Stop Pulling Ahead or Delaying Orders

I had a chat recently with a friend of mine and absolute professional salesperson Ron Masi. It was the beginning of a new quarter, so we got to talking about sales cycles, phone calls from managers, being asked to pull proverbial rabbits out of hats, and how stupid all of these forced tactics are. All they do is set the salesperson up for more of the same next month.   

There were lots of times when I was asked to pull orders ahead with a discount. "Jeff, we need all you've got. Offer free freight." I always did what I could, but I never felt great about it. Then there were the times when I was asked to hold an order back because the team number was covered.

I finally drew the line and had a tough conversation with my manager. We either had the order or we didn't. I wasn't going to push anything forward, or hold anything back, at the end of any period. No miracles, no sandbagging. My customers deserved better than our prescribed financial reporting schedules.

When you start pulling orders ahead, you start the next period at a deficit, which adds a level of pressure and uncertainty to your performance for the next month. You’re increasingly likely to borrow again from Peter to pay Paul. Not only is this a symptom of a terrible pipeline, but it’s only a matter of time before you do long term damage to your business, and your reputation as a salesperson.

Play the situation out a few months, and you’re in constant catch-up mode, discounting an order or staging a Big Summer Blowout that drives profits through the floor and actually trains your customers to expect these discounts and incentives. If it's going on sale next week, why would anybody buy it now?

I’m reminded of the time we had Mark Hunter on The Why and The Buy.  He said, “The economic customer is driven by the economic salesperson.” He's absolutely right. If you're the kind of salesperson who's driven only by money and incentives, you're inevitably going to find, and create, the kinds of customers who have the same motivations.

Likewise, if you're willing to set some boundaries around what you're not willing to do and do the hard work necessary to demonstrate an outcome that nobody else can deliver, you'll find and keep the customers that will make your business successful (and profitable) in every period. As a bonus, considering the fact that you lose business the same way you win it, it'll take an even greater salesperson to take it away from you.

What really blew my mind was when my best customers began "serendipitously" padding their orders at the end of quarters. I never asked, but occasionally I'd get a PO with a wink and a comment- "I know we'll use this stuff. Something always comes up."

You build trust and deepen your relationships when you hold your ground. I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve received over the years for being the same person on the 28th as I am on the 8th of the month. When it's worth what you say it is, it's not worth less at the end of the month.