Tag Archives: courtesy

Listening for the Win

“Don’t puke on your prospect.”

OK, a bit crass perhaps, but it is some of the best advice on salesmanship I’ve ever been given. Any of us who have purchased B2B goods and services have experienced this. The sales rep reaches out and you grant that first meeting. Upon entering your office, the sales rep launches into a completely one-sided dialogue about how great he is, how great his company is, and why you should be doing business with him. He asks no questions, and although you try to turn this into a real conversation, he won’t allow you to participate. He simply has too much to say!

Case in point: When I was Director of Risk Management at a large restaurant chain, I was called by a representative with a local insurance brokerage firm. Upon entering my office, he asked me one question: “Do you purchase accounts receivable insurance?” he asked. “No,” said I, “our guests typically pay with credit cards…” and that was the end of the discussion. Oh, the meeting lasted another 15 minutes as the rep droned on and on about how uncollectable accounts receivable have practically sunk many businesses and how every business should have this coverage. I finally cut him off and showed him the door. As he walked out, he dropped some expensive looking accounts receivable insurance marketing materials on my desk as he said, “I’ll be in touch.” The marketing materials went straight into my trash can, and thankfully, he never did follow up. Indeed, “sales puke” is a sure-fire way to ensure that you never win that piece of business.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

A former boss of mine was a Covey disciple. He had his entire team read Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and he recited this quote incessantly. He even found budget money for each of us to attend a live presentation by Dr. Covey himself a few years before he passed away. I agree with my former boss that 7 Habits is a must read for any business professional, regardless of your line of work. But it is this quote in particular that has stuck in my mind over all these years. I have applied it in my risk management roles and I apply it in my current role in commercial insurance sales.

People need, indeed they like, to be heard. I believe failure to listen is often to blame when negotiations end in stalemate or objectives fail to be met. Applying Covey’s principle generally yields one of two results in my experience:

 (1) The business associates (or sales prospects) with whom you are speaking are more apt to hear you out and more readily consider your viewpoint (or product) if you’ve heard them out first and asked meaningful questions;

(2) You begin to see enough value in your associate’s viewpoint that you begin to change your own mind. In a sales scenario, you may learn about a pain point your prospect is experiencing and alter your approach accordingly. In both scenarios, you learn something and the ultimate end result is best for all!

Do you see what is happening here? Both outcomes are wins!

As I look back over my career, I readily see that I have been most successful when I have worked hard to practice good listening skills. It’s a sign of interest. It’s a demonstration of respect. And no matter the line of work, sound listening skills will open doors. Go ahead, give it a shot. I dare you.

Photo credit: My iPhone 5s, Idaho Springs, CO. February 2015

Photo credit: My iPhone 5s, Idaho Springs, CO. February 2015

On My Mind: Cold-Calling and RSVP’s

I have a couple things nagging at my brain as I enjoy lunch at my desk this afternoon. Here goes!


I think telemarketers have one of the toughest jobs in existence today. Let’s face it: nobody really wants to talk with a telemarketer now, do they? Especially the ones that call in the evening, precisely at dinner time, seeking to sell that home security system or that spanking new life insurance policy. Years ago, around 1989 or thereabouts, I took a second job as a telemarketer for the Houston Ballet. Our job in the Ballet call center was to sell season tickets for the next ballet season to attendees of recent Ballet performances. They provided their contact details on information cards completed at the performance, which at least implied permission to contact them. I came close to closing one sale, with the call center supervisor looking over my shoulder and whispering his encouragement, but in the end the customer had dinner on the table and it was getting cold – no sale. That was one of the most grueling nights of my working career; I went home and did not return.

Surely you want to talk with this guy!

Surely you want to talk with this guy!

My role in commercial insurance sales today also involves telemarketing. I’m not working from a call center, but from my desk. The objective is to contact executives at prospective client companies and secure a meeting during which I can introduce my firm’s insurance and risk management capabilities in hopes of one day winning them as a client. Having recently converted from a buyer of these services to one who is now selling them, I remember what it was like to get those sales calls. Like many of the people I try to reach today, I would often let my voice mail system answer calls from numbers I did not recognize or from caller ID’s I simply didn’t want to talk to. Truth be told, my first client was won after a cold-call telephone conversation, so while I don’t necessarily enjoy the process, I do it because it’s necessary. I just wish more people would answer their phone; we are really quite good at what we do!


Photo credit: www.seshrm.org

We’ve lost some elements of good etiquette in our modern society. I’ve noticed the last few times I’ve sent invitations to an event that a large percentage of the invitees don’t bother to RSVP even though one is requested. Why is that so difficult? Somebody thinks enough of you to invite you to an event and you don’t even have the courtesy to turn them down? Worse, when they follow up to see if you are coming you don’t reply? What’s up with that? Come on, people, show some respect. When you receive an invitation to a party, a dinner, a business function, a shower, a wedding, a child’s birthday party or whatever – please have the decency and respect to offer the host or hostess a prompt RSVP. End of rant.

With that, it’s time to get back to the phones. Enjoy your Tuesday!

RSVP Photo credit: seshrm.org

What Happened to Common Courtesy?

Have you ever considered sending a bill to a party invitee who RSVP’d they will attend, but failed to show or notify you that their plans have changed? Nothing big, but a bill to reimburse the costs you incurred for their price of admission, refreshments, or whatever. Although it happens often in my experience, I’ve never considered sending a bill. This mother in London sees things differently – read the news story about the $24 bill she sent to the parents of a 5-year old boy who no-showed her son’s birthday party.

I’ve long lamented the erosion of common courtesy and respect in today’s society. Send an invitation to a special event with a RSVP request and wait. And wait. Many of the invitees won’t bother to respond. I recently co-sponsored an evening social event for local business professionals. Over half of the people who RSVP’d they would come never showed up. Some were busy. Some made other plans. Some just didn’t bother to show. But this isn’t about me. Let’s get back to the story in London.

Check out the the comments below KLTV’s Facebook post. They’re astounding! The majority of comments are from people who apparently believe it is perfectly acceptable to accept a party invitation and then simply not show up! I’m sure that many of these people are the same people who don’t RSVP to invitations and appear at the event anyway while they RSVP to attend other events that they simply choose to blow off.

This situation brings to light a very interesting legal question. If a person accepts a party invitation and decides to do something else without notifying the host of the change in plans but the host incurred costs based on the representation by the guest that he would actually attend the event, has a breach of contract taken place? In many states, verbal agreements can be legally binding. Was there a legal agreement, and if so, did a breach occur for which restitution is owed? OK, maybe that’s a bit too deep. But on the other hand, I feel the party mom’s pain and I’m glad she’s making a big deal of it.

To be honest, part of me feels just a bit foolish for letting this get under my skin. I guess I’m thankful that I’m not the only one who has tired of such boorish behavior on the part of people who choose to ignore invitations and disregard their commitments. While I don’t advocate taking these folks to court, I do have an idea: Why not agree to demonstrate respect and common courtesy to our fellow man? Not just where parties are concerned, but in all aspects of life. If we’ll do that, life on this planet we call Earth might be just a little more pleasant.

End of rant.

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