Several days ago, I came across a great blog post by Jill Konrath. If you're not familiar with Jill's work, she is a well-respected sales consultant/trainer and the author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies.
In her post, Jill describes an experience with a provider of CRM software. You can read Jill's post to get the full flavor of the experience, but I'll provide an abbreviated version.
Jill received an e-mail from the CRM provider offering an ebook on the social sales revolution. Jill registered to obtain the ebook because she was interested in the topic. She had zero interest in acquiring a new CRM solution.
Just a few minutes after downloading the ebook, Jill received an e-mail from the CRM provider suggesting a "brief 10 minute call" to answer questions and "explain how our different products and services could bring value. . ." This call would help "shorten your evaluation process" and provide "exactly the information you need to help make any comparisons or decisions."
Exactly 34 minutes after this message, Jill received a second e-mail. The second message indicated that the sales rep had been unable to reach Jill by telephone and asked Jill to "let me know if it makes sense to connect." Two minutes later, Jill received a third e-mail asking her to answer nine questions regarding her CRM environment, including what she wanted her CRM system to do for her business, how many users she would have, and what other solutions she was evaluating.
Jill's post provoked numerous comments, and many of the people who commented said they had experienced something similar. One person said that she called this kind of marketing lead genocide rather than lead generation. I've had several experiences similar to Jill's, and I suspect many of you have also.
Practices like this are the epitome of bad marketing. In some cases, these aggressive practices may be the result of an honest, but mistaken, belief that just because a prospect has downloaded one white paper or ebook or attended one webinar, he or she is actively evaluating a potential purchase and is ready for a sales-level engagement.
More often, though, these kinds of practices result from an erroneous belief by sellers that they can push or drive or advance prospects through the buying process. The reality is, prospects control the buying process, and they determine how quickly they will move through the cycle. As I wrote in an earlier post, the only way you can consistently accelerate the buying process is to eliminate the friction that slows prospects down. Anything else is, at best, wasted effort, and it will usually do more harm than good.
To avoid the kind of marketing malpractice described in Jill's post, resist the urge to treat a prospect's first interaction with your business as an invitation to begin a late-stage sales conversation. And remember that, while you can facilitate your prospects' decision-making process, they ultimately decide when and to what level they will engage with your business.