Jewelry wholesale founder Vanessa Merit Nornberg has no patience for unprepared salespeople who waste her time--and theirs. Don't make the same mistake as Gina.
"Metal Mafia, this is Vanessa. Can I help you?"
A woman on the other end of the line, with whom I have never before spoken responds, "Hi! How are you?"
I say nothing, already chaffed at having my time wasted with questions not germane to the purpose for her call. "My name is Gina," she continues, "and I am going to be in your area on November 3rd to evaluate your liability insurance needs. I will be able to save you a lot of money by using loopholes we have developed. What time is a good time for me to come by?"
Incredulous that someone would think to start a sales call by making what sounds like a questionably legal proposal, I ask: "What kind of loopholes are you talking about?"
The woman perseveres, "Most insurance brokers get your liability needs rated based on your most dangerous product, when in actuality, your policy could be based on your least hazardous product!"
Now she has my full attention, for all the wrong reasons. I own a company that wholesales body-piercing jewelry, and products like ours are notoriously difficult to insure. I ask her if she knows what my most hazardous product is.
She answers flippantly, "No, of course not. I’ll find out about your product on November 3rd when I stop by your retail shop."
I quiz her. "If you don’t know what my most hazardous product is, how do you know you can save me money?"
She states that she "just knows that she will be able to." I cut her off as she again tries to set her appointment with me on November 3rd. "Do you even know what any of my products are?"
She answers, confidently, "No. How could I know about your products before visiting your store?"
I reply testily. "How could you have known? For starters, you could have looked up my company’s website to learn about the products I sell. You also could have engaged me by asking about my current coverage costs and whether or not I find it expensive. You could have shocked me with a statistic about how much money businesses lose by having products classified incorrectly by insurers—but you did none of those things.
"If you had, you would have known that I am a wholesaler, not a retailer, and thus, I do not have a store. You would also have known that as a body jewelry company, the majority of my products are seen as potentially hazardous.
"And even given those facts, if you had framed your product in terms of my business needs, I might have agreed to meet with you. Instead, I am going to give you some sales advice.
"Before you dial, do your homework. You need to know not only why you are calling, but whom you are calling. If you want me to understand the value of your service, I expect you to understand how it might help my business. Whether you are in my area every day or just on November 3rd, you will not get an appointment with this kind of ill-prepared, uninformed call."
I know this does not make me sound very nice, but too many people waste too much of business owners' time with lousy sales calls. And if Gina got it, she'll be thankful for some hard-won tips.
Vanessa Merit Nornberg: In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg