Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

Fast and Slow In Sales


Time is of the essence. Patience is a virtue. Worthy aims but sometimes we mix these aspirations up in sales. We are not moving quickly enough and miss the chance. At other times , we are impatient and we force the issue when we should be more stoic and considered. We lose on both counts whenever we confuse what we should actually be doing.

Being too slow usually relates to making contact or following up, after making the initial contact. We meet people at an event, receive a bunch of meishi business cards and then we get sidetracked by something else. Usually a bright shiny object. Days float by and when we realize we haven’t followed up with the people we met, the best timing window has been missed.
There is an advantage in getting back to people we have had a preliminary conversation with fairly promptly, while the occasion is fresh in their mind. As the days drift by, the ease of giving us the bum’s rush increases. They can choose to ignore our contact attempt, be it phone or email. Or they are just genuinely busy, busy, busy and don’t get around to responding. We don’t know which is the case, but we usually assume the former.
Once upon a time, it was considered the height of rudeness to not return a phone call. In the early days of email everyone would reply. Not anymore. In Japan, trying to get through on the phone to people is always difficult, because they are always away from their desk and in a meeting. We are reduced to leaving a message. What does that look like at their end. Maybe a nothing, as the person taking the call chooses to do nothing. Maybe a slip of paper is plunked down on their desk, scattered amongst a million other papers, soon to disappear from view and relevance.
If the contact is by email, then the tsunami of daily messages pushes our little missive down the chronological chain and we get buried in that great archive called "the lower reaches of inbox". We get ignored and now face the dilemma of how often to follow up. If we keep pushing we can become annoying. But at precisely which point is that – the second, third or fourth follow up?
Maybe the lack of a response is their subtle way of telling us they are not interested. It is easier to ignore supplicants, than telling them to buzz off. Maybe they are just busy – hard to know which is which. In my case I make it three times for follow-up. I always copy the previous email I sent into the new one, to show I reached out to you, but you have not responded.
Does it always work? No, but at least I feel I haven’t blotted my copy book by becoming a pushy pain. I have to be patent. I have to play the long game. This sounds easy, but there are weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual targets to meet. There is the ever present urgency of the now.
The other danger of patience is not to pair it with a good follow-up system. Today’s lack of response reflects today’s situation, but things change inside markets and companies. We tend though to keep moving. We hit up the next prospect and reignite the process all over again. Those who we met, who didn’t respond, now silently disappear into the morass of the daily grind and get quickly forgotten.
If it is a no or a non-response today and if we follow up in a month, their situation probably won’t have changed sufficiently, to yield us a better result. If we leave it for 12 months, there is the danger that our competitor has slipped in there and plumbed the perfect timing to make contact, because the prospects situation has changed. We need to be getting back to them somewhere in that 6-9 months zone.
Patience is having a good calendar system to flag that follow-up is needed and when it is needed. We need to be action oriented, but we need to do it in a patient fashion. Saying this sounds so smooth and easy, yet I know myself the discipline to have and maintain the systems to do this are extremely difficult. Especially in a busy life, hounded by targets, milestones and deadlines.
In sales we are enthralled by the now. What is happening today takes up all of our attention and time. We are adrenaline junkies, loving the thrill of the deal, the urgency of the action, the vibrant seizing of the moment. By comparison, storing things away for the "distant future" is a rather foreign, unattractive idea.
So we need to be better organised to take quick action on the immediate follow-up. If we get no traction, we need to be really well disciplined to get back to the prospect and follow up. Easy to say, but hard to do. Regardless, we have to do better in these two areas if we want to be successful.
Remember, if we believe that what we are representing will help the client to grow their business, then we have a strong obligation to keep following up. In these circumstances, we should never be shy about re-contacting the customer. Yes, we are interrupting them, but we are doing it for all the right reasons and in their best interests. So let’s get out there and follow up!
Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com
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About The Author
Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan
In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.
A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcast "THE Leadership Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.
Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.


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