I met a woman a year ago whose company appeared to be a terrific strategic partner. Her company came highly recommended, their client portfolio was impressive and their body of work appeared top notch. Thanks to a sparkling introduction from an existing partner, she was intrigued by my company and showed great interest in an alliance. Let’s get together next week, she said, and just like that, we were off and running.
On Monday, I was excited to call her, almost giddy, thinking about how we could grow our businesses together. I left messages. I sent e-mail. No response.
Two months later, my constant follow-up yielded a lunch meeting. The magic river of fortune was flowing again as we talked marketing packages, strategic onboarding and client incorporation.
Two weeks later, our conversation again ceased. Months later, she responded to a periodic message that her own research and experiences had resulted in a decision that it wasn’t the right time to move forward. No explanation as to how or why. That was all she wrote…literally.
So, when we met again a few weeks ago, I certainly intended to proceed with caution. I’m not the type to carry a grudge…I’m a salesman. We salesmen see the glass as half full, with the potential of it running over. A lot can happen in a year, so why not give it another shot?
This engagement went off on the right foot. The timing was right, and the need for our product was imminent. It’s important we meet next week, she said. There are a couple of clients she’d like to launch immediately.
The next Monday, I was excited to call her again, thinking that timing really is everything. I left messages. I sent e-mail. AGAIN, no response.
Now, it would be typical human nature to be a little pissed off. In the infamous words of George Jr., “Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me…you can’t get fooled again!'”
I spent a lot of time looking at my wasted effort from a self-coaching perspective, and I came to this conclusion. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s up to me to be the proverbial optimist. The way I see it, better to always expect things to work out than to be the one making empty promises. If she can do this to me (twice), what does that say about her reputation to the rest of the world? So rather than be pissed, I offer you this list.
5 Quick Tips to Build, Keep and Maintain a High Integrity Reputation
- Deliver upon the expectations that you set. As salesmen, our word is our bond. Don’t say the package will be there on Tuesday when there’s a 10% chance it won’t be. Use the company tried and true slogan verbatim, knowing that it’ll likely get there sooner and make you look a champ.
- Don’t be late. Buffer your commute and leave gaps in your schedule to arrive early. It worked for the airline industry in 2013 when they padded flight times to cut down on delays, and even though we’re smart enough to figure out the math, we’re happier passengers when we arrive early to the gate. Treat your clients the same way.
- Be naïve, happy and persistent. Borrowed from investor Morten Lund, this is, to me, the optimal attitude of a salesman. Might you think of ‘naïve’ as a derogatory term? Its definition speaks a different tone – “(of a person) natural and unaffected; innocent.” Hopefulness is contagious, and a short-term memory in instances like these keeps you strong, confident and driven.
- Stand your ground. Should your no-show ever take the initiative to reconnect, don’t respond in a negative or harsh tone. Take the opportunity to explain how the chain of events made you feel, and respectfully decline the opportunity to partner. Choose your words carefully, as there is a fine line between simple honesty and burning a bridge that could have dire future consequences.
- Go about your business. Some people are just going to let you down. Go ahead and expect it from a small percentage. Make it your mantra to believe that people are inherently good. Alliances in business can take time to jell, mature and stand the test of time. Focus on keeping and growing your impeccable image, being the best you can be for your current customers while expanding with new ones.
With this steadfast approach, you’re bound to gain a fan base, be well-liked and very successful.
Jonathan Bryant serves as National Director of SiteStaff, a staffed live chat provider for small business websites. He lives in Denver with his wife and two children, coaching their teams, competing in triathlons and loving everything about life in Colorado.