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Features and Benefits: Why People Don’t Like Salespeople

January 25, 2010

I have a confession to make: I think most salespeople suck.

Yes, I’m in sales, but the sad truth of things is this: most people in sales absolutely suck, and it’s because of them that, not surprisingly, most people hate salespeople.

Allow me to elaborate.

Last week I called Acme Widgets and, as my company manufactures widgets that tie in rather nicely with Acme’s widgets, to the extent that we could even help them increase their sales of said widgets, I assumed that whomever I spoke with would be interested to hear what we were up to.

Well, you know what they say happens when you “ASS-U-ME”, and sure enough, that proved true once again today. It started the moment I called.

Press one for…

OK, I get it. Big company, thousands of phone calls, and besides, everyone know how important it is to allow callers to feel comforted by the phone equivalent of standing in line, all the while knowing that they are now part of a completely dehumanized process which will treat them with complete, and ambivalent fairness. Often, this is accompanied by some music which, however, isn’t music that I’d listen to, but which, in stark contrast, is music that somebody else thinks I’d like to listen to. This is, more often than not, insulting to my musical taste.

Score = Acme -1

Regardless, I listened carefully to the menu (in case some options had recently changed) and successfully navigated to the correct human being. She was, understandably, unable to help me (which I anticipated), but she was able to direct me to the correct sub-division of Acme Widgets.

Eric answered the phone.

Hello this is Eric, can I put you on hold?

It was more of a “Here’s what’s about to happen to you, so get prepared to deal with it” statement than a question, but nevertheless, I accepted this because I had no choice.

Me: Suuuuurrre

And yes, I made suuurrre to draw it out when I said it.

Score = Acme -2, Eric -1

[Not a minute of music-free time passed]

Eric: Hi, this is Eric, how may I help you?

Me: OK Eric, here’s the deal. I’m with Cyberdyne Inc, and we manufacture widgets which tie in rather nicely with yours. In my many sales adventures, I’ve sold quite a few similar widgets from one of your competitors, and, as you are no doubt aware, they’ve come up with a new widget which is designed specifically for Application-X. Question: Is Acme heading down a similar path? Do you guys have anything like that, or is anything like that currently in development?

Eric: No

Score = Acme -3, Eric -2

Me: [Silence. He can do better than that for an answer, and I'm going to make him explain himself]

After a few seconds, of silence, Eric blinked first

Eric: At least, I don’t think so. If you’ll wait a second, I’ll put you on hold and check with one of the engineers in that division.

Me: Suuuuurrre

Score = Acme -4, Eric -3

[Not even 5-seconds pass, if that]

Eric: No, we’re not doing anything to address Application-X. [Now, what you can't tell from this is the tone in which he said it. When he said "Application-X", he said it with a degree of incredulousness that made it quite clear that what he really meant to say was, "No, we're not doing anything to address Application-X, dumbass."

Score = Acme -5, Eric -4

I know, I know...I preach it constantly: No Mind Reading! And while that's generally true, I've been in sales (and thus, paying attention to people and what they say and don't say, and how they say and don't say it) for several years now, and while I don't claim that I had the ability to read Eric's mind, I simultaneously claim that I'm not wrong in my analysis. And, there was also a hint of " take that, bitch", in the tone, and I could practically see him folding his arms across his chest as he struggled, in vain, to wipe the smug, Cheshire grin from his face.

Score = Acme -6, Eric -6 [sorry, but you don't get to be an asshole, and only lose 1-point]

Me: [after a long pause where, considering the many things I could do in response, decided the best thing was to accept his incompetence, and move on.] “Well, in that case, thanks for your help”

Eric says thanks and hangs up as I think to myself, “For the love of money Eric, STAY THE FUCK OFF MY TEAM!!!

For those of you who don’t work in sales (actually, everybody’s in sales whether they realize it or not, but regardless, for those of you who don’t consider yourselves to be sales people), I want you to see what Acme and Eric did wrong, and why people hate them for it.

Number 1
I told Eric that I sold products of the same type that his company makes. That is, if Acme sold Pepsi, it’d be like I told Eric that I’ve sold a lot of Coke. Whether Eric wasn’t smart enough to pick up on this, or too lazy to care doesn’t matter; he should have asked at least “a” question, but he didn’t, and that’s a strike: Score = Acme -6, Eric -7

Number 2
I also told Eric that I sold some of his competitors products. One would think it’d have been prudent for Eric to, oh, I dunno, ask a fucking question about that! Such as, “Really? Which products of theirs do you sell? (Eric -8) How many? (Eric -9) To whom? (Eric -10) What sort of widgets do you make? (Eric -11)

Number 3
When Eric told me he’d check with an engineer, he absolutely failed to convince me he did anything other than push the “Hold” button for 3-5 seconds, twirl his finger in a circular motion next to his right temple, and then pick the phone back up, declaring that he’d exhausted the resources of his extensive engineering network, but came up empty handed. It is impossible…in-fucking-possible…to get an answer that fast from an engineer. Period. An engineer would have asked questions. If he’d really asked an engineer, there’d have been some sort of qualifier in Eric’s reply; something like, “When you say Widget, do you mean the left-threaded version or the right-threaded version?” And he’d have said this even if the engineer he asked knew full-damn-well that they didn’t do either. Because that’s the kind of shit that they do. But none of that happened, and I know that he didn’t ask anybody. (Eric -12)

There’s a bunch of “Eric’s” out there because it’s awfully darned easy for any incompetent asshole to get the title “Sales” printed next to his/her name on a business card, and then go and screw things up for the rest of us.

What happens is, by the time that *I* walk in the prospects door, he/she is, justifiably, fed-the-hell-up with incompetent, lazy, unimaginative salespeople. Now, on one hand, that makes things easy for me, because the bar has been set so damned low for what it means to do a good job, that when I do things like (1) show an interest in what the other person is saying, (2) make a sincere effort to understand what their world is like, and (3) basically “care”…things I’d do anyway, whether I was on the job or not, that it’s not too hard to seriously “WOW!” the prospect. However, on the other hand, it’s hard, and I do mean hard, to get past that initial, “so what worthless crap are you about to waste my time with today”, getting-to-know-one-another stage. Once I get past it, I’m golden, but getting past it is extraordinarily difficult, in no small part, because a hundred “Eric’s” have preceded me, and the prospect is understandably jaded.

So, to all the Eric’s out there: either git-yer-shit together and at least *pretend* to be a professional, or please, stay off my team!

After my frustrating experience with Acme, I decided to send them an e-mail:

Appreciate the help today guys.

As we manufacture Widgets that operate Dumaflotz’s, and regularly demonstrate and sell Dumaflotz’s, we naturally have our ears fairly close to the ground on new developments in the industry. Yes, we were a little surprised to find out that Acme had no interest in pursuing a product similar to Yoyodyne’s new Widget-X-2000, but then again, we learn something new every day.

Appreciate you guys letting us know Acme’s position on this, and thanks for your time.

But the e-mail address ~ the one listed on their website ~ proved incorrect, and my e-mail bounced back.


Final Score: Overall -20 (Eric -12, Acme -8) Sorry Acme, but when you employ lazy, incompetent salespeople to represent your organization, you share, whether your realize it or not, in their incompetence. There is a penalty for it; there’s no such thing as “free” stupidity. That, and you lose 2 points for having an incorrect e-mail address listed on your “Contact Us” page. Seriously. Are you really that stupid?


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