Don’t burn a bridge. It is both a
business and life lesson that I’ve worked hard to apply daily. Many years ago,
shortly after I entered my career, a mentor once shared with me that his
largest and most profitable client had, at one time, told him no. In fact, the
client did not like the sales approach, the service or the company for whom my
mentor was employed. After a two year stint my mentor moved on to another firm,
reached out to the client, and began to win him over. But, once again he was
told no. This time the client stated that he was just not quite ready to hire
my mentor for his services. And so, instead of ending the relationship, my
mentor politely and professionally stayed in contact. Not in an overbearing
way, but a telephone call here and there. Well, about seven months had passed,
and then the words he had been waiting for were mentioned…it’s time we do
business together. When my mentor shared that story with me, he was celebrating
fifteen years of business with his client.
This lesson sticks with me to this day
as if I just heard the story for the first time. He could have been upset and
not stayed in contact. He could have told the client to pound salt. He did
neither of those things. Instead, he kept his composure, wished the client
well, and stayed in contact. That was it, nothing more. The client viewed this
as a sign of true professionalism. He was a gentleman, not a “sales shlup”.
As I said before I have maintained
this approach myself since I heard the story. And, let me tell you, it
absolutely works. Sure, I’ve lost a deal here and there, but I’ve also won many
on the second go around. Prospects and clients are human. When treated with
respect, they respond with respect. Maybe it was not the best time for them to
buy your product or service. Staying in contact after being told no says to the
prospect or client that you still care. And ultimately people buy from sales
reps that care.
The second chance takes time. Some
second chances may take months or years. But every single ‘A’ level sales
person I know applies this principal: don’t be a jerk when you’re told no; be
gracious for the opportunity presented; ask to stay in contact; don’t be
overbearing; and, show them you still care no matter what decision they made.
It will eventually win them over and you will win a grateful, long-term client.