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More Stupid Selling Tricks

by David Brock on September 24th, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve had a rant about people who represent our profession poorly.  Today, I was a victim of one of the most dishonest and ineffective calls I’ve ever experienced.  Not only did the salesperson represent himself dishonestly, but he has given me a negative  impression of his company, one of the largest insurance companies in the country.  Here’s how the call went:

Phone rings, I answer, “Hello, this is Dave Brock.”

Confused voice at the other end of the line, “Are you with [such and such a company]?”  My antenna go up, he’s referring to the name that we have registered the company as in the state of California.  Since we never use that name for anything other than tax reporting, I can always tell it’s a sales person prospecting off the public records list.

Cautiously I respond, “Yes, I am, how can I help you?”

“I’m (let me call him) Tim, from Super Gigondo Financial Services), are you a consulting company?”  he stated.

I decided to let it slip that I wasn’t a company, but that I worked for a company, I responded, “Yes, how can I help you?”

“Great,” he says, “one of my clients needs a consultant, and I wanted to give him a recommendation, can you tell me what you do?”  (you can probably already see where this is going)

“Well, maybe if you could tell me a little bit about what your client is looking for, I might be able to tell you whether we can help or not,” I reply.

“Well, it’s actually not for a specific client, but lots of my clients are looking for consultants, I really want to be of service to them, so I like to get to know some of the resources available in the community that I might recommend,” he responds.

“Oh, excuse my confusion, you said you had a specific client you were trying to help, ”  I’m getting a little testy—I’ve been through this before.  I decide to pursue this for a moment, partly because I can’t believe that Super Gigondo Financial Services teaches their sales people to do this as a prospecting technique.  I’m curious to see how this plays out, so I tell him quickly what we do, the types of clients we work with, and so forth.

“Thank you,” he responds, “that’s very helpful.”

This is interesting I think, he doesn’t ask me any questions, never asks who we have done work for, guess he must be very trusting.

He goes on, “I’d like to get together with you to learn a little more, so I can recommend you to my small business clients.  All of them are begging for the services you offer, I’m excited about recommending you to them.  When can we schedule a few minutes to get together?”

Well, I’ve been consulting for a long time, I’ve never found lots of people begging for consultants, particularly small business clients.  There’s a place for our services, but consulting really isn’t a supply constrained industry.  But, I’m feeling this might turn into a great blog post, so I go on.

“Well, I can’t meet for a few weeks, but I’m glad to meet and learn what clients you may want to reference us to.  However, let me be very clear, my company is not in the market for the products and services you are selling.  So if you expect to use this as a selling opportunity, you are wasting your time and my time.”  I say sternly (don’t I have a wonderful way of establishing rapport with someone who wants to help me?)

He gets a little testy, “How do you know what I might be selling?  You don’t know anything about me!”

Gotcha!!! 

“Well, Tim, ” I say, “I don’t know you, but I know Super Gigondo Financial Services very well.  We are not in the market for anything theysell.”

“Well, I really don’t sell financial services products, my job is to connect people together.  I just want to help my clients,” he protests.

This is really interesting news to me, I didn’t realize Super Gigondo Financial Services had diversified and was now into charitable networking.  Reading their latest 10Q, they still be be very intensely focused on insurance and investment products.  I don’t see anything about brokering relationships between their customers or purposefully becoming a not for profit.   How do they make money? 

I decide to bail on the call, it’s all played out.  Here’s a guy who has done no homework, who can only use thinly veiled deceit to try to get a meeting with me.  I wonder if he thinks I’m stupid enough to fall for it?   Are the products and services that Super Gigondo Financial Services sells so devoid of value that he can’t think of a way to get me interested in his own company’s products?  Hasn’t he been trained in how to do a good prospecting call to get the interest of potential customers?

I thank him for the call, telling him that I am booked and traveling the next few weeks (I am), and that I can’t schedule a meeting. 

“Well, would you call me when you return, perhaps we can get together?” he pleads.

“Of course,” I reply, “just hold your breath.”

I hang up the phone, making a note to myself to change our state registration papers from ‘Consulting Services,’ to ‘Funeral Services.’  I’m really anxious to get a call from a Super Gigondo Financial Services sales person saying, “Our customers are dying to do business with you!”

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11 Comments
  1. What a wonderful story. It serves to remind us that “they walk among us,” which is a frightening thought. :>)

    It’s experiences like yours that point out how both salespeople and the companies they work for get such poor reputations.

  2. Excellent demonstration that the problem with Sales is Salespeople or is it sales managers?
    Full disclosure: The idea is inspired by a post by John Paul Rollert on the HBR blog http://bit.ly/awXPzc.

  3. David, thanks for taking the time to let the call unfold and then turn it into a post that should be spread, read, and reread. Most importantly, I hope you felt better after the rant!

    • Writing a blog is so therapeutic and cleansing! And it’s much cheaper than paying a shrink 😉 Thanks for the comment Gary!

  4. Not only was the salesperson deceitful, but the pitch was all about him! People don’t just call up and offer things out of the goodness of their hearts. What’s sad is that sales mangers think people fall for this crap. Sadder still is that some people do fall for this crap (otherwise why would sales managers make the script)! Most tragic of all is that people who make the calls actually consider those techniques, “selling.” They make all of our jobs more difficult.

    • Thanks for the comment Chad! There was nothing right about the call. The unfortunate thing, is that apparently these approaches are just successful enough that they produce results sufficient for organizations to continue to do stupid things.

      It’s actually not Tim’s fault. He’s being managed and trained to do this. It’s the companies and management that hold their customers in such low regard, as well as their people, that are the problem. There are ways Tim could have engaged me even though I didn’t have a current need for his products. His company just didn’t think enough of small business people like me to train Tim in how to do it appropriately.

  5. Lying pays!
    If it is my competitor and I am competing with them. I am working with an Owner/Developer of Apartment Complexes and my arch rival competitor told this Owner that if they used his Landscape Installation Services he would achieve 100% Occupancy of his Apartment Buildings. This savvy Owner owns 6 Apartment Complexes and he told me in 20 years of business he has never maintained 100% Occupancy in any Apartment Complex. The Owner said it reminded him of the Financial Services guy that claimed a 25% return on his investments but would not sign an agreement guaranteeing 25% returns so he threw the man out of his office immediately for lying.

    Moral to the story; let your competitor lie, it will do wonders for your business when your customers discover the truth and you appear to be a Knight in Shining Armor.

  6. This is just sad. Who says companies / sales people don’t need sales training?

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