Saturday, June 14, 2008

Punishing Honesty

About a year ago, I was in front of a large prospective target customer in my territory. This prospect ran a great business and was well regarded within their industry. After getting the opportunity to tour their facility, we started discussing some possible business between our companies.

The prospect came right out and stated how great their relationship was with their current vendor. Instead of taking this in stride and appreciating their honesty, I pushed back with pricing, quality, service, and a bunch of other nonsense this prospect was not interested in hearing. I should have instead thanked them for their time, sent a follow up thank you note via mail, and thought a little more deeply about how I could obtain business from this company moving forward.

When buyers mislead or deceive salespeople, we tend to get frustrated. With the accuracy of hindsight, however, I readily understand why buyers do this. Look at my actions with the prospect in the above paragraph. Here was a guy just being honest, and I punished him for his honesty by firing back with a product dump along with a boring company story. Later on, I actually did devise a different strategy and ended up selling to this account. But imagine if I wouldn't have reacted like a typical salesperson. I might have ended up doing business with this company sooner.

My main point here is simple. Don't punish prospects for being honest! This is the biggest favor they can do us.

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