Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sales Presentations That Do Not Work

Generally, I screen my calls at my office, because there are so many calls of people trying to sell something it is ridiculous. Recently, I received a call about a firm that has a unique advertising concept and I agreed to an appointment. When the appointment setter called me, he said that he was offering an "exclusive opportunity" where only one attorney from Rick Johnson Family Office, LLC would get primary exposure with their product.

First of all, I am not an attorney. Secondarily, Rick Johnson Family Office, LLC is not a law firm. Still, I gave the man the benefit of the doubt and politely informed him that I was not an attorney, but he could tell me more. He asked what did I do for a living. I told him that I was a Investment Advisor and Financial Planner. Then, his pitch suddenly shifted to well, "we do not have a Financial Planner in our exclusive territory, so you would be eligible." I also told him that I would consider this for my investment advisory firm, Marian Financial Services, Inc. I agreed to an appointment to hear what they have to say and honestly, if it was worthwhile, then I might consider it.

The lady showed up late for our appointment, but I did not hold that against her. She came in with her presentation book and a sample of the advertisement. In my 28 plus years of experience, I have been through way too many sales training programs, most of which are abject failures. I always joke to my wife that if I wanted an easy job, then I could go sell CEO's on sales training programs. Most companies are suckers for this kind of training. When sales are down, the sales consultants are like roaches. They are everywhere.

Forgive me. I got off track. Back to my story.

I immediately recognized that she was running on a presentation railroad track and she wasn't about to get off of it. So, I let her go through the motions, but was extremely disturbed that this kind of sales training is still taught by companies. This was something from the 1980's. I was stunned to see this kind of "training" still exists.

Here are some of the things that they teach. Put the product in the customer's hands and let them touch, see and feel it. Follow the presentation script, even when the customer tries to jump ahead. Lie and embellish to no end. Show the logos of other big name companies that they do business with. Repeat the exclusivity of the offer over and over again. Exaggerate the market penetration. Finally, make sure that there are no facts or proof to back up their claims in the pitch book.

I was told that this company did a lot of "checking" on Marian Financial Services, Inc. and they discovered that I was one of the most reputable financial services firms in the area. This is absolutely true, but she knew absolutely nothing about Marian. She said this while reading the logo on my shirt. This was an out and out lie. The appointment setter called me at Rick Johnson Family Office, LLC, not Marian Financial Services, Inc. This lady did not do any checking of who Marian was. She was lying through her teeth. She looked me right in the eye while doing it, too.

Secondarily, she tried to tell me that this advertisement was going to be seen by 20,000 people in an area that I know for a fact has less than 5,000 households and half of those are children.

At the beginning of the conversation, she asked me if I was the decision maker and I told her yes. When she got to the end of her script, I had to ask her a couple of times what the price was for this "wonderful" advertisement. Unfortunately, my question did not fit her script, so she delayed on purpose showing me the price. I must say, this kind of ticked me off. She still had some final sales pitches to deliver, before she showed me the price. After lying to me and ticking me off sticking to this sales script, I had already decided that I was not going to do business with this company. I did not care if the price was $100.

Of course, when she finally showed me the price, it was then that I discovered that there were 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% market penetration prices. If I wanted a 20% penetration of those "20,000" potential customers, then that would only cost around $2,000. If I wanted 100% market penetration, then it would cost close to $9,000. I would get $1,000 discount! What a joke.

By now, I am thinking that I am wasting my time. I tried to explain to the poor woman that I have a marketing budget and I would have to decide if this "wonderful" advertisement is a better use of my marketing dollars, than radio, newspaper or seminars. I told her that I would give it some thought. At that point, I was scolded by her about being the decision maker. She complained..."but you said you are the decision maker and you would make a decision by the end of my presentation." I told her that I did make a decision to consider it, but on my timetable not hers. Boy oh boy, she did not like that at all. While I had her pissed off, I thought I would go ahead and try and help her from a sales perspective. Probably, a mistake on my part.

I went on to challenge her on her 20,000 potential customer figure. I told her that I know the demographics of the area in question and she was totally wrong about the 20,000. The problem was that the 20,000 figure was in her presentation script. In her mind, if it is in the script, then it has to be true. You see? Here is what is wrong with the sales pitch book. They take it to all areas of town, but the same 20,000 figure is in the pitch book no matter what area of town they are in. Boy did I make her mad when I challenged her over this fact. She started closing her presentation book in a "I am pissed off" manner. Not very professional at all.

I did feel sorry for her, because I know that the sleazy people who prey on ladies like this with promises of making lots of money. These companies are the scum of the earth. In this economy, people are struggling to make ends meet. We do not need these sleazy people preying on others, giving them sales scripts filled with embellishments and encouraging them to lie in order to get the sale.

When she realized that she wasn't going to get the sale, she suddenly sprung on me that she had the authority to extend a special discount on the price. How convenient! Of course, there was a catch. I had to decide by Thursday. Another sales tactic by sleazy home office people. Never make an instant decision about anything. I would never ask someone that I just met to invest money with me without me knowing about who they were and what they need to accomplish. Further, I certainly would not try and sell them and close them in 15 minutes with a pitch book. Sleazy with a capital S is their sales process.

What is amazing to me is these companies do any business at all. This was a situation where the emperor has no clothes. Because of my background in sales and sales training, I could see right through their whole sales pitch. In my opinion, they would be better served to get off the presentation pitch book and try and learn about the business of the person that they were talking to. Most of the time, I was being talked down to and told how great their advertisement product was for me. Yet, they had no knowledge of my business. It was all about the sale.

Recently, I met a man who was retiring soon. After meeting with him, I realized that he had absolutely no idea what he was going to do after a long career. He expressed a lot of interest in technical analysis of investments and brought some charts to my meeting with him. I am a student of technical analysis myself, so I was able to discuss his charts without a problem. However, I realized what I had in front of me. Someone who had no knowledge of what he wanted to do in retirement, except perhaps try and find some part time work. Further, he appeared to be interested in technical analysis.

If I had this advertising firm's training, then I should have showed him a pitch book and tried to close the sale in the first meeting. However, what I saw was someone who needed time to discover what he wanted to do. He appeared to me that he might actually be the kind of person who might want to manage money on his own. If he is following technical analysis, then he is in tune with the movements of markets and believes that technical analysis can help him move in and out of the market. He needs to decide whether or not he wants to manage money himself, or hire a professional. I was not about to pressure him to make a decision in 15 minutes.

At Marian Financial Services, Inc., we do not try and close clients in 15 minutes, especially if we may not be a fit. We want clients who are committed to our firm and our philosophy. This kind of thinking does not fit in a sales pitch book. It does however fit into serving the best interests of the client. Sometimes it means we do not get the client. That is how we approach new customers. We focus on what is best for them.

Our clients value professional money management, visual financial planning and elder care planning, because we offer expertise and assistance that they cannot find elsewhere. More importantly, we do not use a pitch book.