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You’re All Saying the Same Thing

No one wants to disappear into the crowd. Ron Sellers provides commentary and tips on best email practices for salespeople in the market research industry, so your emails don't end up in the spam folder.

Editor’s Note: Over the course of my market research career, I’ve met some great salespeople.  They took the time to really understand a company’s business before calling on them, developed personal relationships to get a better understanding of their needs, and worked hard to tailor their company’s offering to meet client needs. Before going on a pitch to a watch company, one salesperson I worked with insisted we go to a store and buy a watch from that company before going to meet the prospective clients. Unfortunately, people like that are few and far between. These days, I think LinkedIn is making it too easy for salespeople to be lazy; you can find a bunch of names quickly, and blast out a standard message to them, with hardly any effort. Ron Sellers discusses the frustrations of being on the receiving end of such indifferent sales efforts.

Here We Go Again

Yet another e-mail solicitation from a research agency.  This one happens to be from New York, but I get ‘em from all over the world.  Amazingly, no matter where they originate, they’re pretty much all the same.

Research vendors:  isn’t there anything you can say about your company that others can’t?  Any unique style or approach you can use? Any unique selling proposition (assuming you remember that term from Marketing 101)?  

Why are you consistently sending me things that demonstrate you’re just another faceless company selling a faceless commodity?

One and the Same

Let’s look at the e-mail I just received.  Like many, it starts by trying to be personal; to claim some sort of insider knowledge.  “I have been researching Grey Matter Research & Consulting, LLC and came across your profile. I get what Grey Matter Research & Consulting, LLC does and really think we can help you.”  

Fascinating:  you “get what we do” but make no mention of anything we actually do.  In other words, it’s obviously an empty claim. If you mentioned anything about our website, one of our specialty areas, our brand, an article I’ve written, or anything else that would make me believe you actually spent even two seconds “researching” my company, you might have my attention.  

Oh, and the repetition of our full, formal name doesn’t make it feel personal – it makes me feel you just repeated the same mail merge field in your copy.

“We are a multi-country specialist in managing Research & Fieldwork.”  Yeah, so are a bunch of others who approach me.  “We have successfully delivered large and complex studies in America, Europe, MENA, and Asia- Pacific regions.”  Again, the same claim other international vendors make (besides, I really don’t expect you to promote the small, easy studies you’ve completed, or tell me about the projects on which you did a crash-and-burn).  Do you even know whether we conduct large and complex studies internationally? No, nor do you care.

“Grey Matter Research & Consulting, LLC would be a great client for us, we can proceed for discussion on your upcoming and current studies with a short e-meeting.”  Ah, and there we have it – WE would be a great client for YOU.  This e-mail is all about you, all about what your needs are.  Well, guess what:  I don’t hire vendors because they need the work.  I hire vendors that will solve my business needs and make my life easier.

The Ask

Next comes the ask, despite the fact you have said not one word that makes me believe you have anything at all to offer me, or any reason to talk with you instead of any of the other five companies that have said basically the same thing to me this week:  “Can you fit me into your schedule in the next few business days?  Your response will cherish me to proceed to becoming your trustworthy partner.”  

First, run your e-mail by someone who knows how to write correctly in English, especially since I’m sure you blasted this same e-mail out to thousands of other people in North America.  That tells me details and quality aren’t really important to you.

But much more importantly, you have given me absolutely no reason to talk to you.  You have basically told me that your company exists. That’s not exactly a unique selling proposition, nor is it potentially making my life easier.

Worse, I can virtually guarantee that sometime next week, I’ll receive a follow-up e-mail asking me why I haven’t contacted you yet to set up a time to talk.  And then a third e-mail that assumes I must have missed your first two e-mails, as you’re incredulous that I haven’t contacted you yet. (Editor’s Note:  Ron notified me that about 30 minutes after he sent in this blog post, he did, in fact, receive such a follow-up e-mail.)


For years, the same two telephone field centers sent me regular e-mails, consisting only of a list of what they offered:  how many interviewers they have, how many CATI stations, where they are headquartered, that they can call worldwide, etc. That’s it – just a list, followed by a request for me to send them business.  And why would I do that?

It’s not like international research field agencies are the only offenders.  I get essentially the same e-mail from panel companies, focus group facilities, freelancers, and smaller domestic field centers, not to mention business lenders, sales appointment setters, office cleaning companies, IT companies, and list resellers.  

I’m convinced there’s one person in the world who writes these e-mail templates, spending an hour each day making small adjustments for a specific industry, then taking the rest of his time sunning himself on his yacht off the coast of Monaco.  

Here’s a little hint for all of us who are in sales:  think about all of the ham-fisted, annoying, ineffective, boiler-plate, easily dismissed, and even insulting attempts people have made to sell you something. Then don’t do those things.  

Just a Few Suggestions:

  • Don’t focus on you.  I truly don’t care about you, random unknown salesperson.  Tell me what you can do for me.
  • Don’t pretend you know something about my business when you don’t – it means our first introduction is you lying to me.
  • Don’t make claims such as “I visited your website” or “I’ve reviewed your work” in what is obviously a bulk e-mail – again, it’s the lying thing.  
  • If you actually did visit our website, that’s great…but prove it by saying something specific about it (such as “I got a lot of value out of your blog post Is There Poop in Your Brownies?”).
  • Don’t make generic, unprovable claims of quality, such as “superior service” or “best-in-class technology,” to differentiate your company.  When your competitors are making the same claims, there’s no differentiation.
  • Don’t give me a laundry list of what you do and figure that will somehow excite me.  I can get those services at hundreds of companies. Tell me why I should get any of them through you.
  • Don’t pretend your company will solve my every problem.  You won’t. I’ll be happy if you can just solve one of them.
  • Don’t send me stuff that has errors, typos, or poor English – it just tells me you don’t care about details or quality (even if you’re not a native speaker, you can have a more proficient English speaker review your marketing materials before you use them).
  • Don’t insinuate that the products or services I’m using now are outdated or inferior.  That just sounds like you telling me my past choices were stupid. I don’t like when you try to make me feel stupid.
  • Don’t act surprised or offended when I don’t respond right away with a contract.  That tells me you think it’s my fault for failing to recognize your brilliance. In fact, it’s your fault for not telling me anything meaningful.

Beyond just a list of “don’ts,” the most important things are the “do’s.”  Do something – anything – to differentiate yourself.  Do tell me how you’ll solve my business problems.  Do communicate honestly and forthrightly. And do give me a reason to talk to you.

Otherwise, I definitely won’t.

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2 responses to “You’re All Saying the Same Thing

  1. Hey Ron,

    Thanks for writing this. Our CEO shared this on our internal slack channel. Its both inspiring and in many ways hilarious.

    It is a wake-up call too for a lot of us who are madly following the same pattern without realizing it is in fact a human being who we genuinely might want to be friends with and be professional related to for a long time.

    Please keep writing.

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