. Don’t send unrequested meeting invites under the pretence that you know me and that we should talk about the state of your product in our environment.  This is a sure way to get on the “never gonna get it” list. See number 4; if I want to talk to you about your company’s wares, I will get in touch; the more you bother me, the less I will want to buy.
  6. Do not use the tragedy of the day to tell me how your product/service could have helped. On the day of and after a major exploit or incident, I am not looking to buy new kit, I am trying to patch, remediate, and make my environment fit for purpose again.  Also, don’t use unrelated tragedies to sell your product in an immoral or unethical way (e.g. Prince’s death can not and should not be used to try to sell security products!)
  7. DO: Email with truthful subject lines and content that is beyond the normal marketing material. Send white papers (your own, not reprints of industry analysts with your logo as a sponsor) on new, innovative ways to protect infrastructure that your labs guys have been working on, or a new attack that is in the wild that we should be looking at. Don’t use hyperbolic web-weenie words to describe it, just be honest, and have valuable information that is worth my time to read, and brings me value right away – this is how you show me that your company is keeping on top of things and is one I (may) want to do business with in the future.

I am certain there are more, and if I think of them I’ll add to the comments below. The bottom line is that I spend lots of time doing research on products and services, and when I am ready to do a project, or bring on contract resources, or buy software, I will find the products I am after and get in touch, ensuring that I can focus on those that meet the requirements that we have established.

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