An open letter to vendors seeking customers via social media

First impressions in sales cold-calls are everything. Don’t send a message that padlocks a door before it can be opened.

Keyboard on desk behind social media icons on wooden cubes with the text “make a good first impression” on a larger rectangle
Keyboard on desk behind social media icons on wooden cubes with the text “make a good first impression” on a larger rectangle
  • Diversity & inclusion
  • UX / design

Do some basic f*cking research FIRST !!!!!

  1. Know who I am. My name is not Jane Smith. It is not hard to find info about me on the Internet. And anyone who starts a conversation with “Dear Sir” automatically gets ignored, in my opinion, deservedly so.
  2. Know what my employer does. Don’t contact me trying to sell me things before you know what SaaS, Cloud Services, and enterprise software is.
  3. For gosh sakes, DON’T attempt to engage me by asking quesetions that can be answered through YOU typing the question in Google. It shows disrespect for the value of my time, and I will not respond.
  4. Don’t ask me for a referral to a different department in your first contact. Why would I do that when I don’t even know you?
  5. DON’T spam your services or your cause in response to one of my threads. That will get you blocked fast.
  6. Form e-mail does .. not .. work. Jumping into solutioning headfirst without any relevant data is not what I value in partners.
  7. Wait a respectful amount of time before sending your first contact. If you send it seconds after I accept your invitation to connect, that reinforces that you don’t ask and answer the questions you need to know before you should be making contact.

When you think your research is done, do some more research

Did you look at my competitors and see what they are doing in accessibility? Look at press releases describing what new products I may have coming out? Read about new laws or new lawsuits that may impact me? Are you recommending a webinar I may not have seen? Have you read a single article I have written?

Research takes time.

Good research takes a lot of time.

But good research significantly increases the chance of being noticed by the person you are reaching out to.

And there are few business opportunities that are so time-sensitive that they will go stale before some basic research can be accomplished.

“Free trials” are useless to me

This is not a mindfullness app we are talking where I won’t notice the $4.99 charge on my credit card if I forget to cancel within 14 days.

Don’t send me a six screen list of prices as a LinkedIn message

While price is always a factor, and sometimes a tie-breaker, for the most part, prices are not what “seal the deal” in accessibility. And any business relationship based solely on price is precarious (for both sides) at best.

Make sure any collateral you send me or web pages you send me to are ACCESSIBLE !!!

I cannot state how important this is. I spend a few minutes looking at screen reader, multimedia access, keyboard use, and magnification tests at a minimum on every home page of every vendor that is trying to sell me something. If it sucks, I make sure they know I think so.

  • You are REALLY not improving your standing in the eyes of potential customers.

If your site / solution isn’t accessible, it doesn’t matter to me what other value adds you bring, your potential future partnership with me is dead.

Do not lie to me (not even a white lie)

Lies are death to business relationships. In my case, accessibility is a small community. References and certifications are easily checked. If you say your organization did accessibility texting for “XYZ Widgets”

  1. I will contact XYZ Widgets accessibility (probably without telling you) and ask about the relationship

and while you are at it, don’t insult my intelligence

I’ve had prospective vendors try to convince me that:

  • TTv4 and TTv5 are really the same (not even close)
  • That they had some made up accessibility certification that I’ve never heard of
  • That their staff of fully able-bodied professionals can do accessibility work better than people with disabilities.

and don’t get defensive when I call you out on your shortcomings

I get it, companies aren’t perfect. You don’t have certified personnel or employees with disabilities? Fine. But you had better be prepared to tell me what you do that insures your people have experience equivalent to or better than certification. But don’t BS me or get defensive about the value of the certification or people with disabilities itself. Instead of reacting defensively, how about looking at it from the perspective that you may have just received the most important piece of free advice, possibly ever.

English fluency counts

I know it’s not fair, and I’m sorry. But if we are doing business in English and you send me messages full of partial sentences without properly conjugated verbs or easily discernable points or CTAs, that sends several unconscious messages:

  1. Your organization don’t have enough money to hire people who are fluent in English.
  2. There is an increased risk were I to choose you as a partner, that I will send instructions that will be misunderstand resulting in zero value in the work completed.

So, what does work?

Invest the time in creating an elevator pitch. There is lots of information on how to do this online. Here is my advice for creating an accessibility elevator pitch. Then use the pitch as part of the core of your initial contact.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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