Are there still some fools out there?

There are dozens of ways legitimate and illegitimate sales people try to get through to us on the telephone or by email. We’ve all had hundreds of scamming emails from widows and lawyers who need our help (and just a little of our money) to release the millions of dollars they’re eager to share with us.

Or we’ve won the lottery.

scammers

I’m often amazed, and even occasionally amused, at the sheer incompetence of some of them. Take this one, for example…

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Greetings My Name is Mr Benson Stephen

Hello How are you doing today? My Name is Mrs Maria Leslie Am from United Kingdom , where are you from? Are you a dedicated Christen/Muslim? please reply today. I will be waiting for your email My Regards, Mr Benson Stephen

Email Disclaimer Notice:   The information in this e-mail and any attachments is confidential and may be legally privileged or propriety is subject to copyright and is the property of Osoul Investment Company….

Disclaimer added by CodeTwo Exchange Rules www.codetwo.com

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What’s clever (but not very) about this one is the ‘disclaimer notice’ that’s supposed to lend an air of authenticity to the message. It supposedly legitimises the otherwise dodgy-sounding ‘Osoul Investment Company’. But not clever, I think, in any way, to be a transgender scammer and have two names.

This one is also fun, not least for being expressed in just two sentences.

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Greeting to you Dear Mr Bager, I contact you for a good purpose that will benefit me and you,I’m Mr.Denise Nwadike ZANOU a Private lawyer to Late Engr Michael Bager, a national of your country and Director of oil company here, my client and his family were involved in a car accident unfortunately lost their lives, my later client had an account valued at about 13.7Musd  thirteen Million Seven Hundred Thousand Dollars in Bank here and I want to present you to the bank as the next of kin to my late client since you have the same last name, please send your full name /email and telephone number to my email info.avocatdenise@gmail.com so that I’ll send more details to you and i ll also forward it to the bank here to release the fund of my late cline to your account as a new beneficiary since you have the same last name with him.then you and I will Share the money 50% to me and 50% to you. Am looking forward to receiving your response regards this transaction.

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Lawyers can be longwinded, but this stretches credulity a hundred words too far.

Kate Lee, below, thinks she’s being especially clever in anticipating our scepticism…

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Greetings,

I know you will be surprised to read my email. Apart from being surprise you may be skeptical to reply me because based on what is happening on the internet world, one has to be very careful because a lot of scammers are out there to scam innocent citizens and this has made it very difficult for people to believe anything that comes through the internet.

My name is Capt. Carr Kate Lee, a member of the U.S. ARMY medical team, Just deployed to Iraq Because of the ISIS Problem. View to see details ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_military_intervention_against_ISIS ).

I need a trust worthy person who will assist me in procuring these funds that will be transferred to you for both our collective benefit.

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It takes just a couple of seconds to dismiss these kinds of emails, but if you added up all the time we spend on scams and other breathtakingly stupid attempts on our prosperity it would add up to several wasted days in a lifetime.

But of course, many of the people who approach us have a perfectly legitimate aim – people selling us mailing lists, offering us inclusion in our profession’s Who’s Who or Hall of Fame, asking for an interview, offering us investment and life insurance schemes, an immediate Doctorate, etc.

Yesterday I was even asked to review my profile in Women of Distinction.

What surprises me is that they do it SO BADLY.

There are those insurance salesman whose patter is good enough to get them through the first line of defence, your switchboard or secretary, but who blow it immediately, at least with me, by beginning,

‘Good morning Mr Bager. How are you today?!’

No one, except a salesman, begins a conversation that way, and I can’t think why they’re still teaching them to deploy this kind of breezy insincerity. I don’t waste time. I’m cruel, perhaps, but to the point. I interrupt and ask them what they’re trying to sell.

‘No, no, I’m not trying to sell you anything at all. I just want to talk about an opportunity….’

Hmmmm. Down goes the phone.

Email style is another giveaway. I’m infuriated by those who write as if they know me already. And this sort of flattery doesn’t work on me either:

LLP Group has been shortlisted for IS 20 Most Valuable IT Services Companies listing

or

Hi Adam,

As a B2B sales leader in your company, I believe you will find this interesting and informative.

B2B sales leader? Me?!

And then, of course, there are the Tatianas:

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Hello, I very much want to meet a good man and I know, we’ll necessarily find each other: I need a man who has open soul.

Profiles:233261261 – http://vnlvxmenblf.zgr.name I am a sweet and smart lady with long hair and beautiful eyes.

My friends tell me that I am a very beautiful girl. I want acquainted with a real man who becomes a beloved husband for me.

He should be romantic, affectionate and |tender|gentle[/string], and of course responsible. If I’m interested, write me Bye, Tatiana.

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Am I right in thinking that the adjective substitution algorithm hasn’t quite worked `correctly on |tender|gentle[/string].

I leave Tatiana to you, if you’re interested!

The Art of Consulting – Selling

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For many consultants the idea that they might sell their skills is anathema. They prefer to delegate such activities to sales staff, who, supposedly, aren’t offended by the grubby world of money – of price, of fee rates, of raising invoices, handling disputes and getting paid.

Consulting, they like to believe, is about ideas, about working in a collegiate, almost academic, atmosphere, with clients who are almost friends. And when do friends ever need to talk about money?

salesman

Your idea of a salesman?

Such consultants (and I have been one of them) will work extra hours without payment, and are motivated by their fascination with the work they do, rather than by the material rewards that follow. Their clients love them, and their work is often, but not always, profitable.

But the idealistic approach is ultimately dangerous. Your client may love you, but you’ve still got to pay the rent. If there are consultants of this kind, doing far too much for their clients, willing always to accommodate additional demands, to extend the scope of a project without commercial discussions, I can only think that this must reflect some kind of insecurity, as if they are uncertain of the value of the analysis and advice they are delivering. It certainly isn’t the basis for a healthy relationship between consultant and client.

And if a consultant thinks of sales activities as in some ways contemptible, this merely reflects a misunderstanding of sales staff and what they do.

My own experience as a manager and entrepreneur is that the best sales staff are those who have formerly been consultants, though I shared some of these ‘uncommercial’ views when I was a young consultant. Like consultants, sales staff must listen more than they speak, ask penetrating questions and demonstrate knowledge, wisdom and pragmatism. The good ones don’t sell the impossible, don’t promise more than their consulting team can deliver. They know what they are talking about, and they will only convince a client to buy their services if the client recognises that knowledge. After all, you can’t sell ideas if you don’t understand them.

Selling consulting services is a difficult task. You must be proficient, not only in the technical matters of your profession, but also in the particular skills of selling, which include:

  • Qualifying – determining if the potential client is serious, has a budget, needs the services you are offering, has the time to devote to the project you are proposing, and ensuring that the people you are talking to are in a position to make a decision
  • Scoping – agreeing as precisely as possible the scope of services being proposed, shaping them into affordable packages, especially if there’s a need to prove your value
  • Pricing – determining the price that a potential client is willing to pay (this is the area where the timid consultant is most likely to fall short!)
  • Persuading – understanding and overcoming the particular objections of those involved in the decision to buy
  • Demonstrating Competence – showing deep understanding of the client’s needs, and demonstrating competence by fielding all the appropriate skills the company has to offer
  • Providing References – using strong relationships with current clients to gain the confidence of the potential client

..and there are many more.

The point is that almost all of these are skills that are close to the non-technical skills that all consultants must possess. They are the usual consultants’ skills, simply extended by techniques such as ‘solution selling’. If you are a good consultant you can be a very good salesman.

But beyond the special task of working on a sales opportunity, there are sales skills that all of us must demonstrate daily as consultants. We must always be ready to promote our company, our brand, our special knowledge, our methods, or any of those other things which differentiate us from our competition. This doesn’t mean parroting slogans or nagging our clients for additional work, it means confidently supporting and promoting our skills whenever opportunities arise, and, through good questioning, seeking them out. After all, if the client is rational, he or she is buying your services because the benefits outweigh the costs.

A certain kind of diffidence is understandable. Many of us see every side to a question, and when we put forward advice to our clients we do so in the circumstances and with the view that on the balance of probabilities the course of action we suggest is the best. We are not always certain and we often lay out the risks as well as the options. But this doesn’t mean we should not be confident in our skills, and if we are confident in our skills we should be confident of the value that we offer to our clients, and reasonably expect payment for what we do.

In fact, we usually find that our clients want us to be successful, that they respect us well enough to want to pay us for our time. It isn’t a zero sum game and most clients don’t negotiate as if our gain is their loss.

If ‘selling’ means identifying opportunities that will bring benefit to our client as well as to ourselves, then we must all be ready to ‘sell’. And if someone suggests you might be a good sales person, don’t be offended. It can be a good career move into a very respectable profession.

See also:

The Art of Consulting

The Art of Consulting – What’s the Role of the Consultant?

The Art of Consulting – Impartial, Honest and Independent

The Art of Consulting – The Essential Skills

The Art of Consulting – Listening

The Art of Consulting – What’s a Good Question?

The Art of Consulting – Representation and Analysis

The Art of Consulting – Writing Simply

The Art of Consulting – Designing (Completeness & Simplicity)

The Art of Consulting – Designing (Pragmatism)

The Art of Consulting – Designing (Affordability, Flexibility, Maintainability, Elegance)

The Art of Consulting – Judgement

The Art of Consulting – Presenting

The Art of Consulting – The Final Report

The Art of Consulting – Persuading

The Art of Consulting – Planning

The Art of Consulting – Managing Others

The Art of Consulting – Clients

Can Science Help You to Find Good Sales Staff?

Ever since I studied Psychology (and Philosophy) at university I have loathed and distrusted the scientific study of human behaviour. My course stretched all the way from animal behaviour to social psychology.

The behaviour of animals (at least some basic antics of rats and pigeons) can be fairly accurately observed and described, sometimes even usefully predicted, but it wasn’t remotely interesting. Social psychology, on the other hand, amounted, in my opinion, to nothing more than common sense written down. Human behaviour, to my mind, is more expertly and interestingly covered in literature (which someone once described as simply ‘gossip written down’).

My favourite philosophers, of the Wittgenstein school, taught that ordinary linguistic descriptions of human behaviour and the scientific approach are mutually incompatible, and I still believe that.

Head

So I have an immediate distrust of ‘objective’ ways of arriving at judgements about people. And for that reason, for many years, I resisted ‘objective’ ways of discovering if someone is, say, a good salesman, or a good administrator, or a good consultant. In other words, I hated aptitude tests. True, I have sometimes relied on ‘lQ’ tests to determine if someone might make a good programmer. These are narrow logical tests and I would hesitate to say they measure ‘intelligence’. They measure IQ, and IQ, a narrow but important skill, is useful for a programmer.

In the early days of the company, I often had to find programmers and consultants, and, relying on personal judgement and IQ tests, I wasn’t so bad at it. I was a programmer myself, after all. But finding a good salesman was hard. And it’s hard anywhere and everywhere. Sales skills are broad and complex. You interview, you take up references, you choose and then very often they fail. You feel a fool, especially when everyone else tells you their failure was obvious from the start.

Frustrated by failure, I was finally persuaded, in South Africa, by someone who runs a company very much like LLP, to use aptitude tests to find good sales staff. And so I tried. In fact I tried the tests produced by the very same company they recommended. They are global and charge surprisingly high rates for their methods and services, so lots of people must believe in them.

Their tests, as far as I can see, come at the issue from all sorts of angles. No ‘logical’ questions such as in the IQ tests, but rather, questions about personal preferences and attitudes. Fifty questions and you’ve pinned your man or woman down – salesperson or not.

So I tried the method on the next set of candidates who presented themselves as ‘sales people’. And, surprisingly, I found the results encouraging. Those who were obviously unsuited did poorly, and of those who looked promising, some did well and some did not. The tests seemed to find out which of these apparently promising candidates was really suitable.

So, I nearly signed up for the service, accepting that it would be expensive (but less expensive than failing salespeople).

And then I thought, hang on a moment, why don’t I try the test on the salespeople and general managers we already have? I know which of these is exceptional and which are merely good, or not good at all, at sales. So I did. Our best salesman scored poorly, our mediocre salespeople scored well.

Aptitude tests are hopeless when it comes to something important. There is no ‘science’ you can substitute for good judgement. Employing a salesperson is almost as difficult as choosing a spouse, but you get a little better at it as you gain in experience. Don’t be fooled by scientific nonsense.