Should I Be Less Patient?

By Noah Graff

Being a machinery dealer takes a lot of patience. I guess patience is key for selling most things, as well as pursuing a relationship or a career. The problem we all face is that other people just have different schedules and different priorities than we do. 

I tried to sell a CNC Swiss machine to a company in Europe over the last several weeks. The company acted like they really wanted it. They called me several mornings to discuss the deal. I could taste that deal. It was a medium sized deal—but a nice deal. My contact at the company said she thought they would make the final decision to purchase the machine on Monday (last Monday). They asked a lot of questions about shipping and importing equipment because they were inexperienced buying a machine from the United States. When Monday came they asked me to give them another day or two—“then they would have a decision and likely would buy the machine.” So I waited, trying not to seem overeager. Then I got no answer.

A few days later, they sent an email, turning down the machine, saying their country’s government would finance a machine for free if they bought a new one domestically. All of my patience and attentiveness to their concerns, along with a damn good machine, wasn’t enough to close the deal.

We all think the thing that we are trying to do, which is at the top of our minds and is our top priority, is the same thing that other people should have as their top priority. A deal for a machine I’m selling that is so important to me should be just as important to my customer, if not more! Of course, it often is not. I guess I’m self-absorbed. I’m impatient, and I like to think everyone wants to treat me as they would want to be treated.

phone in handOf course, I’m also guilty of having a different personal agenda than my customers. When a customer calls me while I’m doing my morning exercise routine I usually push the reject button. It is a sacred time for me. They will just have to wait a half hour for my reply. Also, if it’s late in the evening, I will do everything in my power not to check email unless I’m specifically expecting something time sensitive.

I’ve tried to learn to be patient in business. I read negotiating books that tell you to stay calm when pursuing a deal. They say to never be overeager because it makes you seem needy. I read a great negotiating book called Start with No, by Jim Camp. Camp says the way to stay unneedy is to remember that all you really need in this world is water, air, and your loved ones. He says that everything else is just stuff you want.

My dad owns Graff-Pinkert. He writes the checks. He pays closer attention to making the monthly nut and understandably doesn’t always have the same patience as I do. Sometimes he calls customers when I think it’s a bad idea. I tell him he is calling a customer just to satisfy his own emotional needs, and I implore him to lay off.

A few years ago, he told me to call an auctioneer in Sweden at 9:00 PM (Sweden time) to discuss a hot machine for sale. I protested that it was common courtesy to not call so late, so we should call him in the morning. But I finally did what he said. What do you know, the guy was grateful I called and very interested in what I had to say.

There have been many moments when I questioned my dad’s eagerness with a customer, but then he proved me wrong and demonstrated the power of persistence. Sometimes being aggressive wakes up a deal and gets it done because the customer was distracted by other things. Perhaps the customer was vacillating over details of the deal and just needed an extra push or an extra sweetener to make a final decision. 

I had another machinery deal yesterday that got away from me. I very well could have gotten that deal if I had just followed up with a prospect a day earlier.

It is so hard to know how aggressive to be when pursuing a deal. I try to remember to pause and ask myself why I am choosing to act in a certain way. Am I making a decision based on emotion or logic? If it’s based on logic, what if my logic is wrong?

Question: When has a salesperson’s persistence made the difference in getting your business?

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10 thoughts on “Should I Be Less Patient?

  1. John

    I agree a little persistence and follow-up is necessary and I wouldn’t buy 95% of the stuff I buy without it, but it is a fine line. Over persistence has turned me off of deals that I would have looked at more closely and have also vowed to never buy from sales people that are too aggressive and over persistent. You walk the line everyday in Sales!

  2. John

    Pushy salesmen really turn me off and they lose their chances for sales. I have very little tolerance. But I see colleagues and family for which it pays off for salesmen to be a little pushy. (But not too much.) The line is very different for different customers. Good salesmen guess successfully where that line is for individual customers.

    1. Noah Graff

      Makes sense. I think I need to define it to myself. Am I just calling this person because of my emotions or am I calling them because logically it makes sense.

  3. DRB

    You have to learn to read the differences between an impulsive buyer and a logical thinking buyer vs a procrastination buyer and a buyer that has no power in the decision-making process. All of these can be in the same person during your trials at making a deal.

  4. William

    I’ve sold capital equipment for over 25 years. There is always a fine line between being the solutions provider and the “pushy salesman”. No one ever forgets the guy who pushed too hard, and it can make it impossible to get access to a prospect in the future. The only way I have found to deal with the issue is to find a moment to mention to the customer that you understand that they have many competing opportunities to commit resources, and it is a fine line between being interested and being a pain in the ass. I tell them the last thing I want to do is get in their way, and ask them to just let me know if I am bugging them too much.
    Other than that, not much you can do, because it is my job to get the PO, and at some point you will cross that line. If you don’t piss someone off from time to time, then you probably are not doing the job.

  5. Lloyd+Graff

    Noah, I think you lose more deals by being passive rather than persistent(aggressive). I am happy to tell a salesperson to lay off when they irritate me. I think the key is to attempt to understand the needs of client and try to step into their shoes. You will misjudge the temperament of the client at times, but you also learn from the failures.

    I also believe in playing the long game even if you think it might put you into bankruptcy. Often the big wins come from losing. Deals in which I lost money often paved the way to very successful relationships because I earned trust. It is One of the most important lessons I have learned over the course of my career. Always be straight. Always keep your word. Especially when IT HURTS.

  6. Bill Steffey

    I think I’ve been getting a good hold on the patience game. I would say, Noah, not to be too discouraged about it. I have a feeling there are a lot of intangibles that your dad picks up on that you might not having been in the biz a much shorter time.

    I haven’t read Start With No, but I already love the title. Not that you actually need to verbalize the ‘no’, but certainly internalize it. I was working on a creative project with prospective talent (that I REALLY wanted on the project) but his fees were astronomical. I calmly told him that. I then said “Well, maybe we’re just not a good fit for this project” at which point he broke his hard stance and we were able to have a constructive conversation about how to meet in the middle.

    The thing that made it easy was that I meant it. This person was not the only guy on the planet that could have done a great job. Just as you’re not going to starve if you don’t move that CNC Swiss today. There will be other sales, and I bet a million bucks that when the landscape changes and that same company can benefit from a US-sold machine, they’ll give you a call because you weren’t jumping down their throat.

    1. Noah

      “Maybe we’re just not a good fit for this project”?

      Have you been listening to the podcast! Uh—Chris and Brandon Voss on FALSE LABELS! LOL.

  7. Leo

    PTC is world-famous for pushy salespeople. “You don’t buy our solution? Fine, we’re going to your boss. If that doesn’t work, we’re going to their boss. And their boss, and their boss. All the way up the chain, explaining your mistaken judgement along the way. Be prepared to defend your decision!”

    1. Ridgely Dunn Post author

      That’s wild! I have dealt with some pretty smart salespeople, and some stupid ones too. I have no shame in telling them. I am not a fan of “cold calls” – relationships are almost as important as the solution itself. If I am selling something, I make sure the customer really knows what is in it for them. Because if they cannot truly benefit from our exchange, then they’re not going to be happy and it’s going to hurt my business in the long run.


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