Last week I focused on persistence because when we embrace this characteristic, it becomes easier for us to follow up with clients and prospects – and follow up is vital. So many of us fail to build stronger relationships or lose out on sales because we didn’t do the necessary follow up.
We are sometimes prevented from picking up the phone one more time by what we visualize in our mind’s eye. We see the prospect looking at call display and choosing not to pick it up; or we see them listening to our voicemail and rolling their eyes while muttering “Not again!”.
In a business-to-business setting both of these scenarios are unlikely. In most cases there’s a valid reason why someone is not returning our calls. Often it is simply about being too busy – their lives are so hectic, returning our call is not making it to the top of their priority list. And sometimes, they don’t call back because they don’t have the information they need in order to have a conversation with us.
The perfect illustration of this just happened in my own life, with someone who’s been leaving me messages.
For the past 5 or 6 years as part of how I celebrate the Christmas season, I bake cranberry almond biscotti and deliver it to clients, co-workers, friends and family. I love baking; I love avoiding the mall.
The first years that I did this, I had packaging issues. One time I delivered the biscotti to my dentist’s office, nicely wrapped in festive green tissue but … the moisture of the biscotti and the green dye of the tissue did not make a good combination! I was embarrassed and disappointed.
Two years ago I discovered a Canadian company in Midland, Ontario – Nebs.
At a very reasonable price, they deliver to me retail-quality packaging. The cellophane bags are the perfect size for my biscotti, the Christmas-coloured tissue paper is sturdy and plentiful, and the plain brown gift bags with white snowflakes are cheerful without being garish. The only drawback was that I had to place a retail-size order! Once the biscotti baking is done and all the packages delivered, my husband takes everything down to the basement and I don’t think about it again until, well, this weekend.
Of course the company was wondering if they could sell me more supplies. I think the first call came in October. It was a cheerful message letting me know that if I placed my order soon discounts were available. And there have been several messages since.
Now, when it comes to business-to-business telemarketers, it is a pledge of mine to always return their calls. It would be hypocritical of me not to, I think. But I have yet to return these messages because … the basement is my husband’s domain and he is not a man of order. Not that I’m particularly good at it myself, but he has an astonishing dedication to chaos.
He is a collector of things, a keeper of things and a man who’s mind is always onto the next project, not on the thing in his hand that needs to be put away. While I push against this as best I can in the kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc., I don’t nag about the basement. Life’s too short. But I also don’t attempt to find anything myself.
Right after the first phone message I did ask him to bring upstairs my packaging supplies. And I’ve asked again a few times since, when I remembered. Yesterday I must have said it with more urgency because he went and found the necessary boxes.
When I opened them and began to take inventory well, that’s when this blog arrived in my head. I haven’t called back because I didn’t have an answer. And during the past month as I’ve been diligently chasing a few people who expressed a strong interest in advertising in one the publications I work on, they didn’t call me back promptly because they didn’t have an answer either. It’s not personal.
While I don’t need to order more supplies this year, I will still return those messages. And I’ll need new supplies next year. I won’t seek out a new supplier because this company has remembered me, stayed in touch with me, offered me discounts. With their follow up they have created and strengthened my loyalty to them.
And the fact that I didn’t return their calls, well, it wasn’t about them. It was about me – the customer!
And one last thought:
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)