Sure, these rules can be expanded and built upon, but ultimately when you get down to it, all the basics of good, acceptable behavior fall into one of these two categories.
We start teaching these rules to our kids from as early as we can. But the rules are applicable not just to infants or school-age kids, but to adults as well. And I think they’re also cornerstones of good business practice.
But unfortunately not all business people adhere to these rules. And I have a few recent encounters that illustrate this.
As a small business owner I get calls all the time from people trying to sell me things. Advertising, processing services, staffing services, you name it. A few months back, before the season really started kicking into gear, I got a call from an online listing agent trying to sell me on online advertising. This was one of those calls where I pretty much knew from the get-go that I wasn’t interested, but the sales rep caught me at a slow time, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to take the call.
He went through his whole schtick, providing all sorts of stats as to why his service was the best. I had one question – how much? Being a small business owner this is perhaps the most important question, working on a limited marketing budget.
But I didn’t get an answer. He kept going on and on about the benefits of his service. I told him I was aware of the service, I knew they had some name recognition, but if the cost didn’t fit into my budget then we were wasting each
others’ time. I needed to know how much.
“Our listings are picked up by Google, and our clients continuously place near the top of online search results …”
He kept going on and on. “I understand,” I replied. “I need to know how much.” My patience was growing thin at this point.
I never really have the time to deal with people who don’t respect my time, but for some reason, mainly out of curiosity I suppose, I stuck with his call this time. It wasn’t until a half-hour (Half-hour!!) into the call that he finally revealed the price. And as expected the cost was outside my budget range.
I understand he might not have cared one ounce about my time. But you would think he cared about his time, right? A half-hour plus on the phone, no sale, and a potential customer who was left with a real sour taste in his mouth as far as his company is concerned. I’m pretty confident I won’t ever be utilizing their services. All because he wasn’t a good listener.
Around the same time period I got another call from a different sales rep, this one trying to sign me up for a referral service. I explained that I wasn’t really interested – thanks but no thanks. He was persistent.
“Why wouldn’t you be interested in expanding your sales?”, he asked. Again, normally my patience would have expired by now, but I thought let’s see where he goes with this.
“Well since you asked,” I replied, “I don’t really like the business model of referral services. They add costs to the projects, throw a lot of unqualified leads at you that don’t fit into my service umbrella or geographic service area, and they tend to find prospects who are more tire-kicking as opposed to be a serious prospect.”
As expected, he went on and on about how his service was different, yada yada yada.
“Not interested,” I reiterated.
“So I guess you’re not serious about growing your business?” he asked.
At this point he proceeded to question my intelligence, started raising his voice towards me and called me short-sighted and ignorant.
I hung up. I’m pretty sure that nobody in the history of marketing has ever recommended insulting your prospect as a good way to sell them something. He failed in the “Be nice” category.
I now remember why I typically don’t take calls from telemarketers.
The point here is not to vent (although it is all I can do not to include the names of the service providers these guys were representing). No the point here is to illustrate that good business practices, or specifically in this case good sales techniques, are really just good human practices.
Be nice. Be a good listener. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Respond to people’s calls. Say thank you. Heck, chew with your mouth closed for that matter.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles out there on delivering good business practices. And yes, they can get into a great bit more detail. But ultimately it all boils down to the two basic rules.
Be nice. Be a good listener. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.