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Sorry, But Im Not Buying From You!

Former General Electric CEO and legendary manager, Jack Welch, nailed the problem recently when he said there's just too much beating around the bush and indirectness in corporate communications. People are more interested in not hurting each others' feelings than in improving productivity, and we simply need more frankness, says Welch.

In my own small way I'm trying to remedy this situation, especially when I deal with salespeople. For example, I put out a request for a proposal and about ten companies responded. Quickly, I boiled the list down to five, called the references of the three in which I had genuine interest, and then I selected the contract winner.

Within minutes of making my decision, I phoned the others and told them, nicely but directly, that I had selected a different firm. (Of course, I left open the door to a few runners-up, in the event the chosen-one falters down the road.) Most of those I called were surprised, if not flummoxed by the fact that someone like me took the time to say, "Sorry, but I'm not buying from you!"

I did it for several reasons:

(1) It's courteous, and what comes around, goes around. I'm a salesperson, too, and I appreciate frankness.

(2) It saves everybody's time, and this improves productivity. I've calculated that I have to leave at least three non-answered voice mails or messages to figure out that someone is uninterested, or is possibly ducking my calls. These calls may be spaced over a week or two, and during that time I'm thinking I still have a living, breathing buyer when I'm really chasing a phantom.

(3) Although I have my vendor's hat on when I'm selling, in many cases, I'm also a potential or actual customer. The person who fails to return my calls at Countrywide dooms her company to not even getting close to earning my mortgage business, the next time I need one.

(4) It's a golden opportunity to give and to get high quality feedback. I would have gladly told any potential suitor how they missed the mark and why I made my selection, but no one asked! By the way, price had nothing to do with my choice. More subtle, but powerful and significant factors entered into the equation, which every vendor should hear about, so they can improve.

(5) It takes a lot of energy to avoid someone's calls. Why waste the time of your receptionist by asking that he or she join your conspiracy by being forced to say you're in a meeting, on conference call, or by lying with whatever the excuse of the day happens to be?

(6) If you waste my time, it becomes a cost of doing business, and I have to pass along this waste through higher prices, lower quality, or inferior service. Which would you prefer?

(7) There's too much frustration and anger in the world, already. Why add to it?

So, then next time you have a choice, try using directness. In the long run, it will help us all.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, Copyright 2005


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