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Given a tough assignment, should you do it?
Dave Kahle
Dave Kahle

Q. My boss recently decided that we must call prospects once every hour, every day, until we get a yes or no, regardless of what they say, or if it's voicemail. What's your opinion of this?

I really think there are two questions here. The first has to do with this practice - Is it a good idea to do this? The second is more personal and implied - What should you do?

Let's deal with each of them separately.

Is it a good idea to call prospects every hour, every day, in order to get a definite yes or no?

I don't think so, with some exceptions. If you are in the business of hard-selling to customers on a one-time only basis then there may be some value in it. If you are selling burial plots for example, your customer is going to buy it or not, and probably not come back for additional units.

In that case, the damage that you do to your reputation and the relationship with the customer may be an acceptable price to pay for those few customers who say yes just to get you off their back.

If, however, you expect to build a relationship with these customers such that you hope that they'll buy again in the future, then I'd advise against it. It sends the message that you are so focused on your agenda - selling something - that you totally disregard the customer's agenda, his decision-making process, his schedule and his desire to work with a professional vendor. It makes you look desperate, which is never a good thing if you are going to engender a relationship that produces more business down the line.

Imagine how you will look if your customer had an afternoon meeting, and then spent the next day with one of his clients. He gets back to the office, listens to his voice mail, and discovers 12 messages from you. If it were me, that would be enough to decide never to do business with you again, and to regret ever giving you my phone number. I'd be thinking something like this: "What was I thinking when I talked with these clowns?"

I can understand your boss's frustration. The biggest time waster for any sales organization is not the people who say "no," it's the people who don't make a decision, or make it and won't tell you they have decided to do something other than buy from you.

A certain number of these are people who just don't like to tell someone "no." So, they resort to not speaking to you again, knowing that in a month or so you'll get the message and go away.

Another group is fostered by the sales people themselves. Not wanting to hear a "no," they rarely press for a decision, and never suggest a next step. They delude themselves that not hearing a "no" means that they can continue to see the customer, taking up valuable sales time, and feel like they are accomplishing something. This is a common ploy by sales people who are not confident with their abilities. Unsure and uncomfortable with developing new customers, they continue to see those folks who will see them, even if there isn't the slightest change that the sales person's investment of time will ever produce a satisfactory return.

And, more and more today, what used to be thought of as incredibly rude is, by today's standards, more acceptable behavior. In other words, people are ruder today than ever. For example, if you meet with a prospect a couple of times, discuss an issue he is interested in, maybe even develop a customized proposal and deliver it, you should expect that the customer will give you the courtesy of a response. If they don't, under those circumstances, they are rude.

Add all these up, and you can see why your boss is frustrated. I'm just not sure hourly calling is the solution.

Question two: What should you do?

Let's build on this premise: Sales people are employees and they should be good employees, willing and able to following their employers' directions. If you accept that, and I do, then it severely limits your options

You don't have the option, for example, to just disregard the direction. Nor do you have the option to nod yes, giving verbal ascent, and then not follow on what you said you would do.

I can think of three viable options.

1. Suck it up, make the calls, suffer the irate responses, and let your boss know what kind of results you are getting from this effort. Consider it a character-building process.

2. Put together a coherent, persuasive case as to why this practice is a bad idea and try to sell your boss on changing his direction to you.

3. Take a couple of personal days off. Hope that while you are gone the other sales people will get beaten to a pulp by irate customers, and that your boss will relent in just a couple of days. At that point, you can resume your job without having to bear the brunt of the customer's rage and your boss' frustration.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of distributor and B2B salespeople and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and eight countries. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine or visit his blog at www.davekahle.com. E-mail editorial@mhwmag.com to contact Dave.

 
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