I get a lot of cold calls/emails. On a given week, between LinkedIn, my voice mail, my personal email account and my work email account, I receive roughly 60 pitches. I generally try to respond to every single one. Part of this is simply being respectful and part of this is self-preservation. If you don’t respond, often, the vendor will reach out to a bunch of other people at the company, who will then end up forwarding me the cold pitch email. By responding, I eliminate that email waste.
I completely understand the cold pitch process. People in sales, have to sell. They have quotas. They’re compensated on closing deals. I get it. What I generally ask for is the same respect I offer. If I tell you we aren’t interested, the timing isn’t right or we’re already working with you (it happens more often than you’d think); my expectation is that they respect that feedback. On the whole, I’d say 80% of cold pitches aren’t a fit, 15% are better suited for someone else on my team to evaluate and 5% are things I’m interested in pursuing a follow up conversation about.
Whether you’re part of the 5% or the 95%, you should always remember how small the world is and that relationships are a long term investment. When I say, the world is small, what I mean is, you may end up leaving and calling on me from another company…I may end up at another company and call you, because of how well we’ve worked together in the past…and, whether it’s a good or bad experience, we all have a small network that we rely on for feedback about companies and clients.
In business and in life, never trade the short term gain for the long term potential…well, when it comes to relationships (I don’t mean, if you’re Groupon, you should turn down $3B+ from Google).
Earlier in my career, I was leading digital marketing for a company. In building out our digital organization, we had to hire good people and find good partners. The company I was at, was a classic multi-brand organization. In essence, they were a holding company, with many consumer facing brands. Being a go-to vendor in a multi-brand organization, generally equals big upside. If you knock it out of the park for one brand, it’s likely you’ll get a call about doing work with another brand in the portfolio.
We were looking to add an external partner to help us with something. I say something, because saying what it is, may ultimately identify the company and I’m not looking to shame an individual or an organization. We had things down to 2 potential partners. Partner A and Partner B, had similar offerings, but Partner B was roughly 3x the cost. At 3x the cost, you have to deliver at least 3x the value. Given the wide range, we opted to bring them both on. Partner A, worked with Brand A and Partner B worked with Brand B. This would give us the ability to test both partners, their models, their processes and their approach to working with a large matrixed organization.
The final product from Partner B wasn’t fantastic in my eyes or the eyes of Brand B. This wasn’t 100% their fault. We certainly had to share the accountability for the end product. That said, Brand B wasn’t thrilled and while agreeing there was mutual responsibility, felt like they just paid 3x for something they couldn’t even use…a fair critique. To try and resolve the situation, I asked Partner B to offer some type of make good for Brand B. Just so we have some context, for the value of a make good, we’re talking roughly $90,000. Not a small amount, but not $9,000,000 either. I think, and granted, it’s been a long time, I also opted to split the difference with them. We’d fund $45,000 if they would too. They were firm on their stance, that we received what we paid for, and a make good was out of the question. Trying to offer a broader context, I explained, while I understood their position, it was essentially ending any possibility we could work together again, while I was at this company. Brand B, would tell all the other brands about the negative experience and then their reputation would be tarnished. Firmly, they explained that was a risk they were willing to take.
At that point, I would have been ok with things. It’s a business decision they were making. It wasn’t personal, to paraphrase, The Godfather. However, they then did 2 things that soured me on them long term
- They shirked any responsibility and accountability. Instead they put the blame on Brand B for among other things, not having an interesting enough product.
- They then chose to disparage Partner A. For context, we were clear that this was a bake-off between the 2 companies. Each company knew the stakes and who their competition was.
Both steps, showed a lack of integrity. And integrity, is something I value a lot in my partners. I want to know you’ve taken the time to understand my organization, the dynamics and my situation. I want to know, you’re thinking about more than 1 project or 1 contract. I want to know you’re invested in our shared success. It was clear Partner B had no interest in any of those things.
Fast forward a few years later and I received a cold email from their company. While I don’t normally save emails (I have a zero inbox policy), I did save these. I answered the email, politely declined and explained why I had no interest. What followed, was a validation of everything I experienced with them, in the past. The following is the actual email exchange. All I’ve done is eliminate personally identifiable information.
I hope this note finds you well. My name is XXXXXX and I am an Account Director with XXXXXX. I recently viewed your interview from the XXXXXX which outlined your thoughts on how to XXXXXX. It was a very compelling point of view and similar to XXXXXX approach of bringing the world’s XXXXXX.
I recently joined XXXXXX and was informed by the team here about some past conversations around working together. It would be great to schedule time with you to pick these up again and learn more about your thoughts on how you are evaluating the content ROI for XXXXXX to see if XXXXXX can help. Some recent news on our end is that we were recently named to the XXXXXX. Links to press on each are provided below:
Are you available to meet the week of XXXXXX?
I’d love to work with you guys, but honestly, I was burned really bad when I was XXXXXX. At the time, I told your leadership team, it was a short sighted decision they were making. They disagreed. Net-net, there’s no way I’d ever work with XXXXXX again. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news
At that point, it is what it is. But, instead, the same contact I worked with the first time, jumped into the conversation thread.
Appreciate the quick response to the team. I thought your title was futurist; I read this and it feels like we’re looking backwards vs focusing on the future:) If you ever got past the hangups around a XXXXXX from XXXXXX years ago; I think you’d learn alot about how us, the space and offering has evolved. You should talk to XXXXXX about us (great guy) ; we’re now an official XXXXXX partner (only XXXXXX in the mix), signed by XXXXXX and developing XXXXXX; have produced over XXXXXX and working repeatedly with the vast majority of the Fortune 100. That being said; if this is a case of He’s Just Not That Into You, you won’t hear from anyone in our company again; I believe in persistence but life is short and we’re all busy right?
Let me know.
PS You never thanked me for connecting you to XXXXXX by the way.
It took only 2 sentences to insult me. Then, we go to the quick sell. Then we go into a I should owe you, for introducing me to someone. So I responded.
Given that logic, you should have looked long term as realized the upside. As is, I’d never work with you guys and when asked about XXXXXX, I relay my experience and current preference to all who ask. I think he expression is have a great experience, your customer tells 10 people, but have a bad one and they’ll tell 100. Looking back on it, was it with $50k?
To which I got this…
Disagree; to cater to the whims of a confused organization and do things for free is not a good long term strategy. Guessing that is one of many reasons you left XXXXXX. Fortunate for us your former preference has gone out of business and your opinion hasn’t prevented us from working with great companies and great people everywhere.
I could give you a host of quotes and sayings around moving on , avoiding perseveration and overall empathy but sounds like it would be wasted words and effort.
I’ll leave it at this; you’ve always seemed like a smart guy; but I would reconsider and think about the way you treat people and view things like this with others. I can assure you helping vs judging and being open minded will serve you better than any type of vindictive behavior in your life and career.
God speed and best of luck.
This time, it took only 1 sentence to provide an insult. Granted, not an insult of me, but the company. Then, another sell. Then another insult (close minded and vindictive?). So I tried to clear that up for him.
“Treat people and view things” – something we can agree on. Offering a fair and honest perspective on an experience isn’t vindictive, it’s being a good colleague.
Honestly, this email exchange make same feel even better about my decision. Similar to XXXXXX years ago, your approach is to deflect and take on zero accountability.
If you’re doing well, great and congrats for you, but I wouldn’t do business with you at XXXXXX or at any company. I simply have no confidence that you’d have our best interest in mind, nor a long term relationship point of view. Good luck in the future.
This basically brought our email exchange to an end…basically, but not before this guy, couldn’t help himself.
And we’ll leave it at this…”Ditto”
I thought a lot about if I should write this post…and, if I did write the post, how much info to share. There aren’t many emails I save, but this set of exchanges stands out to me. I opted for what I hope is a fine balance between taking the high road (after all, I didn’t need to write anything) and offering a view into what it’s like to get called on by vendors. My hope is that this post offers a perspective on why I fundamentally believe that focusing on the long-term relationship, is always the way to go. Ultimately, I want to hire people and work with companies that are committed to understanding our business, recognizing the current challenges, doing great work, being objective and taking a long term view on relationships.
Don’t ask which company this is about. I won’t tell you. The point of this post wasn’t to air the dirty laundry of 1 company. The point was to remind you to look at the bigger picture. If you made it all the way to the end, thanks. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.