It was the summer of 1993 and I just finished my sophomore year of college in San Diego. I packed up my truck and headed home to start my summer job working at a friend’s grandparent’s auto dealership. My job was to do odd jobs (the ones nobody else wanted to do) and clean up around the place.
About a week into the job I was emptying the trash can in the owners office and he said to me “Hey Todd. Would you like sell cars instead?” “Sure!” “Okay you can start Monday, but need to cut your hair.” I worked hard growing out my sun bleached surfer hair, but cutting it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Did I mention the dealership was in Compton?
Selling cars was a great gig for this college kid.
It paid much better than being the maintenance guy and introduced me to the world of commission sales. It was feast or famine, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. That summer I did sell some cars and learned life lessons along the way. One thing about car sales is that as soon as the person leaves the lot the sale is dead.
Have you ever noticed why the sales people never want you to leave the lot? Now you know.
In the world of business to business sales the sales process can be much more complex and time consuming than engaging a person who just walked on the lot. Professional sales presentations can involve tremendous resources, multiple meetings and can take months to prepare. This is what we call an Opportunity Cost and why pre-qualifying the potential buyers to weed out tire kickers is crucial.
Any salesperson has won and lost sales over their career. This is just part of the job description. It’s not always easy to lose, but hopefully you can learn why and get better in the future. What frustrates me and the reason I wrote this. You make the follow up phone call to see if you won the business and they ignore your phone calls and never call you back! Ugh!
This happened to me recently. It wasn’t the first time, but hopefully the last. Over the course of about 4 months we were working with a prospect to consider alternative risk financing options as a long term cost control strategy. During that time we had 5 meetings, flew out our business partners from Texas twice, had about 20 people involved and collectively spent well over 100 hours on this. This was an investment we were willing to make, because this model was a great solution for the prospect and we had a good chance of winning the business.
The prospect was forthcoming in letting me know when he and his partner were going to make the final decision. That day I called anxious to hear if we won their business and it went straight to voice mail. No response. I sent a quick text in the late afternoon. No response. The next day I called him again left another message. No response. The following morning and the day we had to have a decision I sent the dreaded “I haven’t heard from you so, I’ll assume you decided to go another direction…” e-mail. He responded! Albeit brief and not the news I was hoping for he responded.
I know I’m not the only salesperson who has been in this situation and unfortunately won’t be the last, but we can change this. Are you with me?! Let’s all agree (me included) to be courteous and professional to those who we have engaged in the sales process. It’s okay to say no, but when the decision has been made. Do the right thing. Make the call.
We are salespeople and can take rejection. We just can’t take being ignored.