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The Perfect Prospecting Letter (???)

by David Brock on October 4th, 2014

I receive lots of requests from sales and marketing experts to promote things they are doing, whether it’s a webinar, eBook, Book.  Most of the time I’m delighted to do so.  Many have been very generous in supporting and helping me.  Even if it’s someone I don’t know, generally, once they introduce themselves and show me what they are doing, I’m glad to promote.  There are usually interesting ideas, different approaches to selling or marketing, things that all of us can learn from.  (I do have to admit, having trouble dealing with the sheer volume of these, currently I’m reviewing about 15 books, so sometimes I’m slow in promoting.)

Today, I got another request.  I look forward to hearing from experts.  I can always learn, both by the way in which they approach me and in looking at the materials they send to me.

I’ve clipped an image of his prospecting email, having blocked a lot of things for obvious reasons.  As I later discovered, this person is an expert in prospecting and cold calling so I expected to learn a huge amount from his prospecting approach.

Prospecting Letter1.  So the first thing I notice, his prospecting letter is personalized, but clearly he’s forwarded the base template several times, just pasting in my name.  The three blue lines on the left are Outlook editing/review symbols.  My ego isn’t so out of control that I expect a unique letter.  A standard template with my name is fine.  I just expect something that’s professional in appearance and content.

2  I don’t know the person, so I have no context to understand his background, skills, expertise, and experience as a sales expert who wants to share his wisdom with eager sales people focused on self improvement.  He provided nothing to me.  Fortunately, Outlook shows me he’s on LinkedIn, I look at his profile.

3.  His LinkedIn Profile is basically a promotion for his book.  The total number of words in his profile is roughly 180-200.  There is no background or experience, he has a black image of his book that simply says Volume 2.  He cites one job he’s had since January 2014 but no descriptor in the job, and no other information.  I’m not a big fan of LinkedIn endorsements, he’s identified a whole bunch of skills, but only has 1 endorsement for sales, he’s a member of 2 groups, and has no recommendations.  I’m also not a big fan of the “who has the most contacts” contest, but he only has 151 contacts, so he probably isn’t leveraging LinkedIn to build his network and relationships.  So it makes me wonder, if he’s an expert in selling, and particularly in cold calling and prospecting, clearly he would leverage all the tools available to help research, connect, and engage.  Also, if he is an expert, he would clearly recognize the value of a powerful LinkedIn profile in building his personal brand and reputation.

4.  Then there is the obvious spelling error–but, all of you no — oops, know— how bad I am about that, so I’m being a little of a jerk with that comment  😉

5.  Then we get to the “ask.”  He wants me to offer a free eBook to my readers.  Apparently this eBook will also promote the 580 page book he is selling.  I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, I don’t begrudge him making money.  But he doesn’t provide me a copy of the eBook so that I can review it, making sure it’s something I feel comfortable in promoting.  He doesn’t provide me a way to get his eBook.  I discover his website (decoding his email address).  He didn’t feel it was worthy to point me to the website to learn more–I understand, it’s clearly not ready for anyone to view it.

So what conclusions do I draw?

I expect someone who presents themselves as a “sales expert,” particularly one on prospecting and cold calling, to be credible and demonstrate that expertise.  So I take this prospecting letter as a demonstration of his prowess in prospecting, and an example of the approaches he would recommend as best practice.

He highlights the importance of Self-Marketing and Relationships in his prospecting letter.  So I take his LinkedIn profile as a demonstration of what he would recommend his audience do to market themselves and build rich relationships.

Based on his execution in this letter and the “research” anyone would naturally do, I wonder, can I learn anything from him?  Is it worth even following up, is it worth promoting his eBook and helping promote his other books?  Would I be serving you, my readers, who have committed to learning and continuous improvement?  (To be honest, most people wouldn’t invest the time in doing this much.)

I hope this isn’t me being a picky jerk.  I genuinely want to help and promote people who have something interesting to say, and from whom we can learn–even if I don’t agree with their point of view.  But have I drawn the wrong conclusions?

Our customers examine us in the same way.  They look at every communication, every interaction.  They expect professionalism, they expect us to create value, they expect us to demonstrate our leadership with each one.  If we don’t, why should they invest their time in us?  Why should the find us credible and believe anything we say?

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Hi Dave- you are not the jerk in this story. The mere fact that someone would make this “ask” without picking up the phone first (especially as a sales professional) speaks volumes.

    The only jerky thing you did was wasting so much of your time. But the silver lining is that the blog contains many lessons in how to “ask” in all the wrong ways.

    Hey Dave, wanna review our books 🙂

    Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director
    Trust Across America-Trust Around the World

    • Touche Barbara. Actually, I was about to send the email to my Junk folder, but then realized it would be a fun blog post–that’s my excuse for investing the time. Would love to review some books, but I need a couple months space 😉

  2. Dave,

    You weren’t being picky. It’s important to remember that our first opportunity to impress – whether in person, over the phone, or in the written word – is a valuable commodity that is in extremely short supply. In fact, each time you use it, that’s it – it’s gone.

    Prospecting is hard. I think the letter writer proved that.

    Great comments and thoughts on this post.


    • Rich: You are so right. The very first contact, by email, phone or face to face is so critical. So it’s important we put our best foot forward! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Regards, Dave

  3. And, I thought you were going to give me
    THE perfect prospecting letter!! :))

    So there are no secrets to selling, just as I thought:

    Have a great week Dave, thanks again!

  4. You are so MEAN! Almost “curmudgeonly!”

    Fantastic dissection of this “marketing piece.” What is sad about it is that this is exactly the kind of eye that the author should have taken to his own piece before sending it out. Would HE not be cynical were he to receive a similar communication with such a weak valu proposition and such poor execution? Sales people need to STOP being so lazy, STOP trying to manipulate people for their own gain, and START getting to KNOW their customers.

    Had he even started with, “hey Dave, I read your recent posts about cold calling…” at The very least he probably would have avoided this spanking! 🙂

    • Kurt, I could never live up to the standard you set 😉

      Thanks very much. As everyone can see, there was virtually nothing right about the letter. Had he started as you suggested, or given a little more background and perhaps a copy of the eBook, I would have been more receptive. I may have turned him down, but I would have at least done so thoughtfully, perhaps recommending people that would have been a better fit.

      The really frightening thing (and this is where I may be a bit of a jerk) is this is a guy who is holding himself up to be a sales expert. Someone who can contribute to others and help develop their capabilities in selling. But there was nothing right about what this person was doing–the letter, the LinkedIn profile, the Website. Our profession does better.

      I don’t know if this person reads my blog. The gutsy thing to do, and which would earn my endless respect, it to take the critique, assess it, fix some of the things I’ve highlighted, then come back to me, saying, “I heard you, thank you, I’ve listened and corrected the things that need to be corrected. I’d like one more shot.” We all make mistakes, I can’t count the number of truly stupid things I’ve done. I still struggle with my own prospecting letters. What’s most important is how we recover and move forward.

      Always appreciate your comments Kurt!

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