I was talking to my boss earlier in the week and he was reviewing my prospective new business report. Discouraged by the lack of new appointments, he sighed and mumbled something sarcastic like, “I could get 10 meetings a week when I was in your shoes.” At first I felt embarrassed and somewhat defensive and then it occurred to me that he was right. 10 years ago, HR or talent acquisition wasn’t the cold calling target they are today, and get this: HR would not only take your calls, but they would dutifully listen to your entire voicemail, sometimes taking notes and writing down your contact information and then actually return your phone calls, regardless of whether they were interested in working with you or not. Amazed by the thoughts of this Happy Land where caller and client are evenly paired? Well, it doesn’t exist today, so time to wake up and face the new reality. Remember that before the advent of job boards, job aggregators, applicant tracking systems; CRM’s and social media solutions, vendor to client ratios were not so wildly disproportionate as they are now. And even though current HR behavior may seem downright rude or insensitive at times, it’s obvious that these poor souls are drowning in the sea of incessant calls received from sales people hawking their wares on a daily basis. So, it makes sense that as a vendor, if you can’t find a way to stand out amongst the gazillion people leaving a message with a given prospect, you run the risk of getting deleted before you can even begin to share your value proposition. So, how do you prevent your prospect from hitting “*D” on their phone and sending you into vendor purgatory?
Here is a day in the life at Arland: I will be diligently looking for fresh opportunities to network and make new business calls, when without fail, I get the call. It’s someone in my industry- the recruitment advertising world, calling to complain about the injustices bestowed upon them by HR Directors, VP’s and recruiters alike. To hear Mr. Yukkity-yuk talk, you would believe that the HR community owed him something for his poorly constructed elevator speeches and equally dismal deliveries of said messages. UGH! It’s during these moments I wish I could just slap a giant pause button and say to my newly muted friend, “If you think about all of the technology that has been developed over the course of the last decade, you’re CUH-RAZY if you haven’t noticed that your prospect is now the target for an unprecedented number of vendor calls and emails, and the quantity of these marketing calls continue to escalate every day! “
So, how do you deliver your message to your target audience without getting discarded before you have stated your purpose? Mike Grennier who heads up talent acquisition in North America for Wal-Mart might have the answer. He recently tweeted, “Dear Vendors: Voice mails longer than 30 seconds will NOT be returned. Think twitter-length. Thank you.” Hhhmm might seem a little harsh, but seriously, maybe Mr. Grennier is on to something here. Maybe we should all take his advice…if your message is longer than a typical Facebook status update or is more than 140 characters, trash it and start again. Besides condensing your message, I think we should all think about emailing our clients first. If you were in your prospect’s shoes, wouldn’t you rather have the option to answer an email at your convenience versus feeling obligated to return a voicemail? And, I think we vendors should all receive harsh jolts of electricity every time we leave messages with trite sayings like “saves you time, money and will increase your ROI.” We can do better than that, can’t we? I for one am going to apply what I know about social media to the development of my new and improved voicemails. I pledge to keep it concise, keep it real and honest, provide true value to the recipient and I will be polite. Above all, I will strive to keep it memorable and unique. I remember a top sales person at a previous employer of mine who used to tell mini-jokes on voicemail when he couldn’t get in touch with a decision maker. He would say something like, “Wow, sorry to hear about your broken arm” to someone who he had never met before. He would then chuckle and continue with, “I’m assuming it’s broken because you won’t call me back!” Believe it or not, this unusual approach worked more times than not, probably because it was unique and he used humor to his advantage. This sales person was smart enough to realize that no one really cared about his credentials, his product differentiators, or the slick article written about his company in Fortune Magazine last month. But he knew if he could make a personal connection with his prospect he might have a shot at getting a meeting and a potential sale.
So, in true Twitter fashion, I leave you with this final thought: Dear Vendor, craft a unique message that is concise, useful, engaging and honest. Email first, call second.
PS Call me in a week and I will let you know this works for me, that is, if I don’t delete your message first…