Stop Checking In.

If you read only the headline over this post, you might think I'm working to stamp out those ubiquitous "I'm at gate 71 at SFO!" social media updates. OK, yes, I'd like to have that result too, but that's not today's topic. Today I'm addressing something much closer to the heart and soul of sales: the "pointless contact."

Here's how it goes: You've submitted something to a potential customer (an RFP response, a proposal) or are just trying to get them to pay attention to you. Perhaps your boss asked you about the status of the account; perhaps you got a reminder; or maybe you just woke up in a cold sweat about making your number this month. You don't think, you just start typing. And then, tragically, you hit send.

And, just like that, you've made a pointless contact. The phenomenon was nicely spelled out in a recent slideshow on LinkedIn. But every seller - and every buyer - recognizes the script. "'s are you? Just checking in to make sure you got my proposal...." It's a tough habit to break, but nothing could be more destructive to the rep's reputation and perceived value than "I'm just checking in." Translated to English, it means "I got nothing." Worse, you start to sound like that insecure, clingy relationship stalker: "Just wanted to make sure you didn't lose my phone number." What to do instead? In my workshops, I always encourage sellers to break the cycle.

  • Establish a deadline when you make your proposal. "I'll call you on the 23rd and then once a week until we have clarity on whether you're buying from us." This approach assumes a level of professionalism, respect and mutual commitment. And the reason your writing or calling is because it's what you said you were going to do.
  • Invite the No. Read your tone of your past emails carefully. You're not asking for an answer: you're most likely asking for a meeting or an extended conversation that keeps your feeble hopes alive. I'm a big fan of saying "If we're not in your plans, I'd be glad to know, because I've got other customers to pursue." Or better yet, "If I hear nothing by the end of this week I'll assume we are not getting the business and take you out of our projections." This sounds dangerous, but you only risk knowing the truth sooner.
  • Include a Surprise. Include something of value for the customer. A bit of relevant news, an article you found, insights on one of their competitors...just about anything. You become the rep who always sends along something valuable...not the one who's wasting my time "checking in."