How Not to Prospect for New Business!

email imageSometimes people in selling roles do the most incredible things.  You only have to watch any episode of The Apprentice where ideas/products/services are being pitched and within a couple of minutes maximum you’re subjected to toe-curling cringe-worthy errors and ‘must not do’s from people who make claims that they are the best salespeople in their industry, country or in the world even!


Sometimes it is a case of people not knowing better, sometimes it is because the person is instructed to do something by managers who don’t know better; in lots of both cases though it is because too many people believe that selling is easy and is not a set of skills and disciplines that should be learned and honed.  And the prospects and potential customers on the end of their approaches are subjected to some horror stories.


One of the best examples of this that I have ever been on the receiving end of is this real email which I received some time ago from a company that was interested in reselling our products/services.  Whilst it is clearly a mass emailing from a company looking to find companies to represent, it must have been drafted and approved by people with no idea of what selling is, of what it means to build rapport or desire to do business in their prospects.

I trust you’ll enjoy what I deem to be one of the best/worst examples of just what not to do when prospecting that I have ever seen:



From:  RealCompany

To:  Trentham Whitmore

Sent:  Friday, January 08, 2018 12:01 PM

Subject:  Business in our country


Dear Sir,

I have searched on the internet and found your company.

My name is John Smith from, “Real Company”. Our company is located in XXX city, XXX country – We are importers of a wide range of products.

PLEASE READ THIS EMAIL VERY CAREFULLY and ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS. My management require me to give all the answers to the below questions to them. My management gave me your email address and told me to contact you. They have found your email address from your website which they have now reviewed.

Please understand, I need you to give me a DETAILED response EXACTLY based on my manager’s requirements.

My management have already visited your website. So please do not just respond saying “go to the website”.  (it is frustrating when this happens!)

We are an IMPORTER in XXX country looking for a new supplier for all products.

1) Please email me a quotation in EXCEL SPREADSHEET showing clearly PICTURE, PRICE, DETAILED SPECIFICATIONS of all the items you recommend (based on my requirements EXACTLY as I specify in this email). DO NOT just send me to your website!

2) Please confirm, do you currently have customers in our country?

3) If you have customers in country, “WHO ARE THEY”?

4) If you have customers in our country, “WHAT ITEMS DO THEY PURCHASE FROM YOU”? (Please offer me a full quotation of these items so I can analyse your prices. Remember, a full quotation MUST be in an EXCEL SPREADSHEET showing clearly PICTURE, PRICE, DETAILED SPECIFICATIONS.

5) If you do not have customers in our country, Who are your biggest international customers?

6) If you do not have customers in our country, what do your biggest international customers purchase? (Please offer me a full quotation of these items so I can analyse your prices. Remember, a full quotation MUST be in an EXCEL SPREADSHEET showing clearly PICTURE, PRICE, DETAILED SPECIFICATIONS.

7) Do you have any CERTIFICATION in our country for your items. NOT AMERICAN. NOT EUROPEAN – but our country’s CERTIFICATION.

This is a VERY important question and you must answer this with a very DETAILED ANSWER.

Below is two GOVERNMENT links to products which MUST be tested according to SPECIFIC TESTS in our country:


Review these links in DETAIL and confirm if you have completed any of this testing.

For products NOT included in the above lists, it is OK if you have EUROPEAN AND USA testing. So, for ALL OTHER PRODUCTS, please specify if you have the EUROPEAN AND USA TESTING REPORTS.

8) Explain to me, in DETAIL – your experience in exporting to our country.

9) We are a MAIL ORDER COMPANY – and this means all our items must be in MAIL ORDER PACKAGING with DROP TEST APPROVAL. This means, the carton can be dropped from about 1.0m height and have absolutely no damage. Please explain to me in a DETAILED explanation that you understand this and show me that you can do this.

I look forward to your detailed email.

Email: sales@RealCompany

John Smith (I changed this to an alias to protect the ‘definitely guilty’)




In case you’re wondering … it genuinely is a real email (other than me removing the individual’s name, country and city – to protect the ‘definitely guilty!’).  Needless to say it didn’t generate a positive reply from me, and probably never has from anyone else who received it!


Iverifying trust you’ll appreciate that when we are preparing something in looking for new business (telephone call script / email / mailshot letter) it is important that we stop after preparing it, review it to ensure we are putting our best foot forward and being professional and ensure we come across as people that our prospects want to do business with.


I wish you every success and trust you enjoyed this email (for all of the wrong reasons) as much as I did!



About Trentham Whitmore

Salesperson, trainer, author, speaker, student and forever curious about what makes top performing salespeople so much more successful than their contempories.
This entry was posted in Being A Salesperson, Prospecting, Selling Parables and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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