A Tale of 3 Assumptions

Assumptions are – and always have been – vital to our survival. Since ancient times we have made assumptions that have kept us alive, while hunting for food, exploring new territories  … and building businesses. But they can also be harmful, especially to our businesses and especially when we “assume the worst”.

Recently Mick Lord of Investors Group commented  “Do modern people honestly feel that a non-response … is equivalent to a NO? That is crazy! That isn’t right. ” His reaction reminded me of three client stories that are worth revisiting:

He Won’t Take My Call

Darlene recently had a brief,  friendly phone conversation with a potential customer. Unfortunately, the prospect had to end the call quickly due to a scheduled meeting but agreed to a day and time later that week to speak with Darlene again. But when Darlene called at the chosen time, the prospect was not available. Darlene is sure this means they are not interested. 

There’s a slim possibility that Darlene is correct … but it’s very slim. Most decision makers are too busy today to shy away from saying “no” when that’s their answer. And taking the time to specifically choose a follow-up date and time, (rather than simply saying “I’ve got to go, call back if you want”), does indicate interest. So why is Darlene’s call not answered? There are a lot of possibilities: the prospect forgot to note the call in their calendar; they are behind on an important deadline; a client called and that conversation is a higher priority; a family matter has kept them away from work today; and many, many more.

By assuming the answer is no and not continuing to call, Darlene will illustrate her lack of belief in herself, and perhaps in her product, as well. In other words, Darlene’s assumption guarantees this prospect never becomes a customer.

She’s Changed Her Mind

Marc has been in touch with a prospect for over a year. The prospect is a senior manager who has worked with Marc in the past. They have clearly communicated a need for Marc’s training as part of the company’s new growth strategy. A lot of time has been spent on the phone and Marc has travelled over 3 hours to attend a 2 -hour meeting at the prospect’s office. The prospect has even requested a formal Statement of Intent for signature, but no training dates have been set and no formal paperwork signed. Recently the prospect has not returned any of Marc’s calls and Marc is thinking this is no longer a sale. 

Marc’s training is expensive. While his prospect is a senior manager, she’s not the final decision maker. The decision makers have owned the company for only two years. It is well within the realm of possibility they are looking at budgets with a very critical eye, doing whatever they can to start recouping the purchase price. Marc’s contact wants the training but hasn’t yet received approval. She’s not returning Marc’s calls because … she’s doesn’t have any news to share. After putting so much time into her relationship with Marc, she will call as soon as she has an answer.

Marc needs to continue to follow up but can limit his calls to every few weeks or even once a month. He could say something like, “Calling to follow up. If anyone has any questions or comments about the training we’ve talked about, do let me know. Otherwise, I’ll stay in touch.”

She Was Never Interested

Roland’s company is launching a new product that will allow personal trainers to offer more services to each of their clients. Roland recently spent an hour on the phone with a trainer who was very excited about the app and willing to be a beta tester. They agreed that Roland could drop by the gym that week to install and demonstrate the program. But the day before this meeting, an assistant called and cancelled on behalf of the trainer, citing a personal matter. Roland hasn’t reached the trainer since and is positive there was never an opportunity in the first place.

It would be rare for someone to spend an hour on the phone discussing a product or service and then … completely change their minds. Possible of course, but unlikely. Having someone else call to cancel the meeting is a strong indication that something did indeed happen in the trainer’s life that prevented them from meeting with Roland. It is vital that Roland continue to follow up, perhaps once or twice a week, to demonstrate his belief in his product and his desire to serve the trainer.

(Roland followed my advice and left another message. Within hours he did hear back from the trainer. This is the note he sent me: You were right – she had a family emergency.)

What assumptions are you making? And what are they costing you?

*The above stories are all true but the names and industries have been changed to respect everyone’s privacy.


P.S. I’ve teamed up with my colleagues and friends, Linda Daley of Daley Progress and Anita Kirkbride of Twirp Communications to create an easy-to-read guide on Business Messaging for a Tech-Free Vacation. It includes specific, actionable steps for email, voicemail and social media so you can relax throughout your vacation … and have a smoother return to work when that time arrives. To receive your copy simply send me an email with the subject Vacation Guidemaryjane@thephonelady.com Cheers for fabulous summer!




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