In my senior year of high school, I was required to take a class called Principles of Democracy. The class was an American History class, and it included material on the formation of the United States, as well as the principles and formation of our government. I was seventeen years old and my love for history had not yet developed.
An assistant football coach, Mr. Lakeman, who was clearly just punching the clock so he could continue to coach football, taught the class. He was killing time waiting on his retirement. And he was killing us. Each day we were required to sit quietly and read. About three days each week, he required us to spend the entire class answering questions and writing a paper. It was horrible.
Worse than the sitting quietly and the writing was Mr. Lakeman’s grading methodology. It didn’t take too many weeks to discover that, regardless of the content or the quality of the work, girls in the class received A’s, boys in the class received C’s, unless they played sports. If the boy played sports, they received a higher grade to remain eligible.
It was blatant, and it was unfair. One day I decided that I would copy Karen’s work. Karen sat next to me and we would whisper back and forth like the prisoners that we were until the teacher would yell at the class to be quiet. I turned in Karen’s work, exactly as she had written it. Karen received an A, I received a C. I had my proof; had he read it and recognized the answers, he would have given me an F for copying her work, or worse. But Mr. Lakeman never read a word.
I shared this fact with everyone I knew. One kid sitting a few rows away decided to test my claim that regardless of the quality of the work that you turned in, girls would receive an A, and boys would receive a C, even though I had the paper to prove it.
During the next class we were required to spend writing, this young man wrote and turned in a fictional piece entitled The Sex Life of the Bolivian Bullfrog. I am not sure there is even such a thing as a Bolivian Bullfrog, but the piece, not surprisingly, earned him the grade of C.
Written Sales Material and Bolivian Bullfrogs
Your sales collateral probably isn’t much different than my friend’s paper on Bolivian Bullfrogs. And your prospective client, dream client or otherwise, isn’t often very different than Mr. Lakeman.
Your sales collateral looks about the same as your competitor’s material. Assumptions are made on the quality of your offering without your dream client ever having read a word of the content that your company spent time and money developing, even though it might tell your story in a way that differentiates you.
I am only half joking when I suggest to you that you could write your version of the Sex Life of Bolivian Bullfrogs right in the middle of your sales collateral, your proposal, and your RFP response and never hear a word of complaint.
Written sales material is required. But don’t believe for a second that is impactful or that it will make a difference in your pursuit of your dream client. Here are two areas where salespeople believe that their written material can make a difference, when nothing could be further from the truth.
The Objection: Just Send Me Information
One of the best-known defenses to a cold call that doesn’t create value is to feign interest while appearing too busy to meet. After the salesperson is convinced that their prospect or dream client is really nice, the dream client says something like: “I’d love to learn a little more about you and your company but, unfortunately, I don’t have any time to meet right now. Can you please send me some information to review?”
This objection means one thing and one thing only: this prospective client believes that you are wasting their time and that they would like to avoid wasting more of it. It means you have not created value, and so you have not created interest.
Your material will surely not be read, and it will undoubtedly end up in the trash (or maybe their recycle bin of they are environmentally concerned). This is true even if it is your company’s best four-color, glossy presentation.
The Hope: I Want to Send Them Something
Occasionally a salesperson wants to send their dream client something to gain their attention. They hope that something they send will capture their dream client’s attention. The challenge with sending material is that most of it is about you, your company, and your offering. When similar material comes to your home, we call it junk mail. What do we call it when it comes to the office? Yes, still junk mail.
Any material you send to a dream client as part of your nurture toolkit must be about your client. It must contain an idea that they can use to create better results for their company and their team. And even then, don’t sit by the phone and wait for it to ring.
In order to create value for your dream client, you have to be able to gain their attention and you have to be able to help them produce better outcomes. It is still the salesperson, and not the written material, that has the ability to make the difference in any deal.
While written sales material is necessary and customary, it does nothing to create value for you or for your dream clients. Most of it goes unread, or is simply discarded. Your limited time is better spent developing the skills to cold call and generate interest than by sending material.
- When you send written material, what is your expected outcome?
- Is your desire to send material based on an attempt to generate interest that you cannot generate on the telephone or in person?
- How effective in gaining your interest are most of the written offerings that come to your home or your office?
- What could you send that would differentiate you and gain your dream client’s interest?
- Do you know a top 20% salesperson that sends written material as a method to gain attention or to influence a dream client to give them their time?
For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.
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