Please don’t just touch my base

“How are you?”

When I first came to the US (in 1991) a fellow student asked me this question as we were walking by each other in Philadelphia. I’d heard that Americans were much friendlier than Brits so I thought it was very nice of this person I did not know to care about my well being.

In typical British style I answered “not bad”. That apparently concerned my new friend and lead to a 10 minute conversation to make sure I was not seriously ill. Apparently the correct response is “awesome” or better still, nothing at all…and it’s important to keep on walking.

I now know that most folks around here ask that question without expecting an answer. In fact, they don’t really care how you are. They just ask the question like Brits say “good morning.”

Fast forward 23 years and I was sitting around minding my own business when I heard a sales person call a prospect and say “Hi Stan, Jane here, I’m just calling to touch base”.

“Touching base” in my opinion is the sales equivalent of asking “how are you?”–the version where you don’t expect a reply. Or in a sales context any prospect to call you back.

Sitting in the prospect’s chair (you know I get to be a prospect and a sales person these days), I know when a sales person calls me and says “hi Nigel, Joe from Cool Tech Tools here I’m just touching base as we spoke 3 months ago” that what he really means is “Hey Nigel,¬†Joe from Cool Tech Tools here I’ve hot a quota to make and I’m hoping you need to buy my widget now”.

I don’t feel the love. I don’t feel you care about me. If I desperately need your widget right now¬†maybe it will work. But if I really needed your widget right now I’d probably call you.

99% of the time I don’t need your widget right now. And when you call me to “just touch base” I’m not impressed. You’re not showing that you care about me. You go straight to the bottom of my priority list. You don’t care about me and you’re not stating any compelling reason we should talk.

So please, if you’re going to call me every 3 months (you know that quarterly touch thing for those prospects that are not in your “hot list”) please find a reason and incorporate it into your call.

One of the best things to include in your call is a trigger event–something that has changed in my environment that your product or service can solve. If there’s something going on in my world that is heating up and starting to cause me pain then I may well be up for talking to someone about it. Or if you know of something going on in my industry that’s causing blokes like me issues and I don’t know about it, I’ll be up for talking about that too.

Ideally, customize that trigger event with something you know about me through your research and you’re on the way to getting my interest–and a call back.

So please don’t just “touch my base”, have a reason for calling. And maybe even show me you care about me–just a little.

I’m juggling burning knives over here. Give me a reason to speak to you.

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