It took me a while to learn this lesson but when I did it stuck! It’s really about being brave and having respect for yourself as a salesperson. When that happens your client does too.
In my first sales job I was an eager achiever very motivated to making sales. In my territory there was a large telecommunications company in which I had been making calls through the proper channels as they requested. I badly wanted to break into this company in a big way – all my instincts told me there was something big there and I just needed to find a way to uncover it. Every now and again my contact in the purchasing department threw me a bone which I hungrily gobbled up and asked for more.
One year she asked me to bid on the services they needed that my company could provide – the prize was their business for that year. I worked on the proposal, dotted all my i’s and crossed my t’s and had it in ahead of time. Disappointingly, I didnt get it however my contact continued to throw me some scraps which I continued to work on as eagerly as if she had given me a huge chunk of business that my life depended on. Time rolls on and again for the second year in a row she asks me to bid on their yearly contract. I put the proposal together carefully with my hopes once again very high – after all, I had done good work for them, hadn’t I? Well, once again they gave it to someone else leaving me frustrated and bewildered.
By the time the 3rd yearly request came around I had still done good work for them when given the chance but my enthusiasm was starting to wane (about time, huh?) so I went to my Center Manager asking for assistance on what we could do differently and where could we cut our costs. His response was, “I don’t want you working on that proposal again this year. You have done good by them, it takes a lot of time to complete and they are just using you so they can say they have 3 proposals. They have had no intentions of switching their business to you. Remind them what you have done for them and say that if they are just needing you for a 3rd quote that you are not interested.” Whoa….that was a different approach for the eager achiever and one I needed to give some thought to.
I did think about it and I outlined the departments I had done work for, the customer service they had received and that I had followed their procedures and done everything else asked. I felt very justified in what I was getting ready to do and a little nervous too. I called my client back and began a discussion about our past history and the good work we had done and how I had bid the previous two years. Near the end of the discussion, I said, “with all due respect, it takes me a very long time to put all of the information together requested in your proposal and if you are needing it just to have 3 proposals I respectively decline this year.” Silence on the other end. We hung up, I felt deflated and wondered if I had just shot myself in the foot!
A week or so goes by and I received a call from my client congratulating me. She informed me she was planning on opening a very large PO for my company and I was free to call on all other departments – she really gave me free reign to drum up as much business as possible. I did, and the POs kept getting renewed and climbing in terms of dollar amount. That account eventually became one of the largest we had locally as well as nationally.
My lesson was sort of like “know when to hold them and know when to fold them.” I took a chance, gulped and said what I needed to say. Based on a good history with this client we deserved to play in the big leagues with them. It worked out but it would not have had I not had a good history to stand on and the courage I needed at that moment. The confidence that gave me really helped my career take off and I never looked back except to say thanks for a great lesson learned.