Once upon a time, a college friend of mine spent a few days with me. He was driving his son to his first job in Washington, DC from Massachusetts, and my house was directly in line. In a very few hours, it became apparent how people grow in different directions. My friend took the athletic route after graduating and is a very fine physical education teacher at his local high school in Massachusetts. He has spent the last 30 years of his life in the gymnasium—working with other people’s children. The morning after he arrived at my house, we no sooner poured our first cup of coffee when he asked if he could see the comics section of my morning newspaper. This section is always free, as I immediately grab the business section in order to get my daily “marketing fix.” My wife starts at the beginning and my son disappears with the sports section.
I couldn’t help but notice my friend’s childish behavior, so I asked him what he found so interesting in the “funny” section of our daily rag. He responded without hint of apology that he learned many of life’s lessons from reading the comics. He added that he often shared his findings with his young students throughout the day.
Not being one to pretend to having all the answers, although I expected it to be a bit painful, I decided to give his morning ritual a shot. The following morning, I bit my lower lip and began the day with the comics.
In Andy Capp, I spotted Andy with his ever-present pint of beer in hand, walking toward a woman standing by the bar. Above her head the caption read, “Here he comes again. He never stops trying. I’ll soon give him the brush off.” The next frame showed Andy walking past the woman without saying a word. The third and last frame again quoted the woman. “Well! Honestly! I’ve never been so insulted.”
These three frames made immediate sense to me. It is a well-known sales scenario painted to perfection. Andy, the persistent salesperson, gave up on the prospect and quit on her. The woman, in my mind playing the role as the obstinate “buyer,” although rehearsing her latest rebuff, was surprised when the game came to an abrupt halt. “How dare a salesperson stop trying to gain my business? The nerve!”
I recalled a similar situation that happened to me a few years back. A salesperson kept calling on me trying to get me to switch copiers. Month after month, this man’s appeal ended in failure. Then one day, I realized that he had stopped calling on me. I remember being very disappointed, wondering what could I have ever done or said to drive him away.
The lesson here is crystal clear. If a buyer is approached properly, a relationship will develop over time. Although they may not require your services immediately, chances are good that if and when they do need whatever it is you provide in the days ahead, they will turn to you first—as long as you are still around. I know as an absolute fact that if that guy had hung in, I would have rewarded him with a purchase order, when (and only when) I needed a new copier.
Rejection today is exactly that—rejection today. It doesn’t translate to final refusal. If you have maintained a professional position, if you do decide to call it quits with a particular prospect, you may be ending the game before it’s played to its completion.
I’m not suggesting that you waste your time with every account or prospect. I am recommending when you target a specific prospect, you make a commitment to continue the process until the conclusion. Remember that there is a very fine line between being professionally persistent and becoming a nuisance. Be caring, but don’t cross the line and become obnoxiously aggressive.
When a prospect politely (or impolitely) suggests that you “buzz-off,” then it is in your best interest to quietly focus your energies toward the next opportunity. Recite the phrase “Who’s Next?,” and get yourself in position to begin another relationship with another person who appreciates excellence.
So, here is a recap of today’s little story:
- Let the prospect do the thinking.
- Be professionally persistent – never obnoxious.
- Don’t quit too soon.
All this from three frames of Andy Capp. Go figure! I’m seriously thinking of letting my subscription to the Wall Street Journal lapse so I can spend more time each morning reading the comics!
Mike Marchev is always looking for a few more proactive travel professionals to join his Sales and Marketing Club. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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