Fable Friday: Don’t let the customer waste your time!

“You asked me ten thousand questions and I answered every one,” shouts Robert DeNiro at the bewildered car-shopping couple in the movie “Analyze That.”  His rant begins with, “So, are you going to buy the car or not?”

He “builds rapport” by showing them all the room in the trunk, “You could put three bodies in there,” and then calls their Lexus a Toyota, as he scares them out of the showroom with advice on how they can talk to the manager.  Remember that scene?

DeNiro is a great actor and he makes this scene so realistic and comedic it’s hard not to laugh. You can find it on YouTube, but please don’t watch it at work, and because of the language I won’t post the link.  You’re on your own with this one.

I mention it here on Fable Friday because it introduces the notion of spending time with a customer only to find there’s no sale. Often a frustrated salesperson will say, “That customer wasted my time. I did all I could, answered all his questions, gave him a demo, a fair price, but he still wouldn’t buy.”

You know that in the world of professional sales you wouldn’t be in this spot. Qualified customers don’t “waste” your time.  You do the right things and sometimes you get the sale, and sometimes you don’t.  The sales pro doesn’t make the mistakes DeNiro makes in the comedy. When he loses a sale he’s philosophical, looks at how he could have done better and moves on.

But let’s admit that there are some businesses whose sales model is designed to keep customers from wasting their time. After all, time is money. So here’s a good one.

How many emails would you say you’ve received this year from some deposed prince or other wealthy individual who needs your help getting his millions out of Nigeria?  If you could only provide your banking information and advance some funds up front to speed up the process, you’ll get a few million bucks yourself!

As you hit delete you may think, “These people must think I’m stupid or gullible. Only an idiot would fall for this.”

You would be right.  These emails are carefully constructed to mention Nigeria several times, contain misspelled words and typos and are ridiculously amateurish. And it’s all part of a calculated marketing approach designed to maximize revenue and avoid wasting time.

You see, only a very gullible person would respond to an email like this, and since it costs nothing to send out a million emails at a time, the fraudsters don’t want to be bombarded with hundreds of “interested prospects,” because that would be a waste of their time.  Instead, they are looking for just a very few, very stupid people.   And the scam works so well that the U.S. Secret Service has set up a task force to combat it. It’s an extraordinarily profitable business.  One California victim lost $5 million!

Cormac Herley, a computer scientist at Microsoft Research, wrote a brilliant paper explaining it, which I’m sure you can find on Google. Herley mentions that the best defense against such a scam would consist of people replying with interest to the emails, and tie up the scammers with lots of back and forth questions and false shows of interest, but who would do that? So the crooks keep making money by the early elimination of non-idiots.

Just goes to show that even crooks learn how to…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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