Do You Know When You’re Being Put OFF?

I have been very fortunate in the past two months to have the opportunity to work with some great sales teams. I have been at the table with groups of “seasoned” sales reps who have been in the trenches for decades. There are many commonalities among all sales reps, but here is one that has really surprised me:

You don’t know when you are being put off.

You have a conversation with a prospect that you think is going really well. And then they lower the boom.

  • “Send me samples.”
  • “Send me an equipment list.”
  • “Call me in a month and we’ll meet.”

Folks, here’s what I need to know from you…When, in the last 10 years, did you ever send samples to a prospect—or send your equipment list—and with no further prompting, the person called you and awarded you work?

I’m not buying it. People do not make their decisions today based on equipment lists or seeing samples. Come on! All the information about your iron is on your website. And, most experts agree: buyers are process agnostic today.

What does that mean? It means…they don’t care HOW the work gets done (on what equipment or by WHOM), but they do care that it gets done on time and on budget and looks pretty.

And samples? Seriously? Any sales rep is going to pick the shop’s most beautiful samples and send those! What do those samples really tell the prospect about who you are, what you stand for, and what it will be like to do business with you? Not a whole heck of a lot.

“Call me in a month?” What will be different in a month? Is the buyer going away to an ashram in India for a month and will therefore not be available to meet with you? This guy is not being genuine. He’s just trying to get you off the phone because he thinks you are just another schlub trying to sell him something. And if you accept that response—Call me in a month.—YOU ARE.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • Steve

    I’ve been known to use all three of those responses, and I’m very unhappy when a salesman keeps pushing afterwards. That’s usually when I say, "I’m not interested. Please place me on your do-not-call list".

  • Topdog

    O.K. so what are your suggestions for such tactics? And, "l will let you know in my next article" won’t do:)

  • Randy

    Sometimes "Call me back in two weeks" "a month" etc, is not being put off. Sometimes it is simply a timing issue. I have told people to call me back in a month and I sincerely WANTED them to call back. Not the brush off at all. This article paints with way too broad a brush and offers little value.

  • Jim T

    "Call me in a month" can also mean that a person is overwhelmed because they are wearing more hats. Companies are getting by with less employees, and those employees are doing more work these days. Smaller departments equal people stretched thinly during periods of many vacations. If you want to eat lunch or see your family, you end up cutting non-productive time. There’s not always time to vet new vendors.

    So when you’re trying to get in to see somebody that sounds like this, express that you will be efficient. And that you are also the type of company that handles details well, you will not screw things up, and utilizing your company will make projects low maintenance. And then deliver. If you’ve done work in the past that cost a buyer extra time because your company did not back you up on what you sold, you may be SOL.