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When Will Sales People Stop This Insanely Stupid Behavior?

by David Brock on May 14th, 2011

Why do executives, marketers, and sales people continue this insane behavior?! Why do they invest their time and precious budgets in creating meaningless SPAM which, at best is ignored, at worst creates people who are hostile to their brands and companies? A week ago, I wrote about insane telemarketing calls, “Can I Have 15 Minutes Of Your Time?”

Companies (in this case a global 50 technology company) waste millions in dollars and people hours, diminishing their brand value with mindless marketing and sales drivel.

Here’s the latest piece that sneaked through my SPAM filters:


FROM: Sunny@some nameless recruiting company dot com


SUBJECT: Doing Business With You – Your IT staffing company-Application for Supplier Registration


My name is Sunny and I am seeking some advice about an introduction of our
company Some Nameless Recruiting Company, Inc., a provider of IT professionals on a contract or
executive search basis.

Candidly, I am at a crossroads about how to further an introduction at your
company, can you point me in the right direction about I.T. staffing needs?

I request you to consider Some Nameless Recruiting Company Inc as your Vendor for all your IT Staffing

Thanks & regards

There is NOTHING right about this email, so I won’t bother to critique it.

But why do sales people and managers persist in this–buy a list, send mindless drivel, out of 10,000 names, 5,000 bounce backs, you get one response that says: Stop bothering me!. From that “success” go and buy another 100,ooo names, get 50,ooo bounce backs, and now get 9 responses—Please leave me alone, and 1 that says, I’m looking for a job, can you hire or place me? Wow, 10 x the response, lets go buy some more…… and the death spiral continues.

Now if this were just a small number of companies doing this, but every week I look through my SPAM filter and see dozens of these from companies large and small. The biggest offenders are insurance companies—because my name pops up on “sales” queries, I get every mindless piece of “make millions while screwing your customer” offers to sell various forms of insurance—all with the big name insurance companies behind it (OK, I added the screwing your customer piece). Financial services companies, and recruiting organizations are close behind.

Then there are the companies that force their marketing and sales promotions on you because you subscribe to their service. For example, a major supply chain management service provider has managed to get a very large client of mine to outsource their procurement, invoicing, payables process to them. It’s a great service and very convenient. However, since I have to use this service to invoice my client, I also get daily feeds of “opportunities.” If I try to stop those feeds, I also stop communications my client might send me through this channel. In order to communicate with my customer on invoicing and payable issues, I have to accept these mindless promotions, but it makes me think less of this company and their services.

I subscribe to a number of local news feeds to keep informed about things happening in business around the country. Now, this company uses this subscription list to send daily ads to buy something. So I get the newsfeeds with their embedded ads–which I don’t mind, and I get these direct mail pieces on buying something. Since I subscribe to the feeds for about 15 cities around the US, I get the same direct mail 15 times—every day. If I change my subscription options, I can only stop the news feed. Is this the customer experience they want to create? What do they tell their advertisers, when people like me start unsubscribing to their entire service?

Many experts talk about targeting, about tailoring your messages, about smart, meaningful, and timely content. I respond to programs that engage me in things important to me. I buy from people who do this. Quality always wins over quantity.

Sales and marketing is difficult. Catching customers’ attentions is increasingly challenging. Massive quantities of mindless drivel magnifies the problem. Smart, focused, well executed programs stand out and produce results. Which do you choose to invest your time and funding into?

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  1. Hi David, Agree – smart, focused, well executed programs stand out and produce results. But the proverbial problem is how do you maximize results and minimize costs to product results.

    • Paul, thanks for the comment. Taking the time to identify your sweet spot, developing programs and approaches that provide insght and value, doing research and targeting smartly will produce higher yield than the spray and pray approach.

  2. Mike L. permalink

    Sorry: Dumb Question IMHO.

    Good salespeople inherently know how to get the quality leads. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a salesperson who voluntarily subscribed to such spam/shotgun tactics.

    However, poor management is VERY familiar with managing by rote number, e.g. # of contact hits, contacts in the DB, response rate (even bad responses), # of phone calls per day/week, etc., etc.

    Wherein lay the problem?

    I suggest a more constructive conversation would be how do good Sales Managers manage both up & down in the organization to develop qualified leads? Lead quality often cannot be easily quantified which makes the upward management of information challenging, and ensuring you’re getting the right amount of quality prospecting activity makes downward management equally challenging.

    I submit the more difficult of the two is upward management – managing your managers. What metrics, tools, lead qualification methods, etc., do readers of this use with their management to capture & report the concept of a “quality” lead and the effort required to gain such a nugget?

    • Mike, you make some very interesting points. I tend to agree, too many managers tend to manage strictly by the numbers without any real insight into what’s going on and the real results. One of the problems is developing strong and meaningful programs requires a lot of work, insight, discipline and focus. In the press of every day business, it’s much easier (though) not right to focus on the easy. That’s why a lot of these programs get implemented.

      We can’t overlook the fact that these programs, at some level, work–otherwise why would people continue to invest in them?

      Finally, I would tend to disagree on sales people knowing how to get quality leads. One of the biggest problems I see with sales people is they do a terrible job of qualifying, and ending up wasting too much time chasing bad opportunities.

      Thanks for joining the discussion.

  3. Peter Reynolds permalink

    David, I see a link between good sales management and quality lead qualification. In my experience, good sales managers will help their people to identify and concentrate on quality leads; poor sales managers, as already picked up, hide behind numbers showing activity, not achievement.

    I’ve worked with firms in Europe, the US and Asia and my other observation is that US firms tend to have more Activity Junkies than elsewhere, and it’s the managing upwards that’s often the real challenge.

    Like Mike L I think this is a topic worth exploring.

    • Peter, thanks for joining the conversation. I spent a lot of time in EMEA/APAC as well. Until you brought it up, I hadn’t thought about it, but your comment is spot on in terms of my own experience!

      It is, fundamentally a management issue–afterall the sales people are only doing what managers want them to do. There does seem to be a higher propensity for “activity” in the US than in many of the other countries (but bad news given that many of those areas look to the US for best practices in sales and marketing.).

      Thanks for the insightful comment! Hope to see you here more frequently.

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