Responsibility – When is Enough Enough?

I had a conversation today with Joe Kupstas of Goodfellas. They’re doing a lot of things right. This is another. Joe asked me why I hadn’t posted lately. I replied that I hadn’t been so moved. He’s a great guy. I like being held accountable. Good job, Joe!

Incidentally, the above paragraph doesn’t have anything to do with the title or the subject of the post. I just wanted to give them a little link love.

When do you not have to be responsible?

If you recite the terms to your prospect, but they don’t hear them, are they responsible for not listening hard enough or are your responsible for making sure they heard?

If your prospect lies about their budget, their decision making authority, their interest, or anything else, are they responsible for lying or are you responsible for not uncovering the truth?

If your salesperson makes excuses about not keeping their commitments to number of calls or other behavior, who is responsible for what?

If your salesperson doesn’t close a piece of business, is it their responsibility to take responsibility for not getting the business, or is it your responsibility to debrief until you find out why?

If your business fails, whether it’s the idea, the economy, finances, luck, whatever, who is responsible?

Remember the overnight delivery service commercial that started with a business owner saying, “If we don’t get this delivered first thing in the morning, we’ll be out of business.” and ends showing cutrate delivery service showing up at the door that has an Out of Business sign tacked to it. Who is responsible, the person wanting the delivery on time or the person ignoring or not hearing the request?

Answer Key: You are always responsible. You are responsible for making sure they heard. You are responsible to uncover the truth. You are responsible to hold your salespeople accountable. It is your responsibility to debrief until you find out why. You are responsible. The person needing the on time delivery is responsible.

Think about a major league pitcher that gives up a home run. You think he’s trying to pin blame on the batter for being a good hitter? He’s talking to himself. He knows who made the mistake. He knows who’s responsible.

Think about the batter that strikes out. If it’s a called third strike, he reminds himself that with two strikes, you’ve got to be swinging if it’s close. If it’s a swinging third strike, he’s not cursing the pitcher for throwing a good pitch, he’s “coaching” himself, saying,”…eye on the ball.”

Think about the batter that tries to argue with the umpire about calling strikes and balls. Is he wasting his time? Might he get thrown out of the game. He’s responsible to hit the ball.

Here’s the short answer. You are responsible and the responsible person is typically the person that’s in control.

Wednesday with Delta at BWI

Last Wednesday, I was booked to take Delta flight #5414 from BWI to Logan at 6:50 PM. I arrived at the airport, went through security, and went to the gate. Everything appeared OK, so I went to the bar for an amber bock and a caesar salad. Back to the gate. There’s a long line at the desk. There’s a Delta guy behind the desk that looks very stressed.

Event #1.) The Delta guy speaks into his microphone and out over the public address system. “To all passengers bound for Cincinnati, Boston, and JFK. Weather has arrived in Baltimore and no flights are going anywhere, anytime soon.” It’s impossible to write this with all the tonality and struggle that this guy had in his voice. I looked over and the expression on his face was the same expression that I’ve seen on funeral directors’ faces and doctors’ faces when they have very bad news. Anybody looking at him would have seen that he was feeling the pain.

Event #2.) He adds, “Those of you who were planning on making connections in Cincinnati should go back out to the ticket counters. They have more help out there and they’ll be able to re-book your flights much more efficiently than we’ll be able to here.

I went and ordered another Amber Bock thinking I don’t like being delayed, but at least I’m going home and I don’t have to worry about re-booking connections. One thing that might be pertinent is that the evening before, there were tornadoes in the Baltimore area and my flight in was delayed three hours. I figured that I was gonna be there for a while.

Event #3.) After my second beer, I went back to hang out at the gate. There was still a long line. About 15th in line, there was a guy that I had noticed in the bar. He was talking too loud on his cell phone about some kid who had had his brain fried by some medical person and it should be worth millions. Anyway, this pompous ass was about 15th in line and some lady on crutches was allowed to be second in line. He went up and told her that there was a line and everybody in front of him asked him if he could see the crutches, and then suggested that he get back in line. I love it when the multitudes rise up against self-important morons like him.

Event #4.) As I watch, the Delta guy looks out the window (High tech, huh?). Then he makes a call. Then he announces, “Those of you bound for Boston on flight #5414, please stand by. It appears that your plane is arriving. I’ll be checking with the flight crew as soon as they land to find out how long before they’re ready to go again”. He goes away, comes back few minutes later and announces, “Passengers on flight #5414, we’re getting you another pilot. Plan on boarding in about 10 minutes and leaving about 10 minutes after that”. And that is what happened.

Event #5.) The pilot announces that once we get airborne, flight time to Boston will be 1 hour and 3 minutes. That we are on one of the few flights leaving because we’re going North. Nothing is going West or South because of the weather. It might be a little bumpy while we get to altitude and until we get clear of the weather, but after that it would be a smooth flight into Boston. There were NO bumps. This was one of the smoothest flights that I’ve ever been on. The flight attendant was so personable that she made me feel like I was sitting in her living room.

Aren’t events 1, 2, 4 and 5 great examples of managing expectations? Mr. Delta guy could have told us that he hoped the delay would be short or that he’d let us know as soon as he could, instead he said, “anytime soon”. He under-promised so he could over-deliver. When he suggested that people go back to the ticket counter, half the people in line left. His tonality and body language throughout the “ordeal” made all of his “prospects” realize that he was feeling way more pressure than they were, but that he wasn’t giving up and he was gonna get us all through it. Shifting gears a little: How many times do you make your customers ask you for a progress report? He saw a plane coming. Verified what it was and gave us (and everybody else) hope that we were progressing. He gave us (all) info as soon as he got it. Never over-promising, but always keeping us up to the moment.

This series of events could have tested my patience, but Mr. Delta guy (I should have gotten his name.) made it seem as though he was more concerned about my well-being than any problems that might have been on his desk at the moment.

Finally, any experienced traveller would have expected a bumpy flight with thunderstorms in the area, especially on a 50 seat plane. The pilot stating the obvious, but informing us that it should be short lived was masterful. I’m sure that everybody was thinking, “Anybody can get through a few bumps”.

One more thing. You want to be arrogant, self-important, out-spoken, and strong? You want to appear to be in control, successful when everyone else is feeling oppressed? Re-read #3.


So, tonight, I’m at the Worcester Chamber of Commerce Business after Hours. It’s an annual event. Here’s my post from last years’s event. Interestingly, a lot of the people that attended last year did not this year. Christine Miller was there in all her ambassadorial splendor. Linda Cohan and I were doing some leap frogging. My old friend Mr. Sunshine showed up fashionably late as did the Goodfellas. (Careful what you say!)

It was a good time!

But, for me, the highlight of the evening was when a very well known, very visible, very slick, high profile, super smooth sales-type hot shot says, “Some night, I’m gonna comment all over your blog. You wanna hear stories, I’ve got stories.”

At first, I’m taken aback! This guy reads my blog? He’s easily one of the most recognized faces in the Worcester area. Always impeccably dressed. Groomed perfectly. You shake his hand and you feel the urge to buy. This guy reads my blog? Get out!

Then he tells me a story. I love stories. He’s brand new, just out of college, first job. Been busting his tail to close a big deal with a national company. Really big deal with a really recognizable prospect. OK, so he schedules a closing meeting and his manager wants to come “help”. The two of them are on the call, my friend gives the price and closes. Prospect says that the solution is perfect and if my friend matches a competitor’s price, he’ll get the business. My friend says, “No.”, but the sales manager starts to cave. My friend overrides his boss (remember, first job out of college), shows the prospect the holes in the soles of his shoes and says something like, “I’m the one that identified your problems. I’m the one that wore out these shoes finding the perfect solution for you. Don’t you think that I’m gonna service you better than some Bozo that came along and beat my price on my solution?” The prospect replied, “Match the price, you’ve got the business.” They dragged my friend out to the car, kicking and screaming, while his manager matched the price.

What’s the point? The point is that I’m flattered that somebody that will stand up to a “big shot” prospect like that……….Somebody that will stand up to his boss like that………Somebody that strong…reads my blog.

As you may have noticed, I’m kind of a sales junkie. I’m always “on”.  I’m always doing it, ready to do it, talking about it, reading about it, thinking about it. One of my subscriptions is to SalesQuotes. Here’s a sampling.

“Never mistake motion for action.”

“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky, that’s all.”

“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

Learn your lines.”

And this one arrived today.

“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”

Did you find yourself thinking about any of these as you read them? I’ve found that it’s a good way to start the day. Just Sell always credits the person that they’re quoting and sometimes that’s part of it. For instance, can you match the quote to the person being quoted. Here are the people. Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando, Arthur Conan Doyle, Al Pacino, and Coco Chanel.

Why bother?

As you know, I went to the World Trade Day at Bryant University a couple of weeks ago. I’m still doing my follow up, but yesterday, I called AbeeSee. Now, AbeeSee and I had met in the past, and his face was vaguely familiar, but he wasn’t in my address book, let alone on my list of resources. So, yesterday afternoon I called him. He answered the phone, “Hello, AbeeSee, may I help you?” Hi, AbeeSee, Rick Roberge. Oh, hi. Hey, I’m in the middle of something, can we talk later and we scheduled a call for this morning at 8:30.

I called at 8:30 and left my number on voice mail. I blocked my number and called an hour and a half later. He answered the same way. I started with, “Hi, AbeeSee. Rick Roberge”. Oh. (Obviously not happy.) Sounds like a bad time. Not exactly. Oh, then it must be that you don’t want to talk to me. (You ready?) I’m not really in the market for sales training.

This is a guy who didn’t pay attention to Philip Styrlund’s talk. I told him that the mistake he made was assuming that that was why I was calling. In reality, his business card reads “Custom Business Research & Information”. So, you be the judge. Do you think that any of our development clients might have liked to know about him?

Here’s a few other questions.

Why did he go to World Trade Day if not to make connections with potential clients?

Why did he have me call back?

Why didn’t he just make his stupid comment on the first call?

Incidentally, his name isn’t really AbeeSee, but everything else is true. I just don’t want to raise his Google Rank by mentioning him or his company on my blog, but Pete, if you got this guy there, you should take him off all of your lists.

“We’ll keep you in mind.”

What does it mean when you get this at the end of a sales call?

Does it mean that your prospect is engaged?

Does it mean that you’ve uncovered any compelling need?

Why would a prospect say something like this after you’ve just spent an hour or two having an in depth conversation about their business?

That is the question.

When a prospect tells you that they’ll keep you in mind, that’s the last thing that they’re gonna do. In my opinion, one of two things has happened during your time together.

Either, you aren’t even close. You never uncovered the real problem. You haven’t set yourself up as the expert. There has been no real conversation and the prospect is trying to let you down gently. You’ll never get them on the phone again. You’re not the answer. You haven’t even shown that you know what the problem is.

Or, you did your job too well. You helped the prospect realize how bad things are and that it’s probably their fault. The prospect’s pride is probably shattered and you did it. They may or may not be upset with you, but they are most certainly embarrassed at being exposed and are just looking for a way to exit the meeting and the relationship as quickly as possible. This prospect may be more willing to lose their business (and blame the economy, competition, or timing) than to admit to the world what you uncovered…..That they did it!

Either way, somebody (you or the prospect) can’t handle the truth.

Today’s Client Stories

It’s been busy at David Kurlan & Associates. For some reason mediocrity is no longer acceptable. We’ve got dozens of new clients with hundreds of salespeople, managers, and executives striving to be over-achievers. Consequently, the stories are becoming plentiful. These are three “real-life” stories from today.

Client comes in and says, “Hey, Rick! I got a call today from the VP of an international company that’s in charge of North America.” So, I ask how the call went. He says, “He calls and says, ‘Hi, this is Dave and I’m returning calls and I’ve got you on my list’.” My client replies, “Really? How’d I get on that list?” Is that beautiful or what? He didn’t thank him for returning the call or say that he was hoping he’d call. He said, “Really? How’d I get on that list?” Perfect! Dave replied that he had received a strong recommendation from a very respected person that my client had lunch with a week-ish ago. They are meeting next week. I love it!

Client calls and says, “Hey, Rick! I just closed a big sale and I KNOW it’s because of what I learned at Kurlan.” So, I dutifully ask, “Really? How so?” Here’s the story. He had a closing meeting this afternoon. His price was $125,000. The prospect tells him that he really likes the proposal, but he’s got another proposal for $115,000. Our client stays cool and asks, “If the prices were identical, whose would you pick?” The prospect replies, “Yours.” Client asks, “Why?” and coaxes a few reasons out of the prospect. The most important reason was that our client asked so many good questions that the prospect really felt that our client understood what the prospect wanted. You ready? Here’s the lesson. The prospect did the deal for $125,000 and when he was signing the contract, he told our client, “You asked so many great questions when we met that when I met with the other guys I kept thinking about those questions and wondering why these other guys weren’t asking them. This client is not only a good fellow, he’s getting to be a great salesman!

A couple of weeks ago a client asks me how to handle a particular situation. He’d scheduled a meeting with a prospect and the prospect asked to reschedule. They did. The morning of the rescheduled appointment, the prospect’s secretary called to say that the prospect was hung up and would have to reschedule. Two months later (week before last), client gets an email saying, “It’s time!” That’s when he asked me what to do. See the guy? Blow him off? I asked him why he even wanted to give the guy another chance and he told me that several of his clients had been trying to put them together. The prospect had a good business, but he wanted it to be better. I told him to tell the prospect that the cost of the meeting would be $1,000. If they decided to do business, the $1,000 would be applied to the first invoice for services. If they didn’t do business, or the meeting didn’t happen for some reason, the $1,000 would be our client’s to keep. Client must not have liked that answer because he sought other opinions. The meeting was yesterday. He didn’t charge anything. Today he called saying that he met with the prospect yesterday. The prospect opened with”….I’m always looking to improve.” He went to, “Things are actually pretty good.” The prospect never shared anything meaningful. Was never emotionally involved in the conversation. Essentially, wasted our client’s time because he had no compelling need to do anything. He would not have paid $1,000 to meet and our client would not have wasted his time.

The lesson: Listen to Rick!

Have a good weekend!