Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Yaneek Page | Here’s what a bad sales pitch looks like

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A key lesson is that an introductory email or phone call, should never be a hard sales pitch.

It's that time of year when many businesses are mobilising their sales teams to hit the ground running in hot pursuit of aggressive sales and productivity targets.

'It's a new year, team! Let's get out there and sell, sell, sell' - that mantra is likely being repeated to thousands of company representatives across the country, who will bravely bear the weight of lofty annual budgets on their shoulders.

In fact, some companies are so bullish on sales that they shell out huge sums to stage elaborate kick-start events for their salesforce, complete with dynamic motivational speakers, energetic entertainers and a barrage of new incentives and bonuses.

However, even the most vigorous operational drive, backed up by the finest motivational fanfare can be completely undone by poorly crafted sales pitches. As an example, I recently received an unsolicited sales pitch in my inbox, which was a study in how to turn off potential customers with a few distasteful lines and ruin their impression of your company. It read:

"Hey Yaneekpage! As I'm sure you would agree, the current kingpins of Instagram are very underwhelming and undeserving of all the praise, love and fame that they receive. I believe your page could be the next big thing but you lack the numbers and help to get where you need to be. With our help instead of being stuck at 16k amount of followers or a lowly 3% engagement rate with a measly 412 likes per post you could escalate to 32k or 63k is even possible.

"We've seen it all. From the top to bottom and bottom to top. We've seen and been a huge part of many pages that start out as tiny residential townhomes and grown all the way to the massive skyscrapers that they are today! Here are some of our successes: Company ABC 1.21M followers; Mrs XYZ 2.23M followers, etc.

"To put it simply, we know what we're doing. There is no better place to acquire assistance for your social media following!"

The first big mistake the sales representative made was sending an unsolicited sales pitch with voluminous accompanying attachments, detailing services we had no interest in. For us, it was like receiving junk mail that we would not only delete, but block the sender as a nuisance or spammer.

A key lesson is that an introductory email or phone call, should never be a hard sales pitch, because it is presumptuous and ineffective to pitch a solution when you haven't even confirmed the hopeful customer's challenges or needs, much less interest.

In other words, this would be akin to a doctor walking into a random public space, such as a supermarket, and diagnosing shoppers who aren't sick and have never spoken with him much less asked for professional advice.

Another major mistake was with language, grammar, content and tone of the email. It was clear that this was a somewhat generic message, that was completely tone deaf to our basic values, mission and target market. The subject line 'Yaneekpage, beat the FOMO' was improperly written, inane and a complete turn off.

The acronym FOMO stands for fear of missing out. Ironically, we don't think we're missing out and are far more interested in engaging with a specific segment of the market rather than huge, random numbers of accounts.

'Hey!' is not an appropriate greeting in most professional spaces, particularly in Jamaica, where we tend to be keen on formality and very sensitive to and observant of titles. A more appropriate salutation would have been 'Dear Mrs XYZ'.

In addition, the opening statement - "As I'm sure you would agree the current kingpins of Instagram are very under-whelming and undeserving of all the praise, love and fame that they receive" - was not only audacious but offensive. Many people are wary of, if not turned off by, sales pitches that broadside others with no just cause but to make a case in their own self-interest.

By far, the most abrasive parts of the pitch were the false premise that doubling or tripling our Instagram following was a key objective and the condescending descriptions of our activity as lowly' and 'measly', and proffering 'model accounts' which were irrelevant to our strategic direction and goals.

Sales people should note that harshly criticising or minimising the existing or past efforts, infrastructure or team of hopeful customers is like greeting them with a slap in the face. It makes for a bad first impression.

Finally, it is critical to remember that culturally, Jamaicans are highly sensitive to and unforgiving of being 'dissed'. Therefore, your pitch will be more impactful and better received if it includes positive language exclusively, and omits any reference to any negative words such as poor, no, never, nonetheless, but, unfortunately, to name a few.

- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator/executive producer of 'The Innovators' TV series.


Twitter: @yaneekpage