Vendors, Customers, Community
I love vendors—I’m heavily involved with the SQL Server Community and the support of Microsoft and the many other vendors in our space makes our community possible. I recommend their software to friends; I know most of their evangelists. I’m not always the best customer, I’ll admit. I have done evaluations of vendor software I probably wasn’t planning to buy, just to be able share feedback and try to give a little back. Some vendors love this, others hate it. I’ve been slow in responding to follow up emails, especially after attending events, because I have other priorities than returning sales calls as soon as they come in.
Unfortunately, sometimes you have to deal with vendor sales reps who are focused so much on doing what’s right for them they refuse to hear what’s right for the customer (or prospective customer). They just won’t leave you alone. I understand these folks work off of commission, so they are trying to get a sale, and I (representing a Fortune 100 company) may represent a big target, but there is a right way and a wrong way to sell to me. Pissing me off is generally a bad idea.
Shortly after a SQL Saturday, I started receiving emails (to my personal account, not work) from a vendor I knew, but from a sales representative, whom I had never met. Remember, this is a SQLSaturday, so they would have my full name and company name from the registration. Even if I used a different email address, my name isn’t that common and he could have made a reasonable guess that I was the same person as the other person at the same company with the same name. Or he could have asked me.
The emails looked like the standard from the vendor—I’ve already worked pretty extensively with this vendor on evaluating their product. It will be a good fit for our future environment, but we just aren’t there yet. I mention this, because I’m 95% certain my name is in their sales lead system. If previous sales reps managed to have extended conversations with me about their product and didn’t add this to their sales lead system, then that’s another way that something went wrong. But I highly doubt that. About a week ago, I got this email from the sales rep.
How Not To Send an Email
I saw this email, I thought, “Wow this just comes off as really desperate and annoying. Even worse, I’m thinking this is the last person on Earth I want to work with in bringing in a solution to my company. It’s even more damning because I’ve worked with these folks before. I don’t know if this guy is my new sales rep, another rep trying to steal business from the other, or just naïve at how large enterprises acquire software. As my friend Karen Lopez likes to say “They will never treat you better than they did during the sales process”. I wonder if his boss knows he’s talking to prospective customers in this manner?
I will admit that occasionally things fall through to my spam folder. I sometimes don’t respond to vendor contacts as soon as they want. I probably should have let him know that I was already in their system and ask him to work with the other sales reps about the status of our project evaluations I assumed that he would look at the sales system eventually before making me do that data mining for him. The truth is I’m not going to have the time or resources to work with multiple competing reps at the same vendor. If I need to talk to someone there, I’ll work with one of the reps who I’ve already been working with.
This isn’t so much about the number of emails, but about the tone of the emails. I just don’t understand why a sales rep would ignore the data they already have about me and my company. Maybe this company pays sales people based on each contact? Maybe having lots of duplicate customers in the system benefits somebody?
I know trying to track down leads is a tough job. It requires a lot of follow up getting people to respond to voicemails and emails because so little of their time is allocated for investigating new software. If I responded positively to every request for a call or a demo from every vendor I come in contact with I’d be busy 100 hours a week doing just that.
It gets worse though.
These emails made me feel bad—as in uncomfortable, like I was obligated to reach out to the rep, and it was my problem. I am extremely thankful to all the people and companies who support our community, and would recommend nearly all of their products to serve specific needs to my friends and clients. In fact, I recommended this vendor’s product in a presentation I gave last week. Sales reps—just use your heads—if I’m not returning your email/voice mail/call to my dog’s cell phone/Linked In message, it means as a company we aren’t interested right now. Nothing more.
I agree that sales people have to be…assertive… in following up. And I think we we all need to do a better job responding at least once to vendors *if we have engaged with them* some way like a SQLSaturday.
it’s the off-topic and marginally-on-topic ones that drive me crazy. I respond politely with “Thanks for reaching out to me. I don’t have any plans to acquire solutions in this area, but if a client need comes up, I’ll be sure to contact you”.
If the sales person follows up in 4 months and asks if I have any leads for them, I may or may not respond, given my day. If the tone escalates, then I make a special inbox rule for them.
I worked with a popular vendor’s sales person to get about $50k in software for a client. After that I could not get the sales guy to back off. He started calling other people at my client, from HR to AP. I finally had to add a rule for his email. It hurt him; it hurt is company. My client probably wouldn’t have bought more of their software, but my other clients weren’t going to get a referral from me for fear of unleashing another salesrep stalking episode. And I really liked their software. But I couldn’t risk being associated with their sales process.