Not that I actually have, at least not yet. But hey–there’s a first time for everything.
Yes, my pretties, it’s time for a salespeople rant. Those of you who’ve excavated the archives of posts past may be scratching your heads and wondering, “didn’t we just go down this road?” I have done so in the past, but it’s been awhile and it’s time to revive the rant-fest tradition.
What sparked this round? I must tread semi-cautiously here, because someone I know outside of professional life and stranger-dom is involved, and I don’t exactly want my cover to be blown. But, I’m also not one to coyly bring up a subject only to drop it without delivering the goods, so here goes.
A not-so-long a time ago in a galaxy near you, I was approached by an acquaintance. Small-talk conversation led to a request for a voice call, which I obliged, under the impression that I would be asked a couple questions–which was true–but it didn’t take long for the true agenda to surface: to Venus fly-trap me into a pyramid scheme.
Silly rabbit. Pyramids are for Egyptians…and Mayans.
Like so many others, it’s a health supplement company, with slick, pretty pictures, eye-catching bulleted lists espousing miraculous health benefits (without any substantiating footnotes), trade-secret proprietary blends, promises of financial success and independence, and all the right combos of feel-good vocabulary that puts us in touch with our No Carbon Footprint Left Behind side. What’s not to love? Fresh, “green”, organic, optimized, and convenient, right there in a bottle. And we hope you ignore the fact that it’s a souped-up health food store-variety mix being sold for professional/medical-grade supplement prices.
That’s not what bothered me most, though.
Where the problem started was the fact that this was someone I knew outside of a professional decorum, calling me on a weekend evening, to attempt to hurl a sales pitch for which I was the target. What’s worse is, Do Not Pass Go, Proceed Directly Through the Script of aggressive questions meant to feel me out, get me excited to see endless dollar signs, and attempt to extract a decision from me right now, sight unseen and no questions asked.
But that wasn’t apparent at first. The company was first presented as the lifelong dreamchild of one of the acquaintance’s friends, and had brand-newly burst onto the healthy organic scene. At first listen, it seemed like my input was needed, and as a rabid investigator of nutraceutical quality–and an avid user of those that pass the test–I felt I could contribute.
When the term “medical advisory board” started getting thrown around, I thought, “stupendous!” and flirted with excitement at the idea that I may have a venue in which my particular niche talents may be appropriately utilized. I might gain some recognition, experience, notoriety, if I became part of this particular group.
Truth serum: I really didn’t care about the side-income revenue-stream. If I made a couple extra thousand a year by talking to some people and getting them interested enough to distribute underneath me and I earned a paltry commission for playing Cupid between those people and this company, well then, that was icing on the cake.
If not, that was OK, too. I certainly didn’t have any plans to start hounding my friends. The Next Not-Really Big Thing is not worth sacrificing a friendship. I didn’t want them to feel like used meat, and I didn’t want them to see me as an opportunistic shark.
But wait: there’s more! The conversation went from “you could be our medical director”, which I was OK with, to “the starting investment is…” and “the monthly autoship cost is…” and talking about points and levels and other nonsense. In not so many words, I said “whoa there, sonny, let me peruse the info you sent before jumping whole-hog into anything.” Diplomatic brakes.
I did take a look at the product catalog. It’s a pretty diverse inventory and the catalog itself is visually appealing, each well-thought-out pitch making all the right promises. But I saw one “proprietary blend” after another in the ingredient lists, and I saw exactly zero references to third-party scientific research. Not a single peer-reviewed study to be seen. To a research analyst-type like myself, that’s like watching your baby flutter around in the pool for the first time on their own…without water wings. Making a claim without backing it up is just Not Done.
So with helpful intentions, I messaged the acquaintance and gave them my critique–strengths and weaknesses–of this company. Yep, gave. As a favor. Since this person was undoubtedly going to approach wellness-based healthcare professionals with this product, they were most assuredly going to be asked certain questions regarding potency and standardization of herbs used, packaging of the fish oils, sources of the ingredients, labeling standards, third-party certifications/verifications and seals, and whatnot. And many of the ingredients were quite cutting edge…for the 1980s-90s. By now, many members of even the general public are well aware of some of the potential pitfalls of some of these utopian-sounding ingredients, and appealing to these people may be an uphill battle.
This person could not answer my questions, but helpfully reassured me that they could get in touch with someone higher up and get the answers. I thought to myself, “seriously? Healthcare practitioners are one of your principal targets. They’re going to ask questions like this. Hell, you claim to be health-oriented yourself! How do you not know?” But hell, with product design and labeling like this, I’m not sure the company president him/herself would know.
Then it became all “watch this video” and “conference with my superior” and when that didn’t work (I have an insane and intense work schedule and the rest of the time is MINE and also, let’s face it–I hate the phone), it was all about “well if I could just get some of that product in your hands” and “once you try it, you’ll love it! And I’ve got someone over in Malaysia who is going to break it big over there with this stuff.” Yeah, I’m sure you’d like to get some of that product in my hands, because it would also then stand to reason that you’ve got some of my money in yours.
When I’ve been posting on Facebook all year about upcoming classes I’m taking or massive dental issues that I need lots of dough to resolve in short order. This means money is tight. Let’s face it: it’s unrealistic to go for months with a cracked molar, unable to chew freaking food on that side, hoping to God the night-waking pain doesn’t return, just because I had to have that overpriced herbal skin bronzing cream. Yeah, no. Eventually, it was a borderline-cold–to paraphrase–“grace me with your presence when I can extract something from you.”
So I’ve got a message for salespeople. Actually, a few messages.
1. If you’re trying to make a business contact, do it with business associates, not friends. Don’t bug your friends trying to hawk your warez.
2. Even if you have a friend who is genuinely interested, then keep 2 things in mind. One, if your reason for contacting them that day is business-related, say so. Don’t bait-and-switch small-talk, pretending it’s personal, for a business proposition, or say you have “a question”. Second, don’t pull this crap on a weekend.
3. Listen to your potential prospects. What they tell you about themselves, what they’re looking for, and what they can contribute is important. If you fail to do this, you will fail to make the sale and you will likely alienate them personally.
4. Respect what they’re telling you, too. And then, don’t bait-and-switch one position/role for another. “Medical advisor” or “research analyst” is not equal to “peon underling making you commissions”. If I tell you I’m not sales-oriented but that I am academic-oriented (which, hate to say, y’all desperately need), then you should start talking about what you’re going to be paying me, not how big a shipment I’m going to be ordering from you.
5. Cut the crap. Many people just don’t have time to watch a video or sit through some intro class or meeting. I don’t care if it’s an hour, 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes. It’s wasted time. I’m medically and holistically educated; what’s a consumer-targeted YouTube snippet going to tell me about health-related products that I don’t already know? I already know we live in a poisonous world. Not only do I have several thousand research abstracts archived on the subject, I’ve also probably personally rubbed shoulders with several of the published authors. That’s not meant to be ego-inflated; it’s just a raw, legit question. If I’ve already told you time is precious in my world, why annoy me by making me jump through that hoop? That reeks of a timeshare seminar.
6. If I tell you no, take the answer and run. If I have to tell you again, I will probably start hurling butcher knives in your direction. I’m patient, to a point. I have very little slack to cut people who ignore me in relentless pursuit of their own self-interest. Leave me your card and brochures. If I tell you I have a hearing issue, don’t claim to have one too and then push to talk–extensively and often–by phone. If I inform you that email, text, or instant-messaging are where it’s at, respect that. After all, you’re after me, remember? Not the other way around.
Is the following really an honest question among some salespeople? Please tell me they’re not that dense.
Answer: Because the salespeople won’t shut up and take “no” for an answer! They keep freaking pushing, long after I’ve yawned, drained my tea cup, and astral-projected to Thailand and back.
There… That. Felt. Awesome.