Stop Allowing Others To Use You

Although the above headline might seem more at home in a psychologists office. More often than not its equivalent affects more salespeople than they want to admit. Or worse – even know.

A common practice in sales is the supplying of prices (aka quoting) to both current or potential customers. An example of this happens regularly in the repetitive ordering and fulfillment channels such as food, gas, or other commodities. Along with the many others that don’t change as rapidly, yet do change relative to supply and demand.

Two examples might be where the distributor of televisions and such gives price quotes that are taken on a regular basis by their customers as to stock their shelves. i.e., “What’s your pricing on a trailer load of name brand flat panel televisions?” To the time dated variety such as; “We take price quotes on Friday’s for the following weeks deliveries on (fill in the blanks) products.” There are numerous other scenarios, however these will do for expediency.

The problem for many is they’ll give out prices, yet fail to ever get an order. Sometimes out of frustration as in some stab in the dark. They’ll quote a price they know is below their competitors cost. Once again resulting in no order. (or worse – they do!)

Here’s where most just give up citing examples to anyone who’ll listen how they were just being used. Rather than attacking the real issue. It’s not about being used. It’s about how you allow it – while using it to your advantage.

Being “used” in the sales profession comes with the territory. Think I’m off base? How many times have you gone somewhere and asked a salesperson in a store about the feature of this item or that? Had them explain all the differences including price knowing full well you intended to purchase it elsewhere. Have I made my point?

For most salespeople this is frustrating, yet it shouldn’t be. It’s just another aspect of the sales profession that needs to be handled in a way that’s advantageous that’s all. Once you understand how to make it work on your behalf you’ll never be at the mercy of anyone that only wants to “use you.”

Years ago I was sitting across a desk from a colleague. We were both salespeople and became good friends during our tenure as both of us were top producers. At times we would partake in bantering (probably more akin to hurling insults and taunting) about who could out do the other for bragging rights on any given item or such. Then one day I heard him in quite the discussion with a client which for me turned the equivalent of an epiphany.

He stated the following: “Listen, I’m not going to quote you another price. Doesn’t matter how mad you get at me. I don’t care. Just like I don’t care if the only reason you’re taking prices from me is to make sure your favorite guy isn’t taking advantage of you. But I’m not free. To continue getting quotes from me you’ll at minimum need to give me some type of business. Doesn’t need to be a lot, but something that makes it worth my while to continue quoting you. If not, no problem – but don’t call me, and I won’t call you. You don’t work for free, and neither do I.” Then he politely hung up.

I starred in almost disbelief across the desk. In sales one was taught what just took place was near heresy! Why would he say such a thing? So as usual I asked – and I listened.

He went on to say: “Look you and I both know there are people who’ll just use you. Doesn’t matter what you say, they’ll just use what you give them to pound their current supplier. I mean even our buyers do it to our guy’s. It’s the nature of the beast. But I just got tired of calling the ones I knew never would buy. So it was my way of weeding down my call list without being rude. I could always defend my actions with “It’s business.” Then a funny thing happened. Some called back and said, “You know, you’re right.” and gave me orders. A few have grown into my better customers. Some do just that – give me token orders. But that’s OK, that’s the deal. The others – they were never going to buy in the first place, but at least they’re not wasting my time.”

He was right on so many levels. I still shake my head on how many times I was allowing myself to be used. I didn’t fully comprehend that the “allowing” was a decision I was making. I was the one complacent in allowing it. It’s not just some aspect of sales that I had no control of. Nor was it something to just “shake off” as part of the business as so many so-called “Guru’s” instruct. It’s a part of the game that I (and you) control. And if that’s the case, then use it to your advantage.

From that day forward I followed his advice and example. I applied it to not only anything related to sales, but was able to put it to use throughout many other aspects of my business career.

One of the most important aspects of selling is about treating yourself as well as your current or potential customers as peers – rather than adversaries. Once you do, it’s very difficult for anyone to ever “use” you again. Unless it’s with your approval.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr