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.
Of 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?