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No Way To Prospect

by David Brock on September 18th, 2011

I opened the email:

“David, Do you give product reviews? [First Name Withheld]”

Hmmm, I  thought.  An unusual approach, is this SPAM?  No introduction, no identification of who is making the request, just a first name.  Applied my detective skills to the email (one of those with a first name and no last name).  This was really odd.

Decided I’d play along,

I responded, “It depends.”  Nothing else.

A few minutes later, “David, So you need a story hook, how about finding a hook from one or our customers….  [Product Name] is an amazing tool for creating business cases”  A couple of links, clearly about some specific product.  Didn’t bother to click on them, a name, a phone number.  That was it.

I sat back, astounded.  Wow, I thought.  Here’s a guy who  is trying to get me to do something for him–write a review, presumably endorsing and promoting his product.

Could any approach be more wrong?  It’s really hard to figure out where to start.   I’ll try to sort it out

1.  There was no introduction, nothing.  No, “Hi Dave, I’m so and so of such and such a company.”  No, “We have a very exciting product that you may be interested in telling your readers about.”  No, “Would you have a few minutes to speak.  I’d love to talk to you to see if you might be willing to write about it.”

I get a number of these letters.  I respond to virtually all of them.  At least to learn and understand.  I’ve found a number of interesting tools and have referenced them in blog posts.  I’m always looking for ideas and tools that can help people be more effective.

But somehow, for this individual, I guess he was to busy to bother with some of these social courtesies.

2.  Somehow from my response, “It depends,”  he lept to the conclusion that I needed a story hook, pointing me to a couple of testimonials.  How did he reach the conclusion that I needed a story hook?  Was I supposed to follow the links and figure everything out myself?  Was I supposed to invest my time, trying to decode this whole thing and then write something promoting his product?  What was I supposed to do?  More importantly, Why should I invest my time?

3.  Why should I invest my time in doing this?  That’s a cry for a value proposition–nothing big.  Perhaps, it’s something your readers might be interested in.  Perhaps, I know (because I have done my homework), that you are interested in the area of sales that this tool helps sales people in. 

No I was left to try and sort things out, it was up to me, the customer to figure everything out—the product, the value proposition of writing about it, the value proposition to my readers…….. (Yes in this case I was a customer, because he was trying to sell me on doing something for him.)

4.  Was the guy too busy to do his job?  Did he not care (perhaps he sent the same thing to dozens of sales bloggers)?  Was he so arrogant that he couldn’t be bothered with any of this?  Was he inept or incompetent?

5.  I was perplexed, confused.  I couldn’t imagine any sales person being so far off target with a sales approach.  I dug deeper, I found the LinkedIn profile, I found the person’s web site.  Turned out, the person is an “expert” in value propositions and sells his services in advising others on creating great value in their sales process.

How ironic!?!

Forget that everything was wrong in this sales approach.  There is one thing, this illustrates that too many of us may do unwittingly.  We make it the customer’s job to figure out our value proposition.  Sure this was an extreme case.  Yes, most of us do articulate our value proposition–at least the generic one that marketing gives us.  But we leave it for the customer to sort out what it really means for them. 

 Just as this person made me take the time to figure out if their was a value proposition for me, too often, we make it very difficult for our customers to understand the specific value they will receive and how it is differentiated from others they may be seeing.

When articulating your value proposition, do the heavy lifting for the customer.  Make sure:

  1. It is personalized to them–it addresses what their priorities and what they value?
  2. Make it clear and simple.
  3. Make sure it is differentiated.
  4. Verify their understanding and that they agree with your value positioning.

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  1. Hi David,
    liked the story and the moral.
    I had a sales trainer who used to say to start every sale with the question “What are you after in a X?” or “What do you want in an X?”
    The customer will answer with a string of things.
    Repeat this string back to them exactly as they state it and get their agreement.
    Builds rapport, shows you are listening, initiates a yes set (generated by THEM), gives you what’s important to them.
    Then it’s a matter of asking questions to really define what they want and presenting your offer to align with that. (i.e. build value for THEM).
    It’s not quite as easy as it reads but it’s a pretty good process.

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