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Rant: Cold Calls Are So Twentieth Century

I hate cold calls from vendors. Nothing gets my blood hotter than some vendor trying to call me when we haven't established a working relationship and when I haven't shown the slightest bit of interest in his or her product and that vendor seems to think that I care to hear about their perfect product at that exact moment in time. I don't. I mean, I really, really don't. I work IT. I'm a technician, specifically a DBA. And my days are busy. That's the nature of IT. So getting an unsolicited phone call is the last thing I want. Taking that call pulls me away from whichever one of the multitude of tasks I have in my queue I am currently working on. And that means after the call I have to spend time getting my mind and effort back into that task. So that phone call makes me terribly inefficient if I take it. As a result, I'm likely going to ignore it. And when I listen to my voice mail later and hear that you're cold calling me, guess what I'm going to do? That's right, I'm simply going to delete my voice mail and you're not going to get a call back. Why? If for no other reason than you weren't considerate of my time.

Unsolicited emails aren't much better. If I see its an unsolicited email, at least I'm in the process of checking my other emails at the time. So it's not as big a time waster. Chances are I'll still delete it, but you'll get more consideration than if you tried and call me. I care about my time. And I care about my efficiency. If I don't use my time wisely or if I'm inefficient in my work, I no longer have any work to do. That's because I'll be unemployed. So if you want a chance to get my attention, take into consideration that my time is precious. If you don't, you won't get any of it.

So if you're a vendor, how do you get your product in front of me? First of all, build a good product that meets a need of mine. Make it usable and make it so it saves me time. If you do that right, chances are you're going to be able to help a lot of folks like me. Second, price it reasonably. I don't care if your product can part the waters of the Jordan River if I can't afford it. Now Brent Ozar overheard where someone said, "Your rates are too high!" His response was, "No, your budget was too low." I said reasonably priced. Look, I know you need to make a profit to stay in business. I get that. So price it where you're doing that and not gouging me. If your prices are reasonable, then the budget will be there if we really need the product. But if you come with some extravagant price, you will take yourself out of my consideration. Third, give me something that shows your product at work when I go searching for it. I want to see actual screenshots. I want to know the specifications I need to run your product right. They need to be current. If you can give me a 14 or 30 day trial, that's great, too, so long as you don't start bugging me on the phone constantly. Like I said, my time is precious. Speaking of which, understand SEO. You do want me to find your product when I go looking. Fourth, and finally, treat your customers right. I am more likely to consider a product if I have heard that a colleague has had a good experience with it and with your company. If your product is great but your customer service is lousy, you likely won't get my repeat business.

This is a whole lot better approach than cold calling me. Maybe in the last century when connectivity wasn't as great and IT folks were more isolated cold calling was effective. But if you're trying to get my attention, cold calling is not the way to do that. Sure, you might get my attention, but not in a good way. If you want your sale, you're better served doing the four things I listed above. That approach is far more likely to work if I need what your product provides. And that's something else to keep in mind: I may not need your product. Perhaps I've gone with a competitor. Perhaps I've built my own solution. Or perhaps I just don't have that need. If I don't, respect that. I am more apt to want to do business with you later if you show my some respect as a professional.



K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Steve Jones on 6 October 2009

What about seeing the product at presentations? Video ads or demos?

It's hard to market and get a product in front of people. Really really hard. And it appears that many DBAs want to find products, but only when they want them. And then they complain about not being able to find them.

I get your feeling, and I feel that way often as well. I'm just not sure what a good way to proceed is. How can vendors do a good job. We've struggled with SQLSaturday, trying to find ways that make it worthwhile for vendors while not imposing too much on attendees.

Posted by Mark Horninger on 6 October 2009

Well said!  

Posted by Jen McCown on 6 October 2009

Having been in (a pathetic form of) sales myself, I can say, too, that cold calling - phone or in person - is SO ineffective. Maybe some people are better at it than others, but I didn't see even a 0.5% return on my efforts.  

I agree; I like best hearing about products through the grapevine, or at a tech show, or if the company's sponsoring something worthwhile (webcasts, user group meetings...)

Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 6 October 2009


 the way it's handled at SQL Saturday works great. The vendors are there, you can talk with them. They understand the deal, at least the SQL Saturdays I've been to, that it's more about the event and the community and they are part of the community. In those cases, or at conferences where there are vendor floors/expos, by all means be ready to show me what your product can do. I realize that quite a few folks are just combing for SWAG, and the advertising gets the vendor's name out, but there are more than a few of us out there who really want to see what is available.

Posted by SQLRockstar on 6 October 2009

funny...i got a cold call from a vendor yesterday as well. the  voice on the other end sounded like they were new at their job. i tried to take pity and lend a sympathetic ear, but after about two minutes i just said "You know what? I am actually very familiar with your company already and I have no desire for any of your products, but thanks for calling anyway".

That was about as nice as i could be at the moment. the call really pissed me off. it interrupted my day, it made me feel like they didn't even know me, and essentially makes me feel as if the company cares very little about me as well. now why would i want to do business with them in the future?

Posted by Andy Warren on 7 October 2009

I used to do IT for a high end teleservices company, it's interesting to see the difference in results from low end to high end. It can be surprisingly effective if used well, but it's not often used well. Not fond of being called either, but nothing worse than someone reading from a script.

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