Have you ever attended a business networking mixer?
You know, the happy hour events where people walk around introducing themselves, hoping to make contacts that will result in referrals or business.
Oh I know they are useful for salespeople in certain types of businesses.
And perhaps the couple of events that friends have dragged me to are not representative of most, but I was amused by the ones I did visit.
I observed plenty of hungry–almost desperate–salespeople walking around, introducing themselves, feigning interest in the other person, then launching into their own pitch, stuffing their cards in the hands of everyone they could.
I’d watch people during these interactions–and experienced it myself–where after one person would leave, the other would roll her eyes and say to a companion,
“Gawd, I’m glad he left.”
These types of events caused me to borrow the name and attach it to a type of call: The Networking Mixer Call.
It’s calling and to say you “Just wanted to introduce yourself.”
Just like at the event itself, that is not adding value on a call.
I’m talking about the sales rep who starts a call with, “I’ve just taken over your account/I’m new here/I the rep in your area and I wanted to introduce myself to you.”
This type of call is very common with reps who are new to an organization, others who’ve just been handed inactive accounts, or accounts from a departed (andor fired) sales rep.
After introducing themselves, these callers normally continue with something about how they’ll be calling on a regular basis, and if the customer ever needs anything to just call, yadda, yadda.
The callers seem nice enough when they phone, but let’s get real here: what are the listeners thinking after they hear this introduction?
About the best that can be expected:
“Oh, OK, thanks for calling.”
And that’s the response from the customers who actually ARE customers … those who buy on a fairly regular basis. But let’s face it, most of the best accounts are quickly gobbled up by, or assigned to more experienced reps. And that leaves the marginal “accounts” that we’re talking about here.
So, when these “accounts” get this networking mixer “I wanted to introduce myself”-call, the confused customers are likely thinking,
“Account? I don’t ever recall buying from you.”
Or, “I bought from you guys once, over a year ago. I don’t care who my rep is.”
“I have a sales rep?”
“You’re with who?”
“Oh, another new one.”
I’m sure there might be some managers reading this who have instructed their reps to use the Networking Mixer Introduction, and they’re feeling denial right now, trying to defend the approach, saying it’s service-oriented, and all that other touchy-feely stuff.
But anyone who has actually placed these calls for a few days has likely been bloodied up enough to have realized the cold hard truth:
It wastes the listener’s time.
This might come as a shock to some, but unless the customer’s very business existence relies on your regular phone call, calling them with this self-serving declaration is viewed as a call that simply announces a policy YOU’VE implemented, or news at YOUR company. It’s all “us” oriented. You might as well call them and say,
“I’m just calling to let you know that here at our company we’ve added three new people in the Accounting department, and we just resurfaced the parking lot.”
Bottom line, it evokes a yawn, and a great big, “So what?”
It doesn’t move you closer to your objective, which is to make a sale either on this call–or a subsequent one–and build a relationship.
So, what SHOULD you do?
Next week I’ll give specific rules for these types of calls, and examples of what to say to keep the call going, and help the listener see value in speaking with you. As a preview, they all involve bringing something to the table that is all about the prospect, not about what you want to sell. They must be able to say after the call that speaking with you was worthwhile.
I’d like your input. If you call regular accounts, what do you do and say to position yourself as a true value-added partner? Please comment below.