Sales: Work Smarter, Not Harder.

Imagine for a moment that ABC Powder Supplier and XYZ Powder Supplier are two companies that offer the exact same powder, of the exact same quality, at the exact same price point. Let’s take it one step further and imagine that neither company charges for shipping. In terms of price and quality, ABC and XYZ offer me, a powder coating professional, identical products.

Now imagine that ABC’s sales rep contacts me weekly – via a mix of email, phone calls, and spontaneous visits – to tell me about new products or promotional offers. Meanwhile, the only time I hear from XYZ’s sales rep is if they’re answering a question I asked.

Who do I buy my powder from?

You’d better believe that I will buy from XYZ every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Millennial. After all, my generation is notorious for bucking tradition; perhaps the old fashioned, face-to-face sales model is just one more item on the long list of things we do differently. But I’ve talked to enough small business owners (across enough generations) to know that I’m not the only one who feels unnecessarily burdened by the tenacity of sales reps.

So here’s my first of two pieces of advice to anyone in a sales position: when it comes to contacting current and/or potential customers, sometimes, less is more.

This is particularly true when you’re dealing with a younger purchasing agent. Unless we’re friends outside of the business relationship, a drop-by visit has never put me in a buying mood. Calling me 24 hours after having sent me a promotional email has never put me in a buying mood. Flooding me with information about products I’ve shown no interest in has never put me in a buying mood. Texting me answers to questions I sent you via email has never put me in a buying mood.

Which brings me to my second piece of advice: no matter your field, if you’re customer-facing, try to respond to inquiries in the manner in which they were posed.

I work hard to abide by this in my own business. If a customer leaves me a voicemail with a question, I call them back. If they send me an email, I email them back. I try to do everything in my power to respond to my customer via the method of communication they have selected, as a courtesy to them.

It’s always safe to assume that the person who sent you an email might not have time for an unscheduled, 15-minute drop-by visit.

I am by no means telling anyone to NOT communicate. Quite the opposite. I love it when sales reps send me an email letting me know about a promotion on a product I’ve ordered in the past – this shows me that they’re attentive to my needs, and are working hard to meet them. I love it when they leave me a voicemail, letting me know why they called, instead of calling six times with no message – this shows me that they’re respectful of my time, and they’re giving me the opportunity to return at my convenience. I love it when they return my calls and answer my questions – this shows me that they’re service-oriented. I appreciate receiving an updated brochure with their latest goods and services – if anything catches my eye, I will surely let them know.

If it’s my business you’re after, tenacity won’t get you anywhere. You’re working too hard. I’m far more likely to respond to a single, concise, well-timed email than I am to three unannounced visits a month. Let’s all strive to save each other time by working smarter, not harder.

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