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I'm a lousy sales person

© June 2009 Anthony Lawrence

This subject came up because of a comment at my You lose one now and then post. I had mentioned there losing a customer and had suggested some possible reasons; a commenter noted "Or maybe another sales guy came in and actually kept in contact with them". They are dead right: I do NOT keep in contact with my customers. I really am a bad salesperson. I don't follow through, I don't close, I don't do any of the stuff good salespeople are supposed to do.

I'm a tech guy. I'm available to my customers always - nights, weekends, while on vacation. I'll help them through any problem to the very best of my ability and could give you many testimonials to that. But I'm a lousy "salesman".

Let's say you expressed an interest in Kerio Mailserver. I'd be happy to talk to you about that. If you want to talk about how that might compare to using Google Mail instead, I'll give you honest answers. If you want to know about open source options, we'll have an honest conversation about that, too. I'll tell you everything you want to know about Kerio, and I'll send you pricing.

And that's it. Unless you specifically tell me to get back to you on this, I'm almost always going to leave you alone. I'm not going to bug you unless there's a reason to. If you tell me that so and so needs to play with a demo, I'll follow up with so and so. If you tell me a P.O. should be issued shortly, yes, I'll follow up if it isn't. But generally: I'm going to leave you alone. That's because I'm a tech, not a salesperson. Techs respond when you need them, but don't call looking for work.

Prospecting? Don't make me laugh. I don't do cold calls. I barely do luke-warm calls. Make an inquiry, I'll respond - once. If you don't respond to that, I'm not going to chase you.

The same goes for tech support services. Inquire as to what I can do for you and I'll talk as long as you want. That's the end of it - I'm not going to follow up unless there is some unusual reason to do so. Again, techs aren't sales people.

I don't represent myself as an expert, a wizard or as anything but what I am: a smart guy with a lot of experience. If I can help you, I will. If not, I'll help you find someone else. I have no interest in forcing my skills to meet your needs. If they do fit, great. Otherwise, you need someone else - it's that simple. I know I could make a lot more money if I were more aggressive on sales. I don't care - it's not my personality and forcing myself to be something I am not does not make me happy. I am what I am.

And I'm happy with that.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Tue Jun 23 12:46:00 2009: 6526   dthacker

Sounds like the perfect IT sales plan to me. I get questions answered when I need that. I get left alone to do my work the rest of the time. Cold calls and "surveys" are the quickest way to get me to hang up on someone. We won't even discuss the "download a whitepaper and get called for life" sales plan.


Tue Jun 23 12:52:20 2009: 6527   TonyLawrence

That's exactly how I feel too, Dave. Probably why I won't annoy other people - I hate being pushed by salespeople.

Tue Jun 23 14:07:54 2009: 6528   BruceGarlock

And because of this, most other technical people probably love to do business with you :-) I sure do. There's nothing more annoying than having to deal with a high pressure sales person, who doesn't know anything technical.

Tue Jun 23 14:09:42 2009: 6529   BruceGarlock

Oh, and since it's almost the end of the month, and end of the quarter shortly, my cold calls have gone way up. I write down the names of the people who call most, and make a point of *not* ever doing business with that company. If they have the money to throw away on that much time, they are not spending money on R&D and Engineering, so I probably wouldn't like that product anyway.

Tue Jun 23 14:40:16 2009: 6530   TonyLawrence

I hate end of month b.s.

Buy before the 31st and we'll give you..

Yeah, right. So all I need to do is wait until next month and you'll give me just as much.

I really, really dislike dishonesty.

Tue Jun 23 14:58:54 2009: 6531   stewie

Exactly, Tony. Tech people tend to be thinkers & problem solvers, not babysitters & ego strokers. We have no desire to manipulate or take advantage of others. We revel in discovery, not superficiality. We expect adults to BE adults.

Of course, this is why we also tend to not be very good business people, because many companies demand exactly these nonsensical (to us) efforts. But that's okay. The true nature of tech people means we will lose customers & miss opportunities because we're not business people, we're tech people. And that's just fine by me.

Thanks for all your posts & sharing your knowledge, Tony!

Tue Jun 23 15:06:58 2009: 6532   TonyLawrence

Aww, c'mon, I can't take all this heart-warming stuff!

Where's the "you couldn't sell ice in the desert" stuff? Where are the "Seven habits of highly successful people (and you have NONE of them)" posts?

Tue Jun 23 19:17:53 2009: 6535   NickBarron

Well okay if you insist, you are ....

Nah it is just not me.

I agree and this sort of situation came up for me a few weeks ago. I gave roughly the same sort of explanation as you just have though mine was a little less polished.

The problem is sales people are everywhere now. With no technical knowledge, though they are the ones now pitching products or hosting events. Despite not knowing what they are selling :(

That has resulted in a few of my contacts going into companies after and picking up the pieces.

Thu Jun 25 19:14:25 2009: 6544   AndrewSmallshaw

Certain companies have lost business with me in the past doing precisely this. Requests for quotes are the favourite. There are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly of course a request for a quote is exactly that - never refer to it as an "order". Secondly if you ask how to contact, pay attention to what you are actually told.

I always state by email, not phone so respect that. I recall one company that I don't do business with in particular. I asked them for a quote, was emailed it and as far as I was concerned that was that. The next day at 9:30am I get a call from someone attempting to close the deal. I hadn't even got back all the other quotes, so no chance. And there is a reason I state email contact - I don't appreciate being called at 9:30am when I was working late the previous night and got to bed gone 5:00am.

Tricks like that are a good way of losing rather than gaining business...

Thu Jun 25 19:22:17 2009: 6545   TonyLawrence

From the other side of the fence, email often gets ignored. I wish people would at least acknowledge receipt of requested info so that I know they got it.

Far too many times I've been polite and NOT been a pest only to hear later that my email was never noticed.

As a horrible example, we send out offers to renew contracted services/license. I send them by email and postal mail with a cover letter explaining that we've done that and a reminder that the invoice needs to be paid on time to avoid service interruption.

You'd think that with email AND postal these would never get lost. Amazingly, dozens disappear every year. It astonishes me. Of course traditional sales boopies say I should call - I really do not have time for that and it should NOT be necessary!

Sun Aug 12 13:26:09 2012: 11234   Sunnylowe


I am the opposite. I can't remember very many things in my life, of any size or worth, which came about without the use of sales people.
I am highly technical, but now own a tech company, and have begun to see the opposite side of this coin. No company ever becomes highly effective without advanced sales. We think we are a technical company which must do sales, but at its heart, every company is a sales company, and the technical is just one method of fulfillment of a sales agreement.
There are really bad sales people ( I am probably one) and really good sales people. Think back on your last really great buying experience. It could have been a car, or a shirt. Did you feel appreciated? Did you feel empowered? Did you feel like you had the opportunity to make a good choice and then, did the experience leave you feeling good about the product? Those are signs of a great sales experience. These are learned and highly delevoped skills which the sales person and the company have honed to make the sales process easy for you and rewarding. It also happens to be rewarding for the business owner.
The difference is in sales skill and thinking through the client's buying process. All the times above which sound very painful and rightfully negative are signs of either terrible sales processes, or sales people who have not learned the sales system yet.
We as technical people need to understand that information is not how most people buy. They buy on reputation and feelings, and then justify these choices by logic. They know no more about me as a good technician, than they do about whether their doctor is a good doctor. All they know is, they like the guy, and he makes them feel good, and when they got sick, they got better. They don't examine whether they would have gotten better on their own, and that they have no idea whether what he did was either good or effective.
We as technical people need to help our clients traverse this knowledge chasm with sales skills and buying processes which are as sophisticated as our technical skills are. If we do, they will be empowered to make good decisions, based on the information they can understand, and by people who make the buying experience much more pleasant and smooth.

Sun Aug 12 13:30:19 2012: 11235   TonyLawrence


I don't disagree, but that's NOT me.

Sun Aug 12 19:04:41 2012: 11236   BigDumbDinosaur


I too am not a salesman. However, I did take a Dale Carnegie sales course years ago and found it instructive in an oddly perverse way. The instructor, who himself claimed to not be a salesman, made the point that in business nothing happens until someone sells something. Keeping that dictum in mind is essential to all of us who are self-employed. You may hate the notion of being a salesman but it is essential that you sell your product. Otherwise you'll go broke. It's that simple!


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