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A few years ago, my friend Laura Fitton asked a roomful of marketers, “How much would people pay to receive your marketing materials?”

Her question provoked laughter – as it has every time I have repeated it in a roomful of marketers – but, I don’t really think it’s a laughing matter. The question asks whether the people receiving your emails, downloading your white papers, or attending your webinars actually find value in them. People laugh because the idea seems ludicrous. “Who would pay to receive our marketing? That’s crazy!”

Which of course begs the question: Why are you producing things that you don’t believe your intended audience values?

Sales and Customer Experience

I was reminded of Laura’s question recently when discussing customer experience with some colleagues.

We were talking specifically about the role marketing plays in creating and managing customer experience and I said that what makes customer experience management so challenging is that it involves every person in the organization that interacts with customers.

This includes, naturally, your sales folk.

Sadly, very few people happily interact with sales. And having been on the receiving end of many a cold call and email in the B2B world, I can sympathize.

The problem is that there is rarely any value whatsoever in taking a sales call (though I try to make it valuable by asking the caller/sender if they might introduce me to their CMO/VP of Marketing so I can interview them for CMO Essentials).

Which leads me to the question: Would anyone pay to interact with one of your sales reps?

Please, Stop Laughing

I’m not trying to harsh on sales any more than I was ranking on marketing at the top. The way things are set up nowadays, sales folks have to reach out to a lot of people whom they have never met and about whom all they know is what they find in Salesforce (or whatever).

What’s more, sellers are often managed on activity metrics  – outbound calls, touches, etc. – and not the value of said interactions (though they may get credit for moving someone to the next stage of the buying process).

Finally, too be fair, there are plenty of sales people who have developed true, consultative relationships with their buyers and potential buyers. These buyers are more than happy to take a seller’s calls and will even reach out to to them for advice when they are budgeting or struggling with a particular problem.

That being said, not every seller is there yet. To get there, I recommend the following both for sellers and sales leaders.

Three Ways to Make Sales Interactions More Valuable

1. Don’t Just Hit ‘“Send” (or Allow Your Marketing Automation System to Do So)

I received an email from a staffing company sales rep the other day announcing the opening of their Austin office. It included some fun facts about Austin.

First of all, the company I work for doesn’t have an Austin office. Second of all, I’ve been to Austin a number of times and don’t need to be educated about one of the coolest cities in America. Thirdly, I’m not currently hiring, so why are you just randomly spamming me with available talent?

Similarly, I got two emails from someone at a hotel booking company, the second being a follow up to see if I had seen the first. I literally have nothing to do with travel planning or management at our company, so I responded, “As a marketer, I’m curious to hear why you thought I would be interested in this at all? (For the record, I am not).”

I got no reply.

2. Do Your Homework

Not to harp on this staffing company, but the very first two emails I received from their rep were focused on the company and what it did.

Now, as it turns out, I worked in the staffing industry for 14 years and, in fact, some of my former colleagues and friends actually work for the company the rep was telling me about. Had the rep looked at my LinkedIn profile, she would have known this and even seen that I was connected to execs at her company.

Guess what? It’s not difficult to get very basic information about the people you are targeting with your emails. If you are not interested in personalizing them and would rather use an automated “spray and pray” approach, go for it. Just don’t expect many positive results (but you should expect negative results because this is very annoying).

3. Be of Value

Before you call someone or send an email, ask yourself sincerely, “Will the recipient find this communication or interaction valuable?”

Believing that your solution is truly valuable, while important, is not even half the battle. Do you know that the potential customer is in the market for said solution? Does this person already know about your company? Has this person used your product or service before? What is this person actually trying to accomplish in their role (aside from the part of their role that involves your brand)? Is your solution central, peripheral, or irrelevant to that endeavor?

The answers to some of these questions may be easy to come by while some may be exceedingly challenging. The point is, if you haven’t even considered them, then you really need to ask: “Why am I calling on this person?”

If this answer is, “I need to have 20 connects this week” or “Marketing forwarded me this lead” or “They downloaded something from out website,” and that’s all you got, just stop.

Image Source (Creative Commons): Gretchen Caserotti.

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