Persistence and determination are often lauded as essential qualities in any successful sales professional but there is a limit and crossing that line can have disastrous results.
Take, for example, the case of one manically focused sales man for a corporate hospitality company that has been plaguing my office for the past couple of weeks. As a major FTSE250 multi-national, my organisation has used the services of these companies many times throughout the year and we have used this salesman’s particular company, too.
However, I started fielding a least five calls a day from this man who, somehow, had managed to find out the direct internal phone numbers for both my CEO and commercial director. Now, these executives will NEVER pick up a phone call to their offices and depend on my team of executive assistants to answer all incoming enquiries.
Yet, when one assistant in my department answered the call, she would hear this chap say either of the two executive’s first names and immediately hang up when he was answered by the assistant. This, very quickly, began causing something of a stir and was very distracting for the busy office so, to diffuse the situation, I insisted all calls from an ‘unknown’ number must be directed through my phone.
Very soon afterwards I got my first call. “Reggie?”, the salesman said when I picked up the phone. “I’m sorry but which Reggie?”, I challenged and, true to form, he hung up.
This charade played out another four times that day until I didn’t give the guy a chance to speak and told him, “Look I can’t help direct you to the right person until you tell me who you are.” It took him off-guard and he blurted out, “Oh, it’s Nick, I need to speak to Reggie, he knows me well.” “Really?” I asked. “Well if you can tell me what it’s about and give me a number, I’ll get him to call you when he’s free.” He hung up again!
Next time he called for the CEO using the same gambit, “Brian?” “Don’t be silly,” I told him. “It’s me again and the CEO is not available.” “But I spoke to him earlier today,” continued this guy. “Well I find that hard to believe because he’s on an extended trip to China at the moment!” Of course, he hung up again.
But I was ready for him next time and told him bluntly that if he did not give me his contact details I would have his calls blocked by the telephone exchange. The threat worked and he gave a number for one of the executives to get back to him.
Naturally, this was a simple trap because with the name and the number I could trace his company, which, indeed, was a hospitality firm we had used in the past.
I called him up using his own tactics. “Nick?” “I’m sorry, there’s no-one of that name working here,” said the man who had given me Nick as his name.
“I recognise your voice very clearly from all the calls you have made,” I said. “Let me tell you that if you ever call my organisation again I will report you to the authorities as a nuisance caller.”
To rub salt into the wound, I told him that I, as the actual custodian of my company’s hospitality budget, would have his firm deleted from our list of providers and it will never be used again.
The simple lesson here to any over-zealous sales professionals is simple: Beware the Dragon’s breath!