EDIT: As many people pointed out, this TOTALLY ALSO applies to Goodreads. See comments for details.
About a week ago, I was live-tweeting my new cable internet installation. I know, it doesn’t sound like much to live-tweet, but the dude installing my cable was unusually cool. I found out that he was super-afraid of spiders, but lest you think him unmanly, I would like to follow that with the fact that he’s a cage fighter. He reminded me of Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation, but smarter.
While I was live-tweeting about having cable internet installed, I had this conversation with DirecTV:
@thebooksluts Sounds like a frustrating experience. If you’re ready for something different, I’d be happy to assemble an offer for DIRECTV?
— DIRECTV_Lloyd (@DIRECTV_Lloyd) May 15, 2013
@thebooksluts Thanks for your time.
— DIRECTV_Lloyd (@DIRECTV_Lloyd) May 15, 2013
Here’s why this interaction ticked me off instead of enticing me toward buying their service:
- Fake empathy. “Sounds frustrating, can I sell you something now plz?” Bzzzzzzt, wrong. It’s unfortunate, because the empathy play could have been very successful in a situation like this, but Lloyd, uh, pulled his trigger a little early, if you gets my meaning. By launching right into the pitch, he made himself seem vulture-like.
- Lack of doing his homework. Any successful salesperson knows that people don’t give two shits about what you’re trying to sell them. They only care about things they want and things they need. Your job, then, as a salesperson, is to determine what they need and tell them why your product is the best thing to fulfill that need. Thirty seconds looking through my Twitter feed would have told Lloyd that I don’t actually need DirecTV because I was already having new service installed as we were tweeting. That’s like a car salesman trying to show you a car as you’re driving off in a car you just bought.
- I didn’t even want TV, so even if I didn’t have another provider installing cable right then, I still don’t have any use for DirecTV.
What is it the kids say these days? SMH?
And here’s the kicker: should I ever be considering getting a service comparable to DirecTV, this little incident is going to ping in my brain. Even if it’s just a tiny negative, it’s still a negative; their competitors might not have any negatives, which would make this stand out stronger. This is the only interaction I’ve ever had with them, so most of what they are as a company to me is represented by an employee who takes the lazy route when doing online sales. Are their techs also lazy? Their customer service? This was not a good first impression.
There are probably blogs and magazines out there that suggest using a Twitter search to find potential customers so that you can solicit them. That’s what DirecTV seems to have done–set up a search for Time Warner Cable, look for complaints, and step in all smooth-like (snort): “Hey, girl. Heard you’re having a bad time with TWC. Come on over, I got what you need.” It’s actually quite a bit like a sleazy pick-up line, if you think about it. Knowing nothing about me, they tried to talk me into bed . . . figuratively speaking. I mean, I guess if sleazy PUA is the vibe you’re going for when you’re doing Twitter sales, this tactic would be the best thing for you–if not, then probably avoid it, and maybe avoid those blogs and sites if they’re not telling you how to use those searches effectively.
I get this from authors more frequently than I ought to, only far less targeted. (“She likes books and she has a few followers! Maybe she will read MY BOOK” seems to be about the extent of research done for Twitter pitches, as evidenced by the fact that I frequently receive pitches for erotica, romance, and bad urban fantasy.) Frankly, this is even worse; in the flirtation-as-sales-tactics analogy, at least DirecTV was going after a type. These authors, on the other hand, are hitting on anything with a pulse.
Don’t be that person. Don’t be a bad pick-up artist when you’re trying to sell your book.
DirecTV wasn’t getting a new customer that day no matter what sales tactic they tried; I wasn’t in the market for TV service, period. A little romance, though, might have opened the door to them at a later date. The conversation could have gone more like this:
DTV: “We’re sorry you had bad service from your cable provider. What happened?”
Me (eager to commiserate, as many jaded customers are): “They kept raising my rates! I’m paying almost $20 more per month than I was when I started! Ugh!”
DTV: “Oh no, that’s terrible. What kind of service did you have with them?”
Me: “Cable internet.”
DTV (being a television company and not an internet company, eep!): “I heard Internet Company X has outstanding service if you’re looking for a new provider. I hope you’d consider us if you ever need TV!”
Me: “Thanks for the helpful tip! If I ever need TV, I will look you guys up.”
If Lloyd had used this approach with me, it would have hit so many better notes. He would have seemed genuinely interested in discovering my needs as a customer, and he would have seemed helpful, despite the fact that he couldn’t directly sell me what I was in the market to buy. That shows real customer-needs focus, something I would remember if I did need TV.
For an author, this is a little trickier, I grant you. It’s far more difficult to work a pitch for your book into a conversation. However, there are some tips you can use here:
- Be reader-oriented, not selling-your-book oriented. If someone puts out a call for book suggestions, for example, don’t recommend your book just because you want people to read it. (This happens SO OFTEN, I cannot even tell you. It’s always a womp-womp moment. Awkward.) You’re probably a reader, too, so talk to them as a reader, not as a salesperson. If you can recommend a book they truly end up liking, you’ve just built up a nice little deposit of customer romance.
- Do your homework on reading tastes if you’re going to tweet-solicit a blogger. Make sure you’re not trying to sell TV to a person shopping for internet.
- Make genuine connections instead of using someone’s situation/complaint/request for books as an excuse to toss in a sales pitch. Not only does this de-smarm what might have been a bad pick-up-line situation, but it makes sure that you get valuable data that you can actually use to determine if the person will be a potential customer. Also, you might make a new friend! Friends are awesome!
Nothing but good things can come from this kind of sales approach. At worst, you haven’t pissed off any reasonable person. (If they’re unreasonable, just remember–we know who the unreasonable people are in our lives. We know who gets pissed when they haven’t even really been wronged. One of my family members used to do this in restaurants–go off on the servers for bullshit, non-issue “problems.” I always felt terrible for the servers and sometimes left them extra tips when the family member refused to do so.) At best, you get a new fan and maybe even a friend, a person who will talk you up, suggest you to friends, extol your best qualities and even defend you if some loony crank decides that you’ve done something to wrong them. Someone who will say, when your name comes up in conversation, “Oh, I know that person. She’s really cool, we talk on Twitter. I like her a lot.” I dunno about you, but that’s the kind of endorsement I’d want.
Have you had a bad tweet solicitation? Or a really good one? Share your Twitter sales stories in the comments below!