Here is most of the text from and an email to The Sales Blog Mailbag:
“I see it day in and day out where clients don’t stick to deadlines in returning information and aren’t punctual to meetings. Or, maybe I am just meeting the wrong people. The only prompt responses are objections and excuses. They act like they are too busy to send out a two-line status update or forward a contact card after a full business week.
“Do I come off like a push-over? Should I be sterner on my timelines for next steps, maybe give longer times? I don’t think sales professionals receive the same courtesies that we give to our clients and their expectations of us aren’t the same as ours of them. What is so hard about returning an email?
“Again, maybe it’s just that I am new and need to get used to it. But I think it’s disrespectful and discourteous.”
I am happy to provide an answer here, but I am afraid it is going to sting more than a little bit.
On Commitments Gained and Commitments Owed
There is a lot in here to work on.
First, there is the issue of the commitments a salesperson gains on a sales call. The clients providing of information may be a valid commitment that you have to gain to advance an opportunity. But if the information isn’t being returned to you within the time that you require it, it is your fault as salesperson. You are lucky this is true, because in this equation there is only one person over whom you have any reasonable amount of control: you.
Let’s assume you really need information that will advance your opportunity.
Did you make a compelling case for why you needed the information? Does your client know what she expects to get out of providing you the information? Have you created enough value during your sales interactions to make providing you with the information compelling to your client? Have you established and agreed upon next steps and timelines?
I doubt the answer to these questions is in the affirmative. The nature of the question makes me skeptical. So now let’s deal with what is really more likely at issue.
Is the commitment you are asking for really to have your client forward you another contact’s card? That’s not a commitment that is worth expending the effort or energy to ask for, let alone expect to receive. You can find almost anybody in a few mouse clicks.
Going by the language in this email and great deal of hard won experience, these aren’t real commitments. These are too small commitments that salespeople ask for because they haven’t created enough value to ask for and obtain greater commitments. These low level commitments do nothing to help your dream client, and they do nothing to create or advance an opportunity.
You really want your contact to give you another contact’s information? Ask them to give it to you while you are sitting there in front of them.
I Am Staring at the Screen, But No Email!
Now let’s deal with status updates and unreturned emails. Does your client really owe you a status update?
Let’s answer a few questions and see if we can’t find an answer. One of you has the ability to open their checkbook and purchase goods, services, or solutions from the other one of you. The one of you without a checkbook is obliged to do the following up. Are you the one trying to make a sale or the one with the checkbook?
You do the following up. Period.
If you don’t like doing the follow up, you aren’t confident enough that you are creating value for your client.
Email is one of the least effective ways I can think of to follow up with a client. Sometimes you need to put something in writing. But even then, if it is important, you should follow up with a phone call.
It’s likely that you are choosing email because it is your preferred method of communicating with your client, and it is equally likely that you are choosing it because you don’t want to bother anybody. When this is true, it is because you don’t have the confidence that you can make a difference for your client, that you can’t help them increase their revenue, decrease their costs, or improve their profits. If you were confident in these things, you would pick up the phone . . . and so would your dream client.
Want respect? Be somebody worth calling back. Be somebody worth showing up on time to meet. Remember, you are the one selling and act accordingly. Ask for and obtain the commitments that you need to make a difference for your clients, not the too small commitments that make you feel as if you had a successful sales call.
How does one behave in order to deserve respect and courtesy?
What does your dream client owe you? Is your perceived obligation in line with the value that you have created?
Are the commitments your clients make really commitments to advance an opportunity? Or, are they something smaller that allows you to believe that your sales call was in some way successful when it actually wasn’t?
What would you have to do to get a bigger commitment? Who would you have to be?
Are you choosing a communication method that you prefer? Why do you prefer that method? Why do you still prefer that method after acknowledging that it isn’t effective for you?
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