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When to Send Literature, And When It's Just a Brush Off

By Art Sobczak

You've probably heard it before:

"Yeah, why don’cha send me sumthin’ on that?"

That request sends sales reps scrambling for the literature racks every day and pads the coffers of the post office and other delivery services.

But is the literature request a sign that the prospect or customer really is interested and needs something visual, or is it a plain and simple blow-off?

My personal rule is that people need to see something when the result of using the product is visual—and the product or service itself is rarely the result.

For example, I remember when I was considering a laser printer with upgrade card that would allow it to print at 1200 DPI, darn near typeset quality, which means photos would reproduce quite nicely out of the printer. (This was before the newest technology.) The result I needed to see was a sample of the actual output of the machine; I really didn’t care about literature on the machine itself.

Other reasons why people need literature or samples:

• the person is visually-oriented,

• your contact must sell other people on your idea, therefore they need visual and physical backup,

• your credibility must be established in their mind. For example, if it’s a cold prospecting call, they want to be assured you’re a reputable company, unlike the scum-of-the-earth rip off artists who ply their trade by phone. I received a call from a guy pitching—and I mean pitching hard—the "opportunity to invest in wireless cable television franchises." More interested in his approach than his "opportunity," I asked him to send me something (to see if indeed he was credible). Not that literature by itself would legitimize his operation in my mind; the lack of it would unequivocally disqualify him. (By the way, despite promising me a prospectus and video, not surprisingly, I received nothing.)

When It’s a Stall
Let’s look at instances where the literature request is likely a tactic to send you on your merry way.

Normally it's when they can't get specific about,

• what they’re looking for,

• what will happen if they like what they see,

• when they would do something, and

• the next time you should talk.

If you can't get specific answers to questions regarding these areas, save your stamps, and a tree. Don't bother sending anything. It's likely they don't have the heart, or the guts, to tell you they're not interested.

Questions to Ask
Here are questions you should ask to determine if you have someone worth sending information to.

"I’ll be happy to send you material. So I can highlight some things for you, can you give me an idea of specifically what you might be looking for?"

"If you like what you see, then what will happen?"

"If you like what you see, will you buy?"

"By when will you have had a chance to go through the material so we can speak again?"

"When do you feel you'll be ready to make a purchase?"

"Have you already decided you're going to make this type of purchase?"

"When should we speak again? Will we be talking about the details of a purchase at that point?"

Raise Their Expectations
Additionally, presell them on what you’re sending. If you say you’ll send out a "packet of stuff," they’ll give it about as much attention as the seed catalogs addressed to "Occupant" piled on their desk.

But consider if you instruct them to,

" . . . turn to the page that I’ll have marked with the neon green post-it note, and check the volume pricing I’ll have highlighted."

You’d have a greater chance of the material getting seriously looked at.

And of course, you might be able to completely eliminate this
challenge by putting all of your various pieces of literature on your
website or in an email file and simply saying,

" . . . sure I can send it to you. There. Check your email. It should be there right now."

Or, "Yes, let's look at it together right now on our website."

Literature can be a nice complement to the sales process. Use it wisely, when it's warranted.

(Want more ideas on dealing with this issue, or better yet, preventing it? Click here.)