Everyone's a Prospect


Facing a sales downturn, many companies decide the best solution is to sell harder when really what they should be doing is selling smarter.

I just got off the phone with an account representative for a major office supply company who wanted to drive out to my office and take me to lunch. I inquired, "Do you know how much we spend with you annually?" The answer was no. When I shared that we were a long-time low three figure customer of theirs, we both quickly agreed that the meeting probably wasn't necessary.
A salesperson from a computer retailer called me to announce we had been upgraded to "national account status" and that all sorts of wonderful benefits wil be ours. After confirming this special status didn't cost anything, I said, "Sure, why not?" The consequence of this was daily calls from this salesperson, "just checking in to see what your needs were for today?" This from a company from which I had bought one small PC three years ago.

 
I could go on with stories like this, but the scary thing is, these are companies that know something about us, and they could easily know more with third-party data overlays. But rather than do the up-front profiling and segmentation work, these companies chose the scattershot approach, squandering scarce and expensive sales resources in the process. 
 
Of course, no matter how wasteful these calls are, they are head and shoulders above the sales prospecting calls I receive. One was from a roofing company (hint: a tenant in a multi-story office building isn't likely to be involved in decisions regarding the building's roof). I get an endless stream of sales calls from IT outsourcing companies (hint: number of employees is a good proxy for scale of a company's IT infrastructure). There was the real estate agent who wanted to lease me 100,000 square feet of warehouse space (hint: consulting firms tends not to have warehouses). 
 
The lesson for data publishers is not to get too far ahead of your customers. Some of the new data products I have seen lately are breathtaking in their sophistication and ability to segment and target prospects, but in the wrong hands they just won't get results. If you've got a cutting edge data product, never underestimate the need to train and support your customers, because if they don't succeed you won't either. And always remember that much of what we take for granted as data producers is nothing short of rocket science to those who use our products.

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