In Part One of this Eight-Part Series, I wanted to touch on what I feel is arguably the most underrated of all attributes to have as a sales professional, Patience.
I can understand why this is the case, though. For years the adage has always been to “sell, sell, sell” and “more, more, more” and it basically has been wired into our DNA that we aren’t doing enough and need to keep pushing harder. Although sales have changed drastically in the last decade, this mindset still exists.
It’s okay to move fast, there is nothing wrong with that as long as expectations are laid out but what causes a lot of issues is when we move at a different speed than the potential client and moreover when we try to push the accelerator when the potential client and we haven’t taken into consideration the true timeline of the potential client.
In any dealings with any human being, the quicker we can get to the right decision is always better. It means we can move forward to the next step and continue to grow. Nobody can argue that. I make sure I do that on (almost) every call with a potential client. We want to make sure we are on the same page in regard to where we stand. That’s fair. Where I messed up a lot early on with this is that if there is a needed break in the normal cadence or a timeline shift I might not have picked up on these cues and my “follow-ups” weren’t always on point. Luckily, I learned this early on and is still something I practice consistently.
You must not get happy ears when talking about the timeline and have to fully understand the next steps, future decision, evaluation process, or whatever other points on the map that need to be hit before a partnership is finalized. Patience is the secret weapon here. I’ve seen it all too often where we want to “get it in before the end of the month” and start to sound selfish and pushy. Generally, this has come with pressure from management to want to close business. This is where you need to really go with your gut. I’ve had this situation happen a lot. I always go with what I think is right. Except for a couple of times, and luckily I avoided disaster.
I’ll share a quick story that relates to this.
I was working a fairly substantial potential partnership that gave us the green light to move forward but had delayed multiple times due to internal hurdles. I had a great relationship with an internal champion and was getting fed a lot of intel so I knew where the hold-up might have been. In the meantime, they (my champion) was also dealing with a lot of challenges in their own role and things that had surfaced that were unforeseen. He went dark on me for many weeks which was uncommon. I respectfully reached out a few times here and there not being pushy and understanding what he was up against.
No answer. No response. Weeks piled up.
After about 8 weeks passed with no response, I started to get pressure from my manager as our expected close date was approaching even though I had been transparent all along where things were at. He asked me if we should reach out to someone else there, my Champion’s boss, to get an update. I refused and pushed back knowing that person was mainly controlling the budget but not too involved in the overall choice. If we overstep my champion that could put a serious “knife in the back” feel to my champion and alter the partnership altogether.
I knew they were partnering with us and things like this just come up. After repeated pressure over and over I finally caved and said I would call his boss and try to get an update. Fortunately, the day I called he was out of the office and I decided not to leave a voicemail. Before I called back another time days later, I reached back out to my champion and fortunately received a response. A little luck is never a bad thing.
But I was right. He apologized profusely for the lack of communication and shared what had been going on and how it’s been a nightmare over there due to some unforeseen business challenges with their organization. It wasn’t that he was trying to avoid me but he was just busy with his full-time job. We were all good and were able to proceed and keep the relationship going forward.
Luckily, that situation didn’t hurt me but it confirmed a valuable lesson.
When you are a sales professional and are responsible for a quota you have to own that quota 100%. You have to do what is in the best interest of the client and yourself and trust your judgment all the way. You also have to remember that the person(s) you are working with has 40 other priorities to deal with on their end not counting personal life issues and things you have no idea might be going on. Having the proper level of patience shows that you respect their situation and that you have a relationship built on trust and communication, hopefully, established early on, and that wins in the long run. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and trying to speed up something that isn’t meant to be sped up can put you in a bad position.
On that note, there is one other piece of the patience puzzle I wanted to touch on. The micro-side of patience.
The micro-side is something extremely important as well and it involves each and every interaction with a potential client.
How many times have you received an email later in the sales process and just replied straight back to exactly what they are asking for? I bet the answer is almost 100%.
But I’d suggest a different route. This is a great example of where patience can work in your favor. Why are they asking that question? What additional conversations have happened internally that posed that question? Does the answer, one way or another, change the direction? A question generally has much more meaning behind it and I always pick up the phone and try to get my potential client on a quick call to clarify. It allows us to make sure we are fully on the same page and we understand each other and it also recalibrates the next steps and timeline and confirms we are still in line with that as well.
Responding quickly just to get it done isn’t always the best approach and sometimes it takes additional time and energy to flush out a situation and learn the nuances and reasoning behind it.
This is most important when it comes to phone calls and the speed of your messaging, response to questions, and time on the phone. When you are trying to rush to just get through it you miss a lot of valuable information that is helpful during the partnership discovery.
Sales are like professional dating that if you build enough rapport and trust early on in the conversation you can go well past the intended endpoint. If things are going well, why rush through it. Be thoughtful, be insightful, ask deeper and curious questions, get to the bottom of something you don’t understand.
All of these things happen when you have a mindset focused on patience and an understanding that you are in control most of the time but the times that you aren’t you need to be okay with taking a deep breath and letting someone else lead even if it doesn’t match up with your expected timeline or path to finalizing the partnership.
Remember, patience is underrated so this might be one of the biggest areas you can find improvement in right away. Start to think about areas in your entire sales process, both internal and client-facing, where you can start to leverage a more patient attitude and style and I’m confident you’ll start noticing a big change in the overall structure of your sales pipeline, relationships, and eventual partnerships.
Thanks for reading!