I was talking with a CMO from a well-known and highly respected national brand. At the conclusion of our 30-minute conversation she told me that while we were talking she received four emails from agencies soliciting her business. One was so obviously a cut and paste because her name was in a different typeface from the rest of the email. She said that was par for the course. Agencies more than any other vendor are so often lazy and clueless.
I was excited to be a witness to this eternal problem. There is much written about how business development people should approach prospecting. I’ve got lots of sound advice and suggest you start here. For more fun, a quick Google search returns over 25,000 links for new business prospecting know-how. You can find training videos, smart blog posts, and a wide variety of experts including me. I haven’t read them all but will bet almost every one of them, in one form or another, tells you not to be a cut-and-paste agency.
According to the CMO, as she scolds the agencies trying to besiege her castle, “Personalize your correspondence to me. If you want my business – work for it. Do your homework and come to me with something of value otherwise, you are nothing more than noise, annoying noise at that. I’ll listen if it is something that will solve my problems or improve my efforts. You can’t do that with a generic email about how great you are or how incredible your results are or how much experience you have in my category.” You can find more CMO advice here.
I listen intently. I imagined myself on the other end of that scolding. I thought back to the days when, out of convenience or haste or naiveté, I did the same. It is a huge problem and getting worse despite all the tools and knowledge available to agencies. This poor CMO got four incompetent agencies harassing her in a span of 30 minutes. My own research shows that agency prospecting has increased over 75% in the past five years. Marketing executives told me they receive on average 3 – 10 solicitations per week while some get more than 20.
I understand why agencies do this. It’s completely contrary to the way prospects want to engage, yet it is human nature. More is better. There is, in fact, successful sales people who espouse the idea of more contacts, more often, lead to more sales. Quantity over quality. They believe it is nothing more than a numbers game. Contact 10 or 100 or 1,000 and some percent of those will respond. Never give up and never slow down. Make 25 calls a day. Send 100 emails a day and double that tomorrow.
I recently read a post from a sales organization claiming incredible results from this kind of sales practice. Cut and paste ad infinitum. Interrupt, disrupt, catch ‘em off guard. Don’t take no for an answer. Call them first thing, last thing, and on their way out to lunch. Plow through your list as fast as you can until you get a willing victim. It all sounds a bit like a bully. I’m going to beat you into submission until you say yes. Of course, I am exaggerating, but the impression left on the other end of that encounter has been described to me as being bullied. Would you want to work with a sales bully?
My solution, turns out, did not solve her problem, but that’s ok because it did provoke good conversation, and she asked me to stay in touch. As we finished our call my new and very astute CMO friend suggested those four annoying agencies should pick five companies and do research about them, their competitors and customers before emailing. Find a way to help with solutions that are relevant, valuable and actionable. Certainly, industry experience, client successes, great creative are important but only for credibility. There are thousands of agencies who offer those same qualities, some better. What separates them is the time and effort invested to help solve a problem. After all, isn’t that what a good partner is? Isn’t that why your clients love you?
If you can’t, why would they want to work with you in the first place? Don’t be a cut-and-paste agency. And don't be a sales bully.
I would appreciate your thoughts, comments, disagreement, affirmation, whatever comes to mind. I always enjoy a conversation about new business. If you liked this post and want more practical advice delivered to your inbox sign up for the new business newsletter. #LetsGrow!