Words of advice to inside sales people prospecting busy CEOs

If you’re an executive at a company and are in any way accessible, you’re on the receiving end of dozens of email pitches for products and services every week. Most of these come from what are known as “inside sales” people, i.e. sales people who start at the top of the funnel to find qualified leads for the company. They tend to cast their nets really wide and send lots of emails and make lots of phone calls.

Here’s one pitch I got recently:

Hi Chad,

I’ve reached out several times to discuss your [type of software service] initiatives for 2013.

If you have just been busy, and this is something you would like to pursue, I am happy to set some time up based on your availability.
Otherwise I will reach out again in a few months.

Let me know

This particular inside sales person was unusually persistent (this had to be the 5th or 6th email with no new information, just asking for time), and he showed many of the same ineffective patterns that I’ve seen for years. I decided to write him back with some advice. I’m publishing my response on the hope that it will help salespeople produce better pitches (which will thereby reduce the number since they will have to be more thoughtful), and saving that, maybe my post will provide some cathartic commiseration to all of the other people who I know face a similar barrage of unqualified pitches every day (and I won’t even get into the cold phone calls). The subject line of his last email was “Just busy?”

 Hi [name redacted], 

I know you’re just doing your job, but I wanted to give you some feedback as a busy CEO you are prospecting. Please take the below in that spirit — I’m just trying to be helpful. It looks like [your company] has an excellent management team, and I’m sure the team is doing really interesting work. 

A few key points: 

1. Your level of persistence is verging on annoying. I admire persistence, but the tone of your emails suggests that you are more focused on solving your problem (finding leads for your product) than mine. There is nothing in your emails that suggest you have done any homework on Etsy’s business and what we might need. I’ve written a lot about what Etsy is doing and I’m surprised that sales people like you don’t at least try to pull some of the content for the pitch (https://www.etsy.com/blog/news/2013/notes-from-chad-2012-year-in-review/). I feel like I’m on a long list of people you are cold-calling, you’re just looking for a “hit,” and I’m just a reminder in your Salesforce.com database.

2. If you look at my background, my background is heavy on technology and my path to CEO included being CTO of multiple companies. Your emails are very superficial given that I know this space pretty well. I’ve received hundreds of pitches over the years, and the ones that stand out are the ones that speak to the real needs of people doing the work of running large-scale Internet companies. Your pitch doesn’t reflect any knowledge about me personally and what I might already know from past experience.

3. As a CEO of a growing company, I generally have no availability. Nothing in your emails has made me feel like I need to carve out time from my schedule to meet with you. Simple repetition is not a strategy.

4. I had to look at your web site to see that the management team did some category-defining work with [well-known company in this person’s space]. You should sell that more. Don’t make your prospects do all the work of figuring out why they should answer your emails.

All that said, we’re not interested at this time, so you don’t need to email me again. Best of luck with your prospecting.

8 thoughts on “Words of advice to inside sales people prospecting busy CEOs

  1. Nice! Good advice, and I’ll remember this when I contact you. LOL. Seriously, I’m looking to get on your dance card, I find myself in cahoots with Monty after all these years. Look forward to catching up. You’ll be glad to know that my family are customers of some of your artisans. Cheers. Hart

  2. Chad Dickerson’s advice to inside sales people by Colin Devroe

  3. Incredible advice right here! I’m just getting started in building our teams sales process. Perfecting e-mail outreach and keeping things personable/relevant is very much a part of that process :-) #inspired

  4. Makes much sense. I the first read I thought wow this person is not very good. He seems to be rather down in trying to get your attention. It reminds me of a child who wines and wines to get what he wants. It is not at all sincere and I mean you want to try and address a need and fill it. I will remember this example as I look at my marketing plan

  5. How does a CEO feel about email prospecting? | TeleSmart Communications

  6. This person actually got through. That is a huge achievement. As well as getting great advice. Now someone might want to find out who that person is.
    So. Basically anything can work.
    I read the story on your father getting the award. I like that story.

  7. Than you so much for this advice Chad! As a fairly new inside sales rep, this is the kind of information that is worth more than gold! I also appreciate my wonderful sales manager for sharing it with our entire team. I will now be following all of your posts. Please keep up the great work! Blessings!

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