Don’t Say It

Photo via Unsplash by Kristina Flour

As sales managers, we are frequently the first point of escalation for a customer satisfaction issue, a complaint about sales, and many other “customer problems.”  Without a good system for managing these, we can get caught up in the frenzy and say things we really don’t mean. 

Back in 2000, I was managing a hard-charging team of sales reps for an Internet startup. Like many startup sales teams, we worked like animals and had a very high opinion of ourselves.

  • We thought we were changing the world (not really, we just sold Internet services)
  • We expected to all be millionaires within a year or two (never happened, instead our company went bankrupt)
  • We worked harder and were smarter than everyone else (well…we did work very hard)

One day I received a call from an irate customer. I don’t recall exactly what the complaint was about – probably an overly aggressive sales call or a missed installation date.  After the call I walked into someone’s office and said,

You wouldn’t believe the conversation I just had with this stupid b****.”

That’s when, in my headset I heard her say, “I’m still on the line Steve.” 

Then she hung up.

I felt awful. I was just venting. I never intended for her to hear me.

I was embarrassed at being caught. I was ashamed for my behavior. I was worried she’d call my boss.

I immediately called back to apologize but she refused to speak to me. I sent an apology email and received no response. I even sent a written letter of apology. That got a response – she cancelled her account with us.

This was a valuable lesson for me. 

My son Zack telling his Mom to her face what he thinks.

I learned it’s best to never say anything about anyone that I wouldn’t say to his face.

This includes:

  • Gossipping about someone
  • Writing something in an email
  • Entering disparaging comments into the CRM

I’m certainly not perfect and have violated this rule on occasion. But, generally speaking, I try my best to adhere to it.

I have also encouraged my sales reps to follow this rule – using the story above as an example of what happened when I didn’t follow it.

As for gossip – one of the easiest ways to avoid it is to refuse to participate in it. When someone tries to share some juicy gossip with me, I Immediately shut it down by saying, “That’s none of my business. I don’t want to hear about it”.

You’d be surprised how effectively that works.

In the B2B Sales world, I’ve seen thousands of emails forwarded indiscriminately, dozens of internal documents shared with customers inadvertently, and have listened to hundreds of recorded phone calls. I’ve seen comments in CRMs and notes on customer facing documents that would make a trucker blush. 

guarantee you will see this too.

Most of the time, none of these cause a problem. Sometimes they can be quite funny. Other times, the perpetrator had to make an awkward apology or a manager had to be brought in to make things right.  On rare occasions, someone got fired.

It’s been my personal experience, that by simply not saying anything I wouldn’t say to someone’s face, I’ve avoided innumerable uncomfortable situations since that day back in 2000.

As a side bonus, people tend to trust me. They know that I can keep a secret.

Next steps

Imagine never having to worry about if you cc’d the wrong person on an email you just sent. Or never having to apologize for getting caught saying something behind someone’s back. It makes for a much simpler life.

  • This works really well with customers, coworkers, friends, and family too.
  • If you have a hard time shutting up (like I do when I have some witty, sarcastic, smartass comment ready fire off) try this- clench your teeth down hard. Whenever I do this, it always improves my marriage.
  • An even bigger reward will be your to self-esteem. You will feel better about yourself.

I encourage every reader to give this approach a shot. Share it with your teams too. It makes every workplace better.

With practice, it gets much easier.  Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. 

If you want some help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

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