Ben, the CEO of a manufacturing company, and I recently caught up to see how his company had fared through what he termed the “recent economic unpleasantness.” Turns out he had fared pretty well.
Through it all, he had been able to hold on to key customers, improve his process efficiency and reduce his long term cost of capital. It put him in a pretty good position going forward, and he knew it.
“The curious thing,” he said, “we were actively looking for ways to improve our operations. We were looking for ideas. New ideas. New suppliers. We talked to a lot of companies. It was pretty important to us to find some better ways to do things.”
“And?” I asked.
“They just didn’t have the same level of urgency that we did. Don’t get me wrong, some did – but most were lackadaisical. They didn’t seem to really want the business. We wanted them in the mix with us. We wanted energy, ideas, an eagerness.”
“We always heard a common theme:
• “I’m just calling to follow up on our conversation.”
• “I was just stopping by to see if you needed anything.”
• “How about if I just send you some information?”
• “I was just in the area and thought I’d stop by.”
“We weren’t ‘just’ trying to reposition our company! We were committed,” Ben continued.
Ben isn’t alone. Buyers have reported the same thing to me repeatedly over the years.
It’s interesting that such a small word could send such big negative signals and even completely misstate our intentions.
In this case, the word “just” mitigates solid intention. It takes something important and makes it less so. The follow-up phone call isn’t “just” a call – it has a purpose, presumably some important purpose. Is it to secure a decision? Add more information? Clarify a point?
If we’re “just” following up, are we “just” hanging around the office expecting something to happen?
Similarly, if we are “just” in the area and stopping by, that communicates a very different message. Our intention is to communicate that we are thinking of the prospect/client and checking in on them. But what we’re really communicating is closer to “I don’t have anywhere better to be” or “You are only important enough for me to stop in as an afterthought to the REAL appointment I had down the street.” Neither really helps us.
Granted, the word “just” may be a verbal tic or a word whisker; so why not eliminate it completely?
Better yet: Live and sell with intention. Don’t “just” do or say anything.
Every call every meeting has a purpose – communicate that clearly. Want your buyers to give you the appropriate time and attention? Say it like you mean it.
“I’m calling to follow up on our meeting last week as you asked.”
“I’m calling to hear your comments on the product since we’ve installed it.”
“We’re calling to schedule our next meeting.”
Be clear. Be committed. Don’t “just” say or do anything.
Mean it. Just so.