Before I start this post, I have a confession. I’m oddly drawn to really bad prospecting–particularly from companies selling tools or services to help sales people prospect. Perhaps it’s a deficiency in my character or something wrong in my upbringing, though Mom and Dad did the very best they could with the material they had.
But I’m obsessed by really bad prospecting. Most people would see a bad email title, or read the first couple of sentences of a poorly constructed email and either trash or Spam it. I do that with the “normal” bad prospecting. You know the kind, “It’s all about me the sales person, not about you.”
But really bad prospecting sucks me in. I read the note, or the tweet over and over. I may visit the site, without triggering any of the tags they embed to show I’ve actually responded. Or I may get really bad prospecting Tweets, I study their timelines, looking at how many hundreds or thousands of times they’ve sent the exact same bad tweet to someone.
It must be the same mechanism that causes people to slow down, staring at an accident on the side of the road, or that draws some to watch a fire, but I’m captivated by really bad prospecting.
I’ve gotten past the point of trying to correct the person or the company doing the bad prospecting. Some of my colleagues get engaged in responding to the offending sales person, pointing out how bad the prospecting is. Suggesting, privately, how they might improve their approach. I used to do that, usually, it was unappreciated. The offending sales person, would push back angrily, suggesting I didn’t understand–their reactions always indicated that I really did understand.
Too often though, bad prospecting isn’t the sales person’s fault–they’re just doing what their managers or some marketing person who’s never picked up a phone tells them to do. With those, you end up just commiserating with the sales person forced to execute a poorly designed program with bad training and no coaching.
In some sense these truly bad prospectors should be proud, they’ve achieved one objective–they’ve caught my attention. They’ve captivated me, I invest more time than they intended–but always producing outcomes exactly the opposite of what they intended. Instead of responding, I critique (yes and ridicule) their approaches.
Twitter has proven to be very fertile ground for some of the worst prospecting.
In some ways it’s a fantastic tool to spread bad prospecting very fast. Instead of email, which only the recipient (however 10’s of thousands are sent) sees the message, Twitter has a magnifying effect. Not only do I get subjected to the terrible tweet, but everyone following me gets to see the same terrible prospecting!
I see dozens of these in my tweet stream every day. Usually, they are directed to some huge name person that I follow, I see someone prospecting that big name person–most of the time I wonder, “Why would that person ever be interested in that?” But the prospector has caught my attention–99 times out of 100 the prospecting tweets are horrible! After all, how much can you really accomplish in 140 characters?
But these bad prospectors manage to turn off not only the target person, but all their followers as well.
Today, there was one targeting me (and all the people who follow me).
On it’s surface it was benign, almost unnoticeable:
@ where can we learn more about yourself? [sic] Would also like to chat with you about ……
I was intrigued. It had none of the usual links to a company promoting a product. But the approach was intriguing. Instead of them doing the research about me, what my interests might be, my goals, challenges and so forth; I was supposed to teach them all of that stuff—presumably so they could sell me something.
My immediate thought was, “It’s not my job to teach you about me and what I need! I don’t have the time to do that, if you really care and want to earn a response, you’ll have done your homework.” Afterall, it’s not hard, my Twitter profile has the link to this site, which has links to our corporate sites, LinkedIn and others. Researching me and my company doesn’t take a lot of time. Presumably, if your “sweet spot” is professional services companies, you already know enough about the issues we face, so you can makes some educated guesses about me and what I care about.
I should have just left things there–the 30 or so seconds I spent just thinking about the prospecting approach was more than it deserved.
But this crazy obsession took over. I looked at the offending sender’s tweet stream. Yes, there were dozens, if not hundreds of similarly worded tweets in their timeline. They had targeted a lot of influencers (at least they did a little homework), but also a lot of people with pretty small followings and very low twitter activity.
Presumably, they expected all these people to invest their precious time in teaching them how to prospect.
But I was sucked in even further. I decided to visit their web site. Imagine my amazement–what they sell is a tool to help sales people prospect more effectively! (At least through email).
I thought to myself, this method of getting the prospect to do all the work and research must be at the core of their prospecting approach they promote. Silly me, I always thought it was the sales person’s job to do that. After all, most people have too much of their own work to do. They can’t take the time to do the sales person’s job!
But it got even better. On studying their offering more, I learned “personalization is key.” Well, I knew that, but their approach to “personalization” was really intriguing. In the case of their Twitter prospecting, they had an unpersonalized approach–sending roughly the same tweet to dozens or hundreds of people–asking them to invest the time to do the personalization for them.
At one moment, I thought this was brilliant, the unpersonalized approach featuring personalization! But then, reality came crashing it. I realized I had wasted far too much time on this.
I come away from this with a lesson learned. It’s not the prospects job to do your work for you. They are too busy doing their own jobs, they don’t have the time and shouldn’t care about doing your job. Yes, personalization in prospecting is very effective. But you have to do the work to personalize, if you rely on the prospect, they simply won’t do it.