The First Impression

This post was destined to become a practical exercise. While I was trying to summarise key points for principles of first customer contact, I was approached by a young guy with a proposition on the digital marketing side. The conversation below is priceless, it broke all the possible rules of engagement. See if you can spot them in the text. But first, the rules:

1) You are intruding. Even if the company you approach is in need of your services, it’s you who are making a call, so you’re intruding by default. Admit it and apologise, say something ‘I apologise for unsolicited contact’.

2) Give a freedom to say ‘no’. That’s my rule number 1 in every business conversation. Proactively accept a ‘no’ – that will free your contact’s mind from a task of figuring out how to say it. It may sound counter intuitive but it works. Say ‘I realise it may not be something you need right now, so feel free to let me know if it’s the case’.
3) Find out who are you going to talk to. You need a decision maker. Sometimes it’s difficult to get directly, and that’s a separate task of specialists of cold calling (which I am admittedly not). If you don’t know the decision maker – admit it and ask to whoever you are writing to (if it’s a generic ‘hello’) to direct it to the right person. Your chances are definitely higher than calling someone by the wrong name.
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4) General rule: don’t lie. Don’t say you are a ‘leading specialist’, ‘market leader’, ‘best’ if you are not. Market leaders do not make cold calls, they select eager clients. Be authentic, say that ‘we’re a small company focusing on…’. Don’t say ‘I’m going to just take 2 minutes of your time’. Everyone knows it’s a lie, just like ‘your call is very important to us’ followed by 15 minutes wait. Say, instead: ‘I know you can’t have serious conversation in 2 minutes, so would it be ok if I send you our brief and then we set a 30 min in the diary to discuss it?’
5) Don’t be pushy for an immediate chat, or coax someone into giving their time or phone number. People hate to be pushed in the corner. Instead, say ‘I’d like to send you a quick brief about our services, but if you prefer not to receive it, just let me know’. Big chances are you won’t get a ‘no’ and will be able to send something better than a 150 characters cold message.
6) Present your self in a way that is relevant to your goal and your customer. Just like with CV, don’t copy paste a detail of all your personal and professional achievements. Your credibility is something you establish through professional, attentive, focused communication, not through your list of high school achievements and hobbies.
7) If you don’t get a response, don’t come back accusing your customer of not being attentive or responsive. No one likes it, do you? Nice way to follow up is “not sure you had a chance to read my message and I thought I’d double check just in case’.
8) Do your homework. I’ll stress it, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Take time to learn what your customer business is about, what are their goals, what are they after. You always have 95% chance of being irrelevant anyway, but adding being unprofessional to it just ruins it straight away.
9) Watch for passive aggressiveness. Rejection is inevitable and unpleasant part of any business: have heart and dignity to take it well, and you’ll be the one they’ll call if the time is right. Don’t use phrases: ‘you don’t understand’, ‘are you sure’, ‘you should’, ‘is there someone else I should talk to?’.
10) Don’t tell your customer they are doing bad job. Even if they are. They may be a young start up struggling with resource, they may have other priorities. They may even know they are not doing good enough, but they don’t want to be told that. Instead, use this opportunity to ask questions. Actually, use any opportunity to ask questions. It’s easier when it’s not cold calling, there I’d suggest you ask questions for 90% of the time! And listen for the answers, they are gold!. Ask ‘I noticed you tent to keep low key on social media profiling, is it something you do not consider a priority at this stage?
11) Don’t preach, coach, accuse, point fingers, and try to prove yourself right.It may help your ego, but it will get you nowhere. It’s plainly offensive and quite low on emotional intelligence scale. Just be focused, attentive, authentic, genuine and professional, and it’ll do the trick.
Now, I found the below interaction to be a perfect example of how not to treat a customer, and I think it’s plainly entertaining, although I’m guilty in some provoking… Enjoy!

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn

Hello Dominic, I am John Patrick Acquaviva, head of LCA Management and one of the Top 50 most influential political activists in Latin America and currently based in Manchester. I have come across your company and have noticed that you are not really taking advantage of social media to further your companies brand recognition and establish more public trust, also to be able to secure more clients. I wanted to know if you would be available to have a chat on the phone and see if I could help you launch in to the social media world? Kind regards John

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn

Hi is there someone in specific I should email? Thanks
John Patrick AcquavivaJohn 

Hello, did you get a chance to read my previous message?

No White Walls, Olga 

Dear John, I have and I don’t need these services right now thank you.

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn

 Hi, are you certain? We can arrange a trial period of a month to show you what we can do, we have 2 clients that are leaders in a market similar to yours (one being wall murals and the other being infrared bespoke wall heaters)

No White Walls, Olga

quite certain, thank you.
John Patrick AcquavivaJohn
Ok, you could do with googling my name though, and if you decide you want to actually start using social media to further your business, get in touch. Thanks.

No White Walls, Olga

Could I just say as a ‘customer feedback’: persistent and pushy selling coupled with patronising tone and giving unsolicited advice, not having a slightest idea of what my business goals and situation are, and not bothering to ask a single question from a customer just doesn’t work. Sorry. There are good books on selling and pitching, yours’ is just 80-s.

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn
We currently manage brands like Go Pro and Carlsberg, Id rather get you on the phone but since you stated you were not interested then I persisted because its frustrating to see companies who dont understand how important SEO and SMO is. 
No matter what your business goals are, unless they are to never obtain any clients, brand recognition or value from the online market, you would benefit from our help.

No White Walls, Olga

First, my name is Olga, not Dominic. There is not a single dominic in my company. You could have bothered to find it out. It;s on my website. Secondly, I am quite aware of SEO/SMO, and thirdly, I’ve signed up with an alternative company who bothers to learn about my business before assuming it’s ‘something about interior design’. With your permission I’d like to use this for my next blog post about ‘how to not to talk to customer’. That’s been entertaining.

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn

 The fact that you claim to know about SEO and SMO yet have absolutely no interaction on social media and no high ranking keywords on your site, is shocking, the fact you even have a company managing your online marketing and yet still have those stats, is shocking, I actually get results, thats why I have the stats I have and the client portfolio I have. Good luck with your business

No White Walls, Olga

I guess this is why you spend time quarrelling with a potential customer of zero size, right lol?

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn
Yes, because its not about its about proving someone who doesnt think they need our help or doesnt believe we can deliver what we say, wrong.

No White Walls, Olga

That’s an amazing motivation for a business, what can I say. Good luck with it.

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn

 It is, business should be about proving yourself, about demonstrating you can do what you say you can, the online marketing agency field is full of liars and people who have no clue how to deliver results even for themselves (how many agencies or social media guys have you seen who have 100 likes on their own social media?)

 I put my money were my mouth is, thats why at 22 I have accomplished all that I have. So just to reiterate, if you actually want results, get in touch again. If not, good luck. Bye

No White Walls, Olga

Likewise. 22 is a good age to start to learn something about selling.

John Patrick AcquavivaJohn

 The fact that I didnt sell my services as you would like doesnt mean I dont know how to, would you say Donald Trump is a bad salesman because he is to aggressive? No, because it obviously works for him, I closed the deals with all our main clients myself.

No White Walls, Olga

Thought you said ‘bye’

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