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“Free” is Meaningless if the Customer Doesn’t Care

Author: David Brock, president, Partners in Excellence

Someone has been prospecting me. I’ll own up to it–normally I ignore 95 percent of the prospecting attempts people make. Most is poorly researched, irrelevant and poorly executed. Spending any time–even responding–is a waste of my time.

But some prospecting attempts standout as being, perhaps, a little better than mediocre (and it’s a shame I had to set the bar so low). This prospecting note was reasonably relevant–at least it was relevant to my industry, markets and so forth. But it focused on an issue that does not impact my organization.

While others in our industry might have this problem, we don’t. It’s not necessarily that we are better than the others (though I suspect we may be), it’s just that our business model is slightly different, and the issue this vendor addresses is not an issue that impacts us.

So I politely send a response, saying, “Thanks for sharing this information with me. Unfortunately, the issue you are addressing isn’t something that impacts our business. As a result, I wouldn’t be interested in continuing conversations. Thanks for your interest, though.”

I got a very long response. It repeats the same issue. It repeats how many companies they have helped and how “novel and interesting” their solution is. The sender then goes into much more detail about the solution, concluding with, “I’d like to offer you free use of this tool for 30 days …”

“Free” is Meaningless if Customers Don’t Care

‘Free’ is meaningless if I don’t have the problem you are solving, or if I don’t care. ‘Free’ might create a number of new problems and issues. In this case, if I had been interested in getting something for free, it would have involved changing some parts of our business model, investing more time and resources. It would not have been free, in fact; it could have had significant cost or risk.

My next response to this sales person was a little more terse. “You don’t seem to have understood my last response. The issue/problem you address is not a problem for us. As a result, we aren’t interested–even if it is free. If I were to take you up on your offer, it would actually create problems which we don’t have or need.”

Sadly, the sales person didn’t seem to be reading my response(s), or just didn’t care; or, perhaps, was just stuck on his script. He came back with, “What would it take for you to consider using our services?”

That didn’t even deserve a response–he and his company are in my spam folder, and now I don’t have to worry about future emails.

Blind Prospecting Wastes Everyone’s Time

Too often, we waste time on people/organizations that don’t have the problem we solve. We blindly prospect everyone, wasting our brand equity on people who don’t care and will never be interested (nor should they be, if they don’t have that problem.).

We waste time and resources trying to entice customers, who rightfully don’t care, into buying. Even “free” is meaningless if the customer doesn’t care.

If the customer doesn’t have the problem you solve, don’t waste their (or your) time. Even deeply discounted or free offers are meaningless–they are never without cost or risk to the customer.

We have to create value with our customers. We have to work with them, showing them solutions that help them achieve their goals. We must demonstrate the value they get is greater than the cost or risks to implementation.

Free is not a strategy, it’s an act of desperation.


Author David Brock is president, Partners in Excellence. Read more from David Brock here.

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