Same Sales Calls. New Results?
There is a scene in the movie “Good Will Hunting,” where its stars and co-writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are in a bar frequented by Harvard students. Affleck takes a run at starting a conversation with a young coed, but his efforts to find suitable companionship are interrupted by a know-it-all grad student trying to embarrass and belittle him. In steps Will Hunting, the savant with a photographic memory who completely dresses down the barroom bully while exposing him as a plagiarist seemingly incapable of an original thought. As the ponytailed fraud sulks away to lick his wounds, Affleck yells after him, “How do you like me now?”
If you queue up the movie and look closely, there is another character at the bar who seems out of place. A sales rep sits and sulks over a beer, lamenting the day and pondering his sanity. He is dejected after a day of unsuccessful selling attempts and constant rejection. The commotion coming from a few seats down grabs his attention, and he is temporarily amused while watching and wondering if a fight will ensue.
As things calm down, he turns back to his adult beverage and reviews yet another day in the life of the average sales rep: Phone calls, voicemails, locked doors, and a lot of “No!” None of that really bothers him, for it is all just a part of the job and that’s what he signed up for.
What’s troubling to him is the occasional rudeness he encounters as he makes his earnest attempts to bring value to companies and organizations in the area. He has ideas to share. His existing clients consider him to be a part of the team, and he is often brought in to discussions and meetings where his opinion and advice solve problems and aid in the
accomplishment of business goals.
He might be able to understand and accept the blind rejection if he was making a, “Who buys your print?” or “Do you have anything I can quote on?” sales call. But it baffles him as to why customers are not more open to new ideas from the outside. It takes a second beer for him to realize why he is treated the way he is: These companies are doing fine without him, thankyouverymuch.
When Times Are Good ...
In a booming economy with unemployment at historical lows, buyers and other decision-makers believe they have all the answers. Their sales are up. Their business is strong. The vendors they have chosen are doing the job. In short, it ain’t broke, so why fix it? Generally speaking, the only two circumstances under which they would change vendors is if an intolerable number of mistakes were made, or if a significantly better price could be attained without a loss of quality or service.
Incoming calls from non-incumbent vendors are seen as a disturbance or an annoyance, and are deleted without comment. In essence, this sales rep’s prospects are impenetrable castles surrounded by deep moats, and no one inside is lowering the drawbridge. Why? Because they don’t have to.
And with that, he finishes his beer, over-tips the bartender, and heads home. That night, he falls into a deep sleep, one that includes a wild dream ...
Is This All Just a Dream?
He is back at the bar. This time, however, he is the one making conversation with a stranger. Only instead of it being a coed, he’s talking to a decision-maker and the conversation is not about suitable companionship but rather trying to gain an appointment. Things are going well. He’s just happy to be talking to someone instead of leaving a message.
But, just as they are about to agree on a time, they are interrupted. It’s the incumbent vendor, a ponytailed know-it-all who says, “What is it that you sell? Print? They already have a vendor. They are all set. There is no need for you to set up a meeting.”
Before the rep can respond, the decision-maker steps in between them and says to the barroom bully, “Of course that’s what you believe. You are a legacy sales rep. You believe it’s our job to keep competitors like this away. But these are different times. The world is at a standstill. Business has come to a virtual stop. Within a matter of weeks, the once high-flying economy has come crashing down — and with it, our optimism, profits, and hopefully attitudes like yours.
“Whereas we once shunned the outsider, we now need to welcome him. We need his help. We need his ideas. We would be naïve and foolish to believe things will automatically go back to the way they were. The rules have changed, and we need to change along with them.
“So, instead of pushing away sales calls, deleting messages, and harboring a ‘not interested’ mindset, we are going to start listening. This means two things. First, we are not going to do business like before. Everything will change. And second, we will stop automatically ignoring outsiders. Instead, if someone has an idea that we believe will help us to grow, we will hear it.”
As the ponytail walks away, the sales rep hears himself yell, “How do you like me now?”
Same Calls, Different Results
Waking up, he smiles. Perhaps things will be different starting now. Suddenly, the same high-value, well-researched sales calls he made in the past might be received differently. Instead of going to voicemail, he’ll get a voice. Instead of rejection, he’ll be welcomed. Same approach, different results, and an all-new business landscape.
Do you remember that buyer who refused all attempts you made to gain an audience? How about that company that’s been on your Top 10 prospect list since the day the earth cooled? You’ve called, and called, and called. The result? Nothing. These companies did not need you then. They were firing on all cylinders. They had their pick of vendors and could afford to be elitist, ponytail-wearing, and pompous if they so chose. They could be bully buyers. And they could. And they did. Because they could.
But a funny thing happened. The rules changed. All those things in life we took for granted — unencumbered access to grocery stores, a game of golf, heading out to a movie, and Sunday morning church — were taken away from us suddenly and without warning. Business, too, has been rocked to its core. The airlines that treat us like cattle are now begging for forgiveness. And those companies that were killing it are on life support, gasping for air like a fish in a Red Hot Chili Peppers video.
You are their solution. You have the help they need. Make the sales call that brings new ideas to the table. Reach back out and be the lifeline they need to get them started again. The ground is much more fertile than it was, and the efforts of the persistent sales rep with the idea for solving a problem or fostering revenue growth might just find a ready ear. If that is you, get busy making calls. Quality calls.
How do you like them apples?