In one of my previous blogs I discussed the importance of how we talk about our prospects or customers when they are not around. I recently was having lunch with a colleague named “Jim” who told me the following story:
Jim had managed to work his way to the CEO of an organization to sell his solution. After numerous meetings he was a bit discouraged because he didn’t seem to be making much progress. The only thing that was progressing was the amount of follow-up information he was asked to generate after every meeting. So, he reached out via email to a colleague to get some additional ROI information for the prospect. The colleague emailed back asking some additional quesitons about what he was trying to accomplish there.
Jim clicked back, “I’m trying to get this dumb-ass to buy something.”
The appropriate ROI information was eventually sent back to the CEO of the organization and yes… the unthinkable happened. The email was sent with the trailing thread that included the “dumb-ass” quote. Jim said there was a second after that send button was pushed that he irked in horror “OH SHIT!”
So what happened then? Jim immediately called his boss to tell him what had happened. They discussed a few options. Since the comment was at the bottom of the thread, they could take the chance that the CEO would never read it. Or they could ‘fess up and take their licks. They decided on the latter.
Jim went to the CEO and told him what happened. He told the CEO that indeed, it was he that was the dumb-ass. The CEO, who obviously was not a dumb-ass as accused and was actually quite a thoughtful person, lectured Jim that he needed to be more careful about what he said and wrote about his prospects. After the lecture the CEO told Jim that despite this error he still wanted to consider Jim’s product.
Jim got the order last week.
There are lessons to be learned here the least of which is to never put in writing derogatory comments about your prospects or customers. More importantly, we should avoid the mindset where we are disparaging our prospects or customers in any way. We (our products and services) are not the center of their universe. It is our job to earn their mind share. Somehow, in ways not necessarily as overt as this story, your attitudes about your prospects and customers will manifest themselves.