Life has changed a great deal in the 29 years I’ve been in sales. Electronic barriers, such as voice mail and Caller ID, give customers the chance to hide and ignore calls. Overall, some would say people are more rude than ever. I would only say that there is a definite loss of respect in a great deal of relationships, both business and personal. But as my 85-year-old mother would say, you can only manage you.
So, to help you to be the best sales person you can be, I offer up the 10 Rules of Sales Etiquette, in no particular order (except for the last one):
1. Never leave an angry voice mail
—Keep your frustration in check when on the phone. The rule is that you will not hear back from someone. The exception is that you do. Regardless of whether you are pursuing a client or a prospect, be prepared for the long haul and remember that you can always get angry later. For now, remain calm, citizens.
2. Never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want the client to see
—This one is even more important than the first rule. Let’s say you write “nit-picky client” on a note to the prepress department. What if that note gets attached to the file and even the proof? Your customer will be justifiably irate if he/she sees it. Even when you are adding comments to your CRM system, show some class.
3. Be appreciative of in-house employees
—I remember visiting AusTex Printing in Texas many years ago. The president, Jack somethingorother, gave me the obligatory plant tour. Along the way, he bellowed out every employee’s name, jumping between English and Spanish. People positively lit up when he walked by. Jack was clearly a guy who shared compliments for a job well done and genuinely cared for everyone in the plant. The next time a pressman stays late to finish a job, send a note of thanks. Appreciation doesn’t cost a nickel and it is simply the right thing to do.
4. Respect the client’s time
—If your appointment is at 10 a.m., be on time. If you are going to be late, call. If the job is scheduled to ship on Wednesday, see that it does. If your appointment is more than a week away, call to confirm. On a first sales call, confirm the amount of time the client has to spend with you. In your follow up, thank him/her for taking the time out of their busy day. Failure to follow this rule can (and quite frankly, does) tell the customer, “I don’t care.” Everything you do as a sales rep reflects upon your company. You can quickly kill a relationship simply by missing a deadline or waltzing in a few minutes late. Yeah, it’s that important.
5. Communicate with your boss
—You have another internal relationship to manage. If you are hitting your quota each month, go ahead and skip this rule. If not, you need to make certain that your boss knows everything you are doing. How many appointments do you have this week? How much business are you quoting? Any Big Fish on the hook? Assume that your boss is sitting at his/her desk right now asking one question about you: “Is my rep doing the job?” Answer that question. Weekly at minimum.
6. Be supportive of your fellow sales rep
—Sales is a lonely job. Life is easy when you have a book of business and orders are rolling in, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a compliment. Conversely, when times are tough the phone isn’t ringing, be a good friend and offer some encouragement. What goes around, comes around.
7. Mentor a newbie
—Do you remember when you broke into sales? Can you recall the self-doubt and sleepless nights? The fear...the anxiety...the angst? The overwhelming majority of sales people fail. Make it a habit to swing by the newbie’s desk and offer some support and a few suggestions. “Let me know if you need anything” is not enough. Be a cheerleader. Trust me on this one: There is nothing more personally rewarding than getting a phone call or e-mail from someone whom you’ve mentored in the past and who is now successful.
8. Thank a client for the order
—“I appreciate the confidence you’ve placed in me.” “I will take good care of your business.” “Thank you for affording me the opportunity to be of service.” There. That wasn’t so tough, was it? Every order and every client is precious. Never assume they know it. Tell them.
9. Don’t prospect from the cell phone
—Let me be clear (pun intended): When you call on a prospect, do so from a good connection with minimal background noise. If you call someone from your car, you might as well start off your pitch by shouting, “Hi, this is Bill. You’re not important enough for me to call from a land line or a quiet place...”
10. Leave your job at the office
—Do me a favor. Google the phrase, “End of the day.” There was a time before e-mail and cell phones that the sales day ended, business was over, and your personal life began. The weekend was yours to share with your family. You’d watch your child’s game without talking on the phone from the sideline. Sales etiquette includes a separation of business and personal life. Be present to your family. How do you wish to be remembered by your kids? Go be that person.
I had a professor at the University of Alabama named John Bickley. Dr. B taught his male students manners and insisted that we stand when a woman approached the table at the dinner parties he’d throw. To this day, I hear his ghost whisper to me and keep me in line.
Good personal etiquette is rare, but it does not go unnoticed. The same can be said for good sales etiquette. The right kind of woman will appreciate being honored by a man who stands when she enters the room. The right kind of customer will reward a courteous sales rep with business and loyalty.
You can only manage you. My mom might be 85, but she is still active. Don’t make me send her after you. Show some sales etiquette.Bill’s Sales Challenge begins on the first Wednesday of every month. Need sales? Go to www.AspireFor.com for more information or email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org