The Imploding Salesperson

August 5, 2011

By Matt Michel

Occasionally, I use a public relations service to help distribute press releases. I only use the company when I'm seeking distribution beyond the industries we serve.

Business must be down for the PR distribution company because a salesperson from the company called me for the first time. He wanted to talk about the services the company offers.

Now, I'm legitimately interested in this subject. I've found this company to be innovative and I know there have been new developments in online press releases that incorporate video, flash, direct feedback, and lead generation. I'd like to know more about these advances and bet this guy could help.

But he called when I was facing a deadline. He called when I had zero time. Zip. Zippo. Nada.

"Hey, this is really great," I said, "and I'd like to learn more, but not now. I've got a hard deadline in 30 minutes."

I expressed interest, but stalled. I pushed the ball back to the salesperson. He could have asked if he could call back in an hour or a day later.

He could have simply said, "Tell you what. You're busy now so I'm going to get off the line. I'll call you in a few days to see if you've got more time. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, my name is... and you can reach me at... Otherwise, I'll call in a week or so."

With either response, he would have kept the ball. He would have maintained control of the relationship. Instead, he punted.

"Tell you what," he said, "I'm going to email you my contact information. Give me a call when you get a few minutes."


He probably thought he was being low pressure. He wasn't low pressure. He imploded.

He gave the ball back to me. He gave me, the customer, control of the next contact in the sales relationship. Even though I think I'm interested in what he has to say, I have no more inclination to act now than before he called.

If he's got a product or service that might simplify my life, generate or save money for my company, he's just done me a disservice. Of course, as a customer I figure the odds that he's got a wonder product are minimal. His persistence would be greater if he did.

I frequently observe this type of behavior in the world of sales. Salespeople cede control of the relationship. They leave it completely up to the prospect to take the next step. They implode.

Last week my wife wanted to look for a new car. At one dealership we visited, the salesperson made a trial close during the test drive, which I rejected. He didn't back off. At the dealership, he tried to cinch the deal.

I made it clear we weren't buying a car today, and that even if we were inclined, he already admitted he didn't have the color and option package on the lot that my wife wanted, and that even if the right vehicle at the right price were available, we didn't have time. I pushed back hard enough that he feared losing the sale altogether.

This salesperson apparently has two speeds: full ahead and full retreat. He handed each of us a business card and asked us to come back and see him. He never even collected our contact information.

Instead, he should have gotten the contact info, clarified my wife's requirements, and called when he found a vehicle that met her specification. Alternatively, he could call to let her know about a new incentive, a new financing program, or to offer helpful information about buying a car.

Instead, he punted. Now, I've got the ball and I'm unlikely to give it back. The salesperson just imploded.

When one of your prospects stalls, it doesn't mean the sale is lost. It does mean you must put forth more effort. You can only do that if you maintain control of the relationship.

Tell the stalling prospect you will call him back and give a time frame. Let the customer know it's okay to contact you in the interim. When you do reconnect, make sure you've got new information for the prospect.

At each contact, keep control of the next step. Tell the customer you'll reconnect in a few days, a week, three months, or next year. Just make sure the next action is yours.

If that seems too pushy for you, add, "if that's okay" to the end of the contact statement. "You sound like you need a little more time. I'll call back next week if that's okay."

How long do you keep this up? Until the prospect buys from you, buys from someone else, or blows up the relationship by asking you to stop calling.

It's great to close the sale. It's okay to lose a sale. It's even okay for the customer to blow up the relationship. It's not okay to implode.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2009 Matt Michel

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