Author, direct marketing guru, and always entertaining Denny Hatch focuses on a major story in the news and shows how businesses can take advantage of–or avoid the pitfalls from–the lessons to be learned in terms of marketing, sales, PR and communications.
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[NOTE: All names and numbers have been changed to protect the inept.]
"Always see a salesman once," said my first boss and mentor, children's book publisher (and ace salesman) Franklin Watts.
The reason is obvious: you never know when (1) the guy has something to make you rich or (2) he is so good that you should hire him.
During 50 years in business, I have been receptive to reasonable blandishments from strangers by phone, letter, in person and—in recent years—e-mail.
James O'Malley called me and said that during this recession, many companies were having trouble getting paid. He said that his firm was employed by a number of direct marketing companies to collect overdue receivables and asked if I could use his services.
I gave him my usual line, "I'm a 'see' guy, not a 'hear' guy. Could you e-mail me some information?"
O'Malley said he would. Did I have any outstanding receivables currently that would require his services? I said that I did not, but who knows what the future would bring.
Five minutes later I received the following e-mail from James O'Malley:
your new Legal & Collection firm
Wednesday, July 1, 2009 11:02 AM
"James O'Malley" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Message contains attachments
BSM 2009 EMAIL Packet (James O'Malley) PC.doc (42KB)
We spoke today about protecting your company on current and future collection issues. Our collection ratios are more than double those of in house attempts, OR competing attorneys and collection firms, and many times we can collect within 3-5 business days. Attached please find the information you requested regarding our firm, along with a placement form.
Please get together the exact amount, invoice number, and date of invoices as soon as possible.
We are excited about the opportunity to help dramatically increase your cash flow. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at the number below.
Client Services Manager
So far so good, I thought, as I clicked on the attachment. I believed James O'Malley cared about me, wanted my business and spent serious time trying to woo me. After all, he called and asked for me by name and immediately followed up with a personalized e-mail. This was a thoroughgoing professional sales effort that made me feel important.
"It's a basic tenet of selling," wrote the late copy guru Bill Jayme, "that in the marketplace as in theater, there is indeed a factor at work called 'the willing suspension of disbelief.'"
The attachment—which arrived in Word—was three pages. The first page was a memo from James O'Malley describing the history of his company and why I should use his services. Page two was a description of precisely what services O'Malley's firm could provide. And the third page was a form for me to fill out to get the ball rolling.
Alas, the first page was NOT a personal memo to me from James O'Malley. Here is how it read:
To: Potential Client
From: James O'Malley
As mentioned, the attachment was in Word format, which means he could have spent an additional two seconds replacing "Potential Client" with "Denny Hatch" and closed the loop, making me believe that he was talking exclusively and personally to me.
Instead of a highly professional personal message, O'Malley threw an e-pie in my face, saying in effect, "Yeah, I'm sending this to a lot of people. You're a big boy. You understand."
In short, he broke the spell and triggered what Hemingway called my "shockproof, built-in shit detector."
In addition, the following two sentences in the memo are grammatically incorrect:
>>Our combined 75 years of experience, professionalism and dedication to our clients, allows us to exceed all industry standards and provide you with the most expeditious results. <<
(The verbs—"allows" and "provide"—should agree.)
>>By utilizing our vast resources, as well as our investigating techniques to determine the debtor's financial condition, provides us the information needed to best collect the account. <<
(The first word should be deleted.)
Admittedly, these are small details, but they indicate sloppy preparation. Would I trust these careless people to be in direct contact with my customers and clients—those folks who hopefully will be paying their bills on time once this damned recession is over and long after O'Malley's services are no longer required?
Click on the image below to enlarge.