Had a sales call today with a vendor

It always amazes me how some companies will allow their Reps. and Sales Reps. to go out without properly educating them or giving them the tools they need to close sales.  True, most Marketers do not know as much as some of us and most don’t know to ask the right questions.  Many Marketers, especially at large companies really don’t know much but relied on Office Politics and charm, not to mention the brand they work for, to get where they are and are too naive to realize that they fell for marketing hype, spin and scam.

I was recently on a few different calls with vendors and in person meetings with some and I am still amazed to see how some Sales Reps can just stroke an Executive’s ego and that Executive will fall head over heels and give away a contract, especially when it makes no sense whatsoever.  Unfortunately for these Sales Reps. I am not one of those people and my Client’s best interest always comes before my ego or their pocket books.

One of these vendors was trying to sell me traffic in their web portal.

This particular web portal is an amazing one and has a ton of traffic.  They are very well known and one we already had an account that is performing very well in.  (The Rep. did know about the Account and I was thoroughly impressed that he called to work on getting me to spend more.)  So I got a phone call from this vendor and the call was going great.

The Sales Rep pointed out how some of our campaigns were doing, how he really liked the products and actually took the time to learn about one or two of them.  (It proved to me that he wasn’t lazy, then again I did send a few emails to his boss when we launched about 6 months ago because we did not get attention and they messed up multiple things with our accounts and never fixed them so he knew to be cautious because I would easily bring him being unprepared up and throw it back at them).

Normally I would have expected them to glance over our store and our products and make some random general recommendations, but this Rep. actually took the time to evaluate and look at price points, check out our conversion ratios to spend and revenue and actually took some time to make a proper call.  He got me to listen to his entire pitch based on the fact that he came prepared and not many vendors do.  I was ready to move forward and do some testing with him until I asked the right question.

He mentioned that we were not getting even close to the amount of traffic for an apparel product and category we offer.  The Vendor’s website actually has an entire section dedicated to this niche and had opened featured placements available which we could sponsor, but would also have to pay on a CPC basis, (You should be able to guess this type of Vendor by now) which I am ok with but I am going to ask about stats.

I asked questions about how much does he think this would cost, how many competitors will be there, does the featured spots rotate, etc…   He gave me a few run around answers but when I asked a complete deal breaker for myself “What is the total unique pageviews and Unique Vistors on this page per month?” he simply said I don’t know.  He did however go back to ask his Marketing Department for some answers though.  A few days later we had a follow up call and on this call he avoided my questions about page views and unique visitors.  When I finally got to ask him direct on it he told me they aren’t allowed to share this information.

Not only did this kill the deal for him, (I want to know if the money for the featured position is going to drive 80 visitors or 8,000 visitors and because it is also going to be a CPC after I pay for a featured banner ad how much of my search budget this will cost so I can plan accordingly) but it also lost them the sale.  Sure they don’t want their competitors to find out what their search volume is but if you are going to sell me a featured ad space and charge for each time someone clicks, I have to add it into my budgets and justify it to my Clients.  8,000 and 10,000 clicks can add up on a CPC basis and if you only get 10 clicks and spend even $100 or $1,000 on a banner ad, my Client may ask why I would spend so much and not get anything in return.  This would not only look horrible on me, but it would not make a wise media buy as well.

I checked through the site and many of the featured ad spaces are held by large companies that probably don’t actually know what is going on or the difference in their spend.  I also found the vendor bidding on their trademarks and variations which may help to keep sales coming in so there looks like there is value there.  Although this is typical behavior for this type of Vendor, what shocked me most is that their Marketing Department would send out their Sales Force without the knowledge or information to close a sale based on facts and numbers and even worse wouldn’t provide something so standard like page views and unique visitors so it could be tied into a companies budget and Media Plan.  Needless to say this page still has no featured Merchant which also leads me to believe it probably doesn’t get much traffic and maybe that is why they also would not share their data.

Although it isn’t the Sales Reps. fault that he couldn’t share the data, he should have come back and said I can give you impressions, visitors information or give you past data on other sections and done some research on how to maximize for other products.

He was a great sales rep but there have been some others recently that really just shocked me.  One kept repeating that they can get content indexed almost instantly into Google….no duh so can anyone, it’s called Twitter, feeding it through WordPress, Pushing it out through a wire, etc….   Another tried to sell me a list but refused to talk about the demographics because they didn’t have the information about Male/Female, Age, Location, Income, Past Buying Experiences, etc…  (Not that I would ever buy an email list but it is fun to listen to the pitches), etc…

It always shocks me when these companies make a sale and how Executives and Managers fall for a Rep that only has to kiss up to them a bit.  It shocks me even more when you have a great Rep who does the research but the deciding factor is that they cannot provide the actual details and information that are key to closing a sale.

Here is my advice for companies and Sales Reps. with this issue.

Marketing Departments:

  • Have you given them all the stats and data they need?
  • Ask yourself, what can I give out and still not give away our internal secrets and information?
  • Do they have a clear packet of Marketing Materials that shows the benefits and values of our Company?
  • Have I personally drilled each one and done random spot checks and questions to the sales team to see if they can answer about stats off the top of their head?
  • Does our Sales Force need more training and what else could we provide to help them better understand the needs and questions that our buyers have?

Sales Reps.

  • Have you told your Marketing Department what you need to close a deal?
  • Have you questioned them on why they will not give you the information your potential buyer is asking for?  Have you also asked them for an alternative?
  • Have you gone to your boss to let them know that in order to close a deal you need something that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal?

It is important to get what you need to close a deal.  That is your job.  As long as you don’t do anything that would hurt or jeopardize anyone else in your company there is no harm in asking someone else for the information you need or at least asking for a solid and clear answer to why you cannot have that information to close a sale.  If for some reason they still won’t give you the data you need then think about considering leaving for another company.  A Sales Rep. who can actually close deals and get their feet into doors is always in demand as they are revenue drivers, at least that is my opinion.  Also, don’t be afraid to work on a commission basis because if you are that good than the money will come as you prove why you are the best Rep out there.

It is important for Marketing to provide you with the information and tools you need to succeed and it is ok to remind your Marketing Department every once in a while that being too cautious can sometimes damage the company instead of protect it.  Personally, I think sales should be based on Merit and you will only win deals with me based on your added value.  It amazes me how many people get deals because they kiss up to the Marketer or Executive who signs the contract and how much Marketing Fluff people will fall for.  This was a seriously long rant so I apologize and I am definitely going to blame it on Jet Lag as well lol.

As with every post here, these are just my thoughts and opinions and should not be taken word for word or influence you as they could turn out to be good or they could turn out to be bad.  They are just meant to help you think and think about new ways to do your job or develop your own ideas and strategies.  Thank you again for reading another one of my ramblings and feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below.

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