A Simple Way to be More Professional

Businessman Holding No Thanks Sign

When salespeople call you to explore working with you, a simple technique can help you appear much more professional. If you’re not interested, just say so. Immediately.

Over the 14 years I’ve run my firm, I’ve heard a polite “no, thank you” more times than I can count. That’s fine. Rejection, especially when it’s quick, enables me and my team to spend our time on more fruitful conversations.

It’s the silence that kills me. And I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve spoken with countless executives, entrepreneurs, and salespeople over the years and there’s a common pet peeve – people who simply don’t respond to your messages.

It’s unprofessional folks. It’s discourteous. And if you were the one being ignored, you’d see how unpleasant and frustrating it can be.

“But Mike, I get so many sales calls and some of them are so pushy and I’m so busy so I don’t have time to respond.”

Yes, there are idiot salespeople who don’t know how to take “no” for an answer. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

What I’m talking about are the respectful salespeople and entrepreneurs who legitimately believe their product or service is a fit for you and your organization. They draft a polite email or leave a courteous voicemail. Then they wait patiently for a reply.

And they wait.

And they wait.

And they wait.

Eventually they’ll follow up a couple of months later to check in. And again, they get no response.

Here’s the important thing to realize – you’re wasting their time and coming across as unprofessional. And those salespeople and entrepreneurs have long memories. By ignoring them rather than being candid that they’re not a fit, you’re taking a risk without even realizing it.

I know one executive at a bank who was in a position to purchase our services. We had a few good conversations where they explored our training programs. We talked about their team’s development needs. The person said they were looking into budgeting for the program the next year.

A few weeks after our initial conversations, I sent a follow-up. I got nothing back.

A month later, I checked in. Nothing.

I increased the interval for checking in to every 3-6 months. Nothing.

All of this checking in adds up over time in terms of time and effort spent. There are contact lists to manage. Emails to write. Calls to make.

I finally gave up.

Fast forward a couple of years. Surprise, surprise. I get an email.

“Hey Mike! Long time, no talk! Just wanted to catch up and let you know I’m leaving Mega BankCo. I actually got laid off. I know you have a lot of great financial services industry connections. It would be great if you’d be willing to put me in touch with a few people and send them my resume. Let me know what you think and I’ll send it over. Thanks! I hope you’re doing well.”

Really? Seriously? I had to respond.

“Sorry to hear you got laid off. That sucks. I know how hard that can be. Right now I’m not aware of any openings that would be a fit for you and your skills. If something comes along where I think you’d be a good fit, I’ll be sure to reach out. Good luck in your search.”

To be clear – someone who doesn’t have the willingness or ability to respond professionally to an email isn’t a good fit for the types of opportunities I know about. Not. Gonna. Happen.

I didn’t do it to be spiteful. I did it from a rational standpoint. I would never recommend someone for a job when they’re only willing to reach out to people when they need something. Not a good fit for any organization I know.

Take the 2 minutes and respond to people. While you may think you’re hurting them by saying “no” you’re actually doing them a favor. You’re freeing up their time to pursue better opportunities. Most entrepreneurs and salespeople will respect a “no” much more than they’ll respect silence. And down the road, you never know when you might need their help. They tend to be extremely well-connected with big networks that can create great opportunities for you – as long as they’re willing to open those networks to you.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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One Response to “A Simple Way to be More Professional”

  1. Duane Penzien says:

    Agreed! I have this happen to me regularly: that customer (internal or external) who expresses an interest in something you can provide, then cuts off communication without ever simply telling you “No”. I would much rather have an answer than be left hanging!

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