Oct 24, 2017 10:36:29 AM
Admitting you’re wrong is hard for people, myself included.
For whatever reason, this admission comes harder in the workplace, where our actions are guided by habit more often than we realize. Once in a while though, I catch myself making a decision purely out of reflex, and pause to consider why.
I had one of these revelations recently when an unexpected invite popped up on my calendar.
As the founder of a HubSpot startup, I spend a lot of time with my sales hat on, and that includes a fair amount of “warm calling.”
When I see a business that matches our buyer profile, I reach out to a senior manager and offer tips that will improve their lead generation. Sometimes they listen and open up about their challenges; sometimes they’re busy and get off the phone quickly; and sometimes they say something rude and hang up.
No big deal.
Executives face a barrage of mail-merge garbage from spammers who put zero effort into personalizing their approach, and no matter how helpful you try to be in your outreach, some of them will shoot you down on sight. That’s how prospecting goes.
The side effect of all this is I am fully trained in the Jedi Art of Rejection.
When a salesperson contacts me by email, I ignore it. If they get me on the phone, I tell them “no thanks” and hang up.
I won’t lie – there’s a side of me that enjoys rejecting them. When you’ve been on the receiving end of the stick long enough, sometimes you feel like dishing it out to someone else. I was in a similar mindset when a salesperson – I’ll call her Debbie – booked a call with me through the messaging app on our website.
We’d never spoken before, so I knew right away it was a sales call. I sent her a follow up email, thanking her for setting an appointment with me and asking what challenges her parent company was experiencing with sales and marketing.
This is what I got back:
She wanted to “determine if a business partnership between us would make sense.” Without a second thought, I cancelled the appointment and sent her this curt little response.
I dusted off my hands and got back to work, figuring she would write me off and move on to the next name on the spreadsheet, but an hour or so later, I got this:
Her company consults businesses that need services we provide, and she wanted a better understanding of what we do. Yeah, sure. I reached for the delete button when a question popped up in my mind.
Why I was so quick to dismiss her?
Part of it was her approach. Booking a sales call before even talking to me is a relationship-killer. I also thought her first email was lame. It lacked any sign she’d researched my company or identified any challenges I might have, so why should I give her the time of day?
Instead of ignoring her, I rebooked the call and responded that I would be happy to set aside a few minutes if she promised the call would be an exploratory discussion.
I did this for a couple reasons: One, I’m intrigued by any company that consults my customers. I never waste an opportunity to learn more about our buyers and gain insights into their decision making process, but there is more to it than that.
I wanted to see what would happen if I let someone in for a few minutes. What would happen if I actually said “yes” to a sales call?
When we got on the phone, she started with some insightful questions about Creative Side, asking many of the same questions I would.
After probing my challenges for a while, she started telling me about her company. I learned they offer in-depth research and market intelligence. When the call ended, I was intrigued enough for round two.
We scheduled the call a week or so later, where I spoke with one of their consultants who shared some insights about our target buyers, then he tossed me back to Debbie who walked me through a proposal.
The plan summarized our company objectives and the roadblocks we’ve run into along the way. She demonstrated the benefits of using their resources, highlighting how they could help us grow. The proposal wasn’t a homerun – we need to make a few adjustments before moving forward – but I’m encouraged that we will work together in the future.
I’m sharing this story because I believe it’s important for us all to question our habits.
Without realizing it, I had let other people condition me to shoot down every sales inquiry without even a moment’s consideration that I might learn something.
Does this mean I’m going to green-light every email or call I get? Of course not. But I will continue to fight the instinct to say no without listening first. Networking is a two-way street. Why should anyone respond to a valuable inquiry from me if I’m not willing to do the same for someone else? Is 15 minutes of my time so precious I can’t listen and decide whether the conversation is worth continuing? At the very least, it gives me the chance to experience sales strategies used by other professionals.
On this occasion, I said yes, and was surprised by what happened next.
You might be too.