You probably get a lot of the same prospecting emails that I get. Whether it’s someone trolling groups in LinkedIn, or somehow they’ve gotten your email address, I get dozens of prospecting letters each week.
All of them are very predictable:
- They apologize for intruding.
- They talk about themselves and their products.
- They always present a compelling “value proposition” on work they’ve done with “organizations like yours.”
I won’t waste my time on the first two items. By now, I hope we all know this is really bad practice. But, I’d like to spend time on the third point. I see lots of sales people making huge mistakes with their use of references and prospecting value propositions.
Just using the prospecting letters I’ve gotten in the past week, all the sales people wanted to impress me with the results they’ve produced for others, implying similar results could be produced in our company, if we got the chance to learn more about their products and services, ultimately buying them.
There are some that want to impress me with their prestigious customer list, with claims of what they’ve done for Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Citicorp, GE, IBM and dozens of other companies. One said, “We helped [Very Large Software Company] grow revenue by 33% in 90 days. We are certain you can achieve the same results!”
Others recognize we are a small business, today I got one: “We helped a small appliance company achieve [These Results.]
I could go on with at least a dozen of other examples. Each is trying to use a generic results oriented Value Proposition to get me hot and lathered, curious about what they can do for our company.
In reality, while what they are selling may be very interesting to me, their Value Propositions are irrelevant–to the point of creating a negative reaction.
I’d have to be crazy or even more egomaniacal than I already am to compare our company to Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and so forth. The scale of what they do, their business models, the products and services they provide are so far beyond what our company does that the references are irrelevant. Our company may have the same problems, opportunities, and challenges as they do; but the scale and the solutions to those problems are very different.
Of course I’m impressed by those names, they are clients of ours and we leverage them for references where appropriate, as well. But they are irrelevant to us as models of what we could achieve.
For the guys that use small business references, a professional services company is completely different from a manufacturing company, or a small financial services company. So whatever great results you’ve produced there, are meaningless to me. The business model and target customers of a small appliances company, are completely different for a professional services company. The metrics the sales person was referring to were great metrics for a consumer product company, but irrelevant to ours. While the sales person should be proud of what they produced for that customer, the fact that it’s used as a reference in prospecting our company causes me to be alarmed.
The inappropriate choice of these references, whether to impress or overwhelm me, only tells me that you don’t understand my business. You don’t understand our business model, how we make money, who we evaluate when we are trying to grow and improve. It demonstrates that you didn’t take the time to understand our business. It’s not that hard to do, but you apparently didn’t care. I’m very interested in organizations that have helped professional services companies grow and improve. So demonstrate your experience and knowledge of those.
Customer references and the results you have helped your customers achieve can be very powerful. Make sure you are using the references that are most impactful to the people you are prospecting. Take the time to understand the prospect, choosing the case study that will be most relevant–then you’ve a great opportunity to capture their attention–at least for the first call.