Week 05 – Don’t Ride a dead Horse – Chapter 02

“The good ones go into the pot, the bad ones go into your crop”—poor Cinderella had to pick the lentils out of the ashes. Luckily the doves came to her aid. Some salespeople tend to pick the alleged lentil from the ash, dust it off, give it a sniff, and maybe even put it in their mouth, only to put it back in the ash, feeling dejected.

The following scenario might sound familiar to you. It’s the third or fourth time that you’re calling an “interesting contact” and the answer is something like: “Thanks for calling us again. We’re still interested, but for the moment it’s not right for us. Let’s talk about it again in three or four months.” To be honest, that’s what he said the last few times you called.

The client keeps postponing and maybe you ask yourself whether you just have to be more persistent. There’s a voice from the depths of your first sales training, telling you to stick with it, another one echoing, “Selling begins with a no.” Let me tell you, that you can take these slogans and throw them safely into the garbage dump of sales history.

Imagine the following situation: You are at a nightclub and you have just approached a potential romantic interest. Sadly, you get a “No!” So, what now? If you are serious about it, you will probably give it a couple more tries to see whether there is a “Maybe” or whether the “No” is a real “No.” Once you realize that the answer is really “No”, you will look elsewhere and not stick with this candidate. Because if you do stick with it, somebody else is going to attend to all the other potentials in the club, and you’ll be left alone when, hours later, the last song is playing and the lights go on. Good salespeople know this and act accordingly with their clients.

It sounds pretty easy but people tend to manipulate themselves. The more time, money or passion you’ve put into a project, a client, or a relationship, the tougher it is to put an end to it.

Many people bought shares on the stock market that then plummeted in value. However, many private investors hung on to them. To this day, some are still waiting for the stock to regain its initial value even though it would make more sense to sell the shares at a loss and look for a better investment with the money that’s left.

It’s similar in sales: The more time and effort we invest in a potential sale, the harder it is to abandon it, even when a sober analysis tells us to do so immediately. Economically, it makes usually always more sense to reuse resources in other projects, rather than to repeat mistakes through misplaced optimism.

Don't ride a dead Horse © Fotolia 2015 / Tom Wang

Don’t ride a dead Horse © Fotolia 2015 / Tom Wang

Perhaps, you have heard this tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians: “If you discover that you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.” Although the wisdom of these words hits home somewhere, most salespeople hardly ever act upon. Sales professionals have a tendency to drag their dead horse to the next watering hole in the irrational hope that everything will be all right. But it won’t.

Every doctor has made an oath, promising to do everything so save people’s lives. Yet, there comes a moment when a doctor sees that a patient cannot be saved. As a salesperson the situation is similar. You want to win over every potential customer, but there are moments when you realize that it’s not going to work.


Get Rid of Dead Horses

There is an instant remedy for this: Create a scale of escalation. Decide on how many times you want to keep your hopes alive. Once? Twice? Even more often? Here is a suggestion of what to say when you are on your final try:

“Dear client, as I can see, this matter is not urgent for you at the moment. We don’t wish to force a good thing on anyone. That is why I am no longer permitted to call you. You are always welcome to contact us, if you would like to take advantage of the benefits we discussed.”


“Dear client, we take data privacy very seriously. Because we have not entered a business relationship, I can no longer phone you. But you are welcome to change that by contacting me, as soon as you are ready to make the benefits we discussed appear on your balance sheet.”

Do you find this too provocative? It is perhaps a little brazen, but it will certainly help you to free up some space for other opportunities. I am convinced that sales organizations waste at least 15 percent of their time on utterly useless activities.

Try something different and saddle up a horse that will actually get you where you want to go! And once you are there, you will see that it’s sometimes hard to figure out what your client really needs, but that’s something I will talk about next week.

Best wishes,
Stephan Heinrich