Prospecting: Are You Only Important Till You Say No?

20140902-ProspectingRelationships are perhaps one of the most difficult part of our lives we have to manage.  Today I want to talk about business relationships as it relates to selling and more specifically the prospecting part of the sales process.  There’s a story I want to share first.

The Story:

Recently I was approached about an opportunity for a joint venture.  The concept was interesting and I immediately like the person who approached me.  Over a couple of weeks we spent several hours together on the phone and via Skype.  Nothing they said deterred me.  In fact I was more excited with each interaction.  We had another Skype call scheduled for last week and the weekend before I spent a whole lot of time thinking about this.  While I had known that in order to say yes to this opportunity I was going to have to say no to something I already had on my plan, initially it seemed fine with me.  However the more I thought about it I realized that I didn’t want to say no to anything I already had on my plan.  I had a number of reasons and none of them had anything to do with the JV possibility, it was all about what I wanted for Incedo.  Over the weekend I sent a long email to the JV possibility and shared that I was going to have to say no and why.  It was heartfelt and sincere and I told them the timing was off for me to pursue this.

The Outcome:

Guess what?  I never heard from them again.  Not a peep.  I sent another email to be sure and even showed up for the scheduled Skype call just in case, but I knew they wouldn’t be there.  What happened?  As a prospect I fell into the ‘tossed away relationship’ category. Previous to me saying no I was getting regular emails and when I said no they just stopped.   I was no longer a prospect and thus no longer important.   Boy am I glad this experience happened or else I might have ended up in a relationship where our values about relationships were a mismatch.  And it’s a good reminder about how we as sales professionals build relationships now and into the future.

The Missed Opportunity:

I could relate dozens of examples in my sales career where someone said no to me, many in situations where I was sure it was going to be a yes, and I continued to stay connected.  And I could relate how often those relationships turned into business directly or indirectly at some point in the future.  The people didn’t become unimportant or a waste of my time just because they weren’t going to be a client.  I value relationships and perhaps have a Pollyanna belief that people are important and deserve to be treated well, even if there isn’t something in it for me.

If you are in sales remember that how we chose to be in relationships with other human beings says more about us than how we treat people when it serves us.  Have a prospect that just said no?  Take the time to acknowledge them and leave open the possibility for something in the future.  I promise you that they will remember how you treated them when they said no, and it either closes a door or keeps it open.  You choose!

 

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