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Sometimes I’m Ashamed To Be A Sales Person

by David Brock on January 15th, 2010

If you follow this blog, you know I like talking to sales people trying to sell me something.  It’s always interesting to be on the customer side and to be able to look at how I am being sold to.  Often, I talk to really great sales people.  They are professional, they listen well, they execute their sales process well.  Even though I may not buy, I’ll find a way to point those people to an opportunity, or at least thank them for their professionalism.  Then I get the calls like I got today.

The call actually started well, it was short.  The sales person was trying to sell me some marketing services.  Like every company, we are interested in opportunities to extend our reach and attract interest.  The sales guy told me about their great capability to create content, interesting designs, powerful graphics, and compelling messages.  He further talked about getting that content into multiple channels in a cohesive way.

I was interested in what he had to say.  I asked him to send information and some references I could talk to.  We set a follow up for next week.  Within a few minutes, I got the email—things were going well.  He was meeting my expectations–though I did set the bar pretty low.

I received a series of word documents.  I opened the first one.  It was poorly written, confusing, had major formatting problems and even a few spelling errors. Hmmmmmm………..

I opened the second, it was no better, same with the third.  I was beginning to wonder.  Here is a company that presented themselves as creating compelling content, powerful messages, and high impact materials.  If their own marketing materials represented them so poorly, would they represent my company any better?

I was curious, I opened the list of references.  The sales person, in the email, had told me to feel free to contact any directly.  The references were 4 pages of testimonials—but only by 4 people.  Three pages were two testimonials from the same person.  The formatting and flow was terrible.  It looked like exactly what it was, a cut and paste job.  There were people’s names, but no contact information—I guess the sales person wanted me to work for the information. 

I clicked on the first link, hoping to be taken to the reference’s website.  The site I was taken to was one that declared the company’s offerings a scam!  It had many testimonials about how the company took your money, but either failed to deliver the service or delivered the poorest quality of service.

Hmmm…, this is an interesting approach, never saw this one before, I thought I’d seen just about everything.  I read the dismal reviews.  What they said about the company’s marketing programs was actually reinforced by the poor quality marketing materials the company had developed for itself.  The other reference that I could link to took me not to the reference’s web site, but to a completely different company, having nothing to do with the reference.  0 for 2, so far.  I decided to stop wasting my time. 

I wonder if the sales person ever looked at the materials he sent?  I wonder if he ever bothered to click on the links?  He clearly did not take my request for references seriously because there were no portfolio examples, the collateral he had sent was garbage, and I had no means of finding a legitimate reference.

The company was a legitimate company.  I actually pulled their D&B (sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me).  They weren’t big, but nothing stood out as saying they weren’t real.  The story wasn’t good when I went to the Better Business Bureau site, there were a number of complaints there.

You might ask, why are you blaming the sales person, the company is bad—after all, they are providing him with bad materials and poor references.  Absolutely, I agree, this company is terrible!  But the sales person bears responsibility as well.  He had so little pride in what he was doing, that he did not bother to look at the documents and fix them.  He never bothered to look at the references and where the links went to.  He was simply going through the motions, but not paying attention to what he was doing.

A few days ago, I wrote about doing your homework.  Doing your homework extends to your own materials, proposals and other collateral.  Make sure they respond to what the customer has requested.  Make sure they present the image of the company that you want to present.  If they don’t take the time to fix it.

Sales people cannot just go through the motions!  True professionals take pride in what they do, execute with precision, and always present themselves and their companies professionally.  I like being around professioinals, they make me want to be better.  Every encounter with companies and sales people that aren’t discourages me.  If they are sales people, it makes me ashamed to be called a sales person.

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  1. Wow! Talk about a variety of blunders!

    I always find it fascinating when sales reps don’t double-check their email messages to ensure their spelling, punctuation and grammer is correct.

    Thanks for the reminder of making sure that every we sent to new prospects (and existing customers) looks professional.


    • Kelley, thanks for the comment, we’re crossing paths several places today ;-). Everytime I think we are starting to make progress as a profession, all it takes is a call like this to take us “back to Go, do not collect $200.” While this was an extreme case, unfortunately, I see things like this too often.

      Without meaning to sound cynical, I guess that’s what keeps you and I in business. Thanks for the comments both here and on SBU! Regards, Dave

  2. Real eyeopener.

    Unfortunately, blunders like this are not limited to small companies. Some major companies don’t monitor their own bulletin boards or support forums either.

    Recently I was interested in a particular Adobe product. Their support forum had two years worth of unanswered questions and cries of abysmal support. When the company doesn’t listen to it’s market, can the salespeople do any less (or more!)?

    I once worked for a company like the one David mentioned. It was about four months before I caught on. At that point, I moved on. My personal reputation was, and still is, too important to me. I’ll make my money elsewhere.

    • Great comment Brian, not many people have the courage to move based on their values. It says a lot about you!

  3. Thanks for the article David – all too common I suspect. I’ve been trying to examine “trust” in sales people through the lens of Stephen Covey’s book The Speed of Trust. I’ve written it up at and would be interested in your comments.


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