A British Disease

I’ve been back in the saddle reminding myself of the very beginnings of the sales process.  My intention is to secure a customer for a recent product addition from a totally cold start.  To this end, I accessed a listing of firms from the ‘software and services’ sector.  The range in terms of turnover size is roughly £5m to £50m.

I began with 66 names, spread throughout the UK.  A couple of rather long and tedious evenings’ effort on the web uncovered named contacts as The Big Sales Cheese for 16 of them.

I was then left with 50 names.  Handy for percentage calculations.  My next task was simply to phone each up, and ask for their Sales Director (that’s English for all those ‘head of sales’ monikers, like CSO & VP Sales).

18 of them (36%, just over a third) gave me all the info I could wish for, including their personal email address.  Respect.  In all, 40 (80%) passed on enough to be getting on with.

A total of 10 wouldn’t give me the name at all.  It seems that these 1 in 5 (20% of firms) have a ‘no names policy’.

This is a disgrace.  They should all be ashamed of themselves and lose business forthwith.  I’ve heard all the arguments before for with-holding such info.  And they’re all nonsense.  Three memories spring to mind.

  1. I once mentioned to a Sales Director that his receptionist had told me they couldn’t give out names, so I asked him how he’d expect his reps to handle such a situation.  He spluttered with embarrassment into his coffee.
  2. A story I use a lot.  A couple of years ago I was asked my opinion on which of two options to buy by guys that worked for me who couldn’t quite bring themselves to decide.  I simply called both prospective vendors up and asked their receptionist for their Sales Director’s name.  When one said that she wasn’t allowed to give out names, our decision was made for us.
  3. Before I offshored to S Africa (…would I do it again, though?) I decided to test their waters by trying to arrange meetings for my then product set.  I grabbed 10 names off the web, all in JoBurg, that were mirror companies to clients I then had in England.  When calling them up first time, each one of the ten gave me all the info I requested.  That’s 100%.  Now that didn’t hurt, did it?

update: the next day I realised that of the 18 firms that listed names on their website, 4 were actually a touch too ambiguous with the job titles, so I called them up, just to check.  Amazingly, only 1 of these 4 would give me the simple info sought.  This worsens the percentages, so that now 24% of UK firms are undeserving of making sales, almost 1 in 4…

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