All relationships are built on trust, including business relationships. Trust is a very fragile thing -- it takes a long time to earn and one misstep can break it forever. Given the importance of trust, it amazes me that there is a trend (or maybe a trend re-emergence) among salespeople that runs completely counter to trust -- lying.
Recently, I have been getting a barrage of emails filled with blatant untruths. For example, a few weeks ago, I was an expert speaker at a Silicon Valley tech conference, focusing on how to market to small businesses. My email address, which as a speaker is usually not distributed, was given out to attendees. I got many form emails about meeting at the event (one, embarrassingly, from a person who I already knew). Then, I received one from a salesperson who said I had met his colleague (I didn't) to discuss cloud solutions for my business (I didn't) and he wanted to follow up and discuss it further.
It was pretty obvious that he had taken my information from registration, because I used my holding company name for registration, which is not something that I talk about in day-to-day business.
Another salesperson pulled my name off a form email with the incorrect middle initial (I have two and it was the second one), saying we had done business before (again, we hadn’t).
I wish these were isolated incidents, but I get these types of emails daily. And, in talking to other business owners, I know others do too.
If I know that you are lying to me, I will never do business with you. Period.
Sales is a difficult industry and cold-calling (or emailing) is harder, but it’s no excuse for making up a fib. Here are a few approaches that you can use instead:
1. Use humor.
There’s nothing better in my world than a good laugh. Humor can break through barriers, so, if you find a clever, funny and perhaps self-deprecating way to introduce yourself, do it. It softens the blow of busting into someone’s email, LinkedIn messages, etc., and you have a better chance of getting their attention -- maybe even a little bit of their time.
2. Do some research.
The availability of information online can provide you with background details to leverage and find commonalities. Most salespeople (and other people who pitch, like public relations professionals) are very lazy and fail to personalize their connection attempts. While sales is often a numbers game, sheer mass generic pitching is going to be much less effective than taking a little bit of time to personalize your introduction to show that you have some idea of who you are talking to and why you are reaching out.
3. Don’t forget about them!
When you reach out to someone, make it very clear why they will benefit from giving you their time and attention (on a personalized basis, per above). People are busy, and if you don’t make it clear why they should care, they won't.
4. Get an introduction.
Warm leads are more likely to be successful than cold leads, so lean on your network for referrals and introductions. If someone already knows, likes and trusts you, they can really help you establish a relationship with a prospect in their network. Just don’t go back to the untruthful scenario of finding connections in common and saying they referred you when they didn’t.
Relationships and trust are more important than ever before in business, so don’t start things off on the wrong foot by breaking someone’s trust before you’ve even had a chance to build it.