This is Your Sales Pitch? Seriously?

I received an e-mail from a sales rep last Thursday that has really set me off and I am seeking your advice on how to respond.

I hold a total of six life and disability policies with Northwestern Mutual and have done business with “The Quiet Company” since 1980. In that time, I have gone through a number of sales people. The latest, Mike, sent me the following e-mail:


I’ve never met him. This is the first time I’ve heard from him. Most people would either delete it or ignore it. But I am a sales trainer, hear me roar. I can’t just let this go as much as I’d like to. An injustice has occurred in the sales world and it is my duty to defend on its behalf.

Honestly, I am insulted and angry on a number of levels. THAT’S THE BEST YOU CAN DO? Is the economy in his world different from the one in mine? Are people lined up to do business with this guy to the point where I should be thankful to have gotten 11 words out of him? Am I not big enough to have received the courtesy of a better pitch?

Like my father before me, I am hot-headed and have a temper. I react before I think. I talk before my brain can stop me. My knee-jerk reaction to this e-mail involves wanting to take a knee to this jerk. Is he kidding?

I have a bad habit of rewriting sales people’s solicitation e-mails and sending them back as a way of offering free advice. Not. Always. Well. Received. In this case, I’d write: “Good day, Mr. Farquharson. My name is Mike and I am your new sales rep. I am contacting you today not only to introduce myself but also to ask if we could find a time to talk. It’s been some time since your various life and disability policies have been reviewed and I think you might find it worth the time to discuss how your needs have changed and how Northwestern Mutual’s products can help you meet your financial goals. I will call you during the week of…Mike”

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Edward L Dignam

    Well, this could be a tough one. Have you reviewed your policies recently? Sounds like he’s willing to talk if you are… LOL

  • Todd Gould

    Bill, have you thought of telling him you’re going to cancel all the policies unless he can offer a good discount? Oh, wait, that ploy only works with Sirius Radio…I guess be happy he wasn’t writing to tell you your premiums were going up!

  • IMHO

    C. Call up a couple of his competitors, see if they can email you some information about their services. Pick the best response and forward that to Mike.

  • Steve

    C. Bill, I have a better idea. You should answer him in the manner dictated by the brevity of his email, as follows.


  • Jeff Kalb

    A. Bill, you should delete, ignore, and get help for your sales anger

    If you want to respond AND if you want to review your policies, ask for a new rep.
    Why waste your time on this, salesrep?

  • kansasquaker

    B! Definitely B! But only under the condition that you post your correction and his response . . .

  • Paul Gardner

    Bill, YOU already have a better idea. You should simply send THAT ONE LINE back to him…


    After being a loyal NWL customer for 32 years, don’t you think I deserve the courtesy of a better pitch?



  • iidave

    At least he/she didn’t end their email with LOL. Survival of the fittest rears its’ realistic head. The bright side, if nothing else, you were inspired to action.

  • spammer

    What about the possibility that Mike does not even work for the company and the email is just spam to harvest your email address as active?

  • Mr. Print

    you are old school…stop trying to fight it. This is the way selling/communicating is done today. Your lucky to have recieved and e-mail to begin with and not a text.

  • Michele Willis-Rosso

    My suggestion is a combo – a little each from A, B and C….
    A. Your ‘sales anger’ stems as much from your well-trained perspective as to how a salesperson SHOULD behave, and personal offense at the absolute barebones minimum amount of effort this guy put forth in his email to you. How interested in YOU is he, really? Sales anger justified.
    B. Therefore, go ahead and correct him. I like your rewrite and who knows, maybe he’ll learn something or be properly shamed. But also do one more thing –
    C. Copy his boss on your reply/rewrite if you can get his name. Either Mike will be deservedly fired (who would want him representing their company?!), or his boss will say, we need to call this Farquharson guy for some sales training!!

  • John Simpson

    My response would be as simple as his query…….. No.

  • Dan Moss


    That is more than a bit insulting. I’d say "Mike…that’s a fantastic idea. After 32 years of being a loyal customer, perhaps I should review my policies…with several of your competitors. Perhaps they will be interested in having a actual dialogue concerning my changing needs and how well they can accomodate them."

    That should strike a nerve with him. One more thing…make sure his immediate supervisor is CC’d on the response.

  • James

    I agree with the folks that say do a mixture. You don’t know this gent’s history or level of experience. You might be able to say those few words that take him to the next level.

  • John deLoach


    I would say this is characteristic of this generation’s 140-character communication mindset.

    I say be silent and see what happens next. I would be curious what message #2 sounds like, if it is sent at all.

    I have about the same number of policies with the same company. I am as surprised as you are.


  • BKG

    C. Bill, I have a better idea. You should…
    Hold off on any response and here’s why: Based on his email, he will not be in sales much longer. You can’t feed your cat with a sales pitch like that, let alone your family. He will be gone long before he has time to review your policies, so why offer free advice. He certainly didn’t offer you anything, did he?

  • Catherine Cretu

    Bill, this was certainly your best column in some time: the responses it has elicited are HYSTERICAL! I haven’t had this good a laugh in days! I think you must have struck a nerve.

    On a just slightly more serious note, having studied all the responses thus far, I would most closely agree with Michele’s response. I’m used to thinking of you as a sales trainer, but in this case, you are the customer. If you are happy with NM, you owe the company your honest feedback (Michele’s C). One of my favorite sayings is, "A complaint is a gift." I am astonished at how reticent clients can be to tell me about a problem they are experiencing with my company; but how can I fix it, if I don’t know about it? And if you want to give Mike the free benefit of your advice and coaching at the same time, well, that just shows us what we already knew–you are a very generous guy!

  • Kelly Mallozzi

    How about if before condemming him and jumping to conclusions you ask him if he has some sort of master plan. Perhaps this is just his jumping off point and he has had some measure of success with this seemingly odd approach.

    Or he could just suck.

    In which case…..

    More work for us!

  • Craig Faletti

    I have been in the industry for 37 years. I am currently reading the book "Selling in Tough Times" I like your re-write and would go with B and see how he responds. As sales professionals, its unfortunate but it goes to show you that no mater how many degrees a person has, schools cannot teach common sence or business etiquette. In my mind, he already has a road block in front of him.

  • Jim Albany

    To size up the rep you should actually meet up with him, face to face. He may be just getting started and could use your sage advice.

    Answer his email with a simple "yes"…

  • Robert W. Bell

    Bill, your a wordsmith no doubt. But this economy has forced people into situations they are not trained or prepared for. I try to think of it as maybe this guy is trying to pay his mortgage and feed some hungry kids. There must be a area in your life where you do not excel, he might even have a terminal ill family member. For me two scoops of humble pie, and I count my blessings, limited as they are.

  • David Schwalje

    With humor email him your PI column – request him to call you.

  • Please Nocoldcontacts

    "C" His initial contact was obviously far too terse given that he’s assuming responsibility for servicing your account with them.

    BUT, your suggested correction looks like every cold contact email I have ever received and sent immediately to the trash can. If that came to me from one of my actual assigned account reps (esp. at a company where we’re actually doing business), I wouldn’t have been able to tell it apart from any other bozo who emails or calls (!?!?) to schedule time to talk about whatever they’re pretentious and arrogant enough to think must be so important to me.

    Enough of the charades. Lay out what it is you or your company are best at doing (and not in fluffy market-speak – actual, concrete terms), make it easy for me to reach out to you on my terms when and if I decide to do so, then leave me the heck alone. If you need to badger and cajole and massage and lure people into doing business with you, you’re probably not selling anything they really need.

    So, all that having been said, if you’re going to correct him, fine, but for Pete’s sake please don’t manufacture another soulless sales drone in the process. The business world is filled to the brim with them as it is. None of them add any value to anything.

  • Marcia Lee

    I would e-mail him and do an exchange.

    Thanks Mike. I will allow you 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, I would like 15 minutes of your time to share how I can help you improve your sales. Sound fair?

  • LGP

    I think you have a right to expect more – however I find when it comes to everyday communications many folks in my organization simply will not read or even bother to respond to lengthy e-mails.

  • Printdisplays

    Excellent article Bill, you keep up the good work son

  • J. Gentre Vartan

    His 11 words are about as much as I want to hear from an Inusrance Sales person. So I am good with it. I either do or don’t.

    I will admit that his brevity is not consistent with the NML Brand.

  • Guttenburg

    "You can only teach the teachable" Vernon Law.

  • Steve Low

    Bill, You don’t even know if this rep wrote the e-mail. In todays world it could be computer generated which is even more disturbing. I find most people do not want to interact with customers when the are unsure of the outcome… way too messy for most. Why else would sales reps pay phone and e-mail solicitors to sell for them?

  • informpro

    I would send him a link to this column and see if he "gets it"!

  • Stephen Reddington

    Have you ever thought about the fact he may have done that ON PURPOSE so at least the message came through in a world where we are bombarded by hundreds of e-mail a day? It got your attention, didn’t it? And maybe, just maybe, you might find the time to call him and give him a piece of your mind, so that he can apologize and tell you he actually was told to try that tactic by someone else. Then he can get into the REAL sales pitch. I’m not defending this guy, but his name and company got you to think about it, and in today’s market, he got you to respond, albeit in a negative way. We can debate the idea of "any publicity is good publicity" later.

  • SpectrumColor

    The world is a different place now. The generation Y has started this line of informal communication. I don’t see it going any where plus the old convention of long winded words than lead to the same result is going bye bye quickly. We all have to get used to it.

  • Craig Faletti

    Sorry, I don’t buy that explination. The generatioon Y group is supposed to be the latest and greatest. There is no excuse for not positioning a sales call via e-mail correctly. I refuse to get used to not communicating effectly with a customer or prospect.

  • Greg Winter

    I guess I must be getting old but the insurance reps I remember that certainly have all your personel information could come with a better introduction that than.I might be looking for a new rep.

  • Jim T

    There’s a lot of discussion here that borders on insinuating that a firm response from Bill would make this guy curl up in the fetal position and cry. So be it. When I was a young pup and still wet behind the ears, I was "taken over the knee" a few times by my wiser elders. I didn’t appreciate it at the time of these verbal spankings, but years later I began to appreciate what they had done for me. Those people hold a special place in my life. Some are gone and I miss them dearly. They cared. Life is rough folks, and I’d rather hear about it from somebody like Bill. Someone that cares.

    Bill, I know I’m late to this, but please let us know what you decided.

  • Josh Hughes

    B. Bill, you are right to be upset. Go ahead and correct him.

    Might want to tell him why you care, because it’s your job to educate and assist sales people. Whenever I get free advice from people who have been through the rounds in sales, I listen.