Case of Contact

Who is your biggest competitor? No, it’s not the guy down the street or the Internet printer. Our biggest competitor is our way of thinking. Consider it this way. If you were the only person in your shop, you would have to print, bind, answer the telephone, collect the receivables, and pay the bills. And you have to do something else, in some form or other, to succeed. You have to sell.

When we take apart selling, we find the essence is initiating contact with strangers. And that’s where we compete with ourselves because most of us have inhibitions about making that initial contact. Therefore, we don’t.

Inhibited Social Contact Initiation Syndrome is what it is called. When applied to selling it’s called Sales Call Reluctance; a subject extensively researched by behavioral scientists George Dudley and Shannon Goodson. Ninety percent of more than half a million salespeople measured have some form of it, so it’s safe to say a lot of business owners have some form of it.

The researchers have shown that those who initiate contact more than others are the winners. It’s not who knows the most, how well they present, their ability to develop relationships, or any other factor save one: They have to initiate contacts. It’s certainly beneficial to be motivated, articulate, knowledgeable, and agreeable. But you can lose any one of those behaviors and still be successful. However, it’s almost impossible to be successful without initiating contact with strangers.

What’s the Problem?

Why don’t we make the calls? Motivation and goals get in the way of some people, and not just the seminar-talk type. Motivation isn’t just thoughts and feelings. It is thoughts, feelings, and action. If you won’t act, then you aren’t motivated.

Think of motivation as energy. A person may lack the physical energy or motivation to perform and that’s not reluctance; it’s lack of strength. That may be due to a number of reasons, most of which are physical. It could be a disease, a dependency issue, or depression. The bottom line is if we don’t have the energy, then we need to get checked. It may be more than just a lack of “want to.”

Perhaps a person has other money. That’s a great reason not to perform and, believe it or not, is the top reason we see. They either have other money, are going to inherit other money, or suspect that they are going to inherit other money. That’s a motivation drainer because they just don’t have to, so they’re not going to. They’ll wait it out and piddle around in the business until their ship lands. I hope it works out for them.

Perhaps we have high motivation; meaning plenty of energy to hit the floor running every day. What about the goal? We might not have a goal that is personally meaningful to us. And it stands to reason that the outcome will look pretty much the same as it does for a person without motivation or energy if there’s no real goal.

Interestingly, I find it common for owners not to have goals. There’s the fear of business death, but there’s a great deal of lack of focus once we pass that. Prospering goals are a lot harder to deal with than fear goals. Not to confuse you, but some people who are outwardly successful don’t have goals or their goals are too low. Remember, luck is involved in business as well as hard work.

What’s even more interesting, some people actually have an aversion to goals. And these aren’t just the ones who merely profess to disdain goals or competition; there are people who really freeze up. There are procedures to work with these conditions, but we’ll have to cover that in a later article.

For now, let’s assume we have motivation and the goal is adequate, clear cut, and personally meaningful. Well, there’s another issue: Too many goals. We want to do a lot of things, but haven’t prioritized them. We will spend our energy and motivation focusing on one target (goal) then another in rapid order, only to repeat it over again. The result is the same as not having motivation or a clear goal: Little is accomplished. So, prioritization is in order here.

Still Not Working

Now if we have plenty of energy (motivation) and the goals are clear, appropriate, and high, the theory is that we then focus our energy on the goal. You’re excited about what you do and spread the word, you make contacts with strangers and, bam!, it happens. The new car is in the garage of the new house with the happy family and there’s no need to go to work unless you really want to because all you have to do is set another goal and grow ad infinitum.

Somehow it doesn’t seem to work exactly this way. Stuff happens. We have other things to do. We lose momentum. We lose focus. Much of it is time management and organization issues. We attack everything but the salient point of why we don’t make the calls.

Speaking of “focus,” Al Ries, the author of the marketing classic of the same name and a ton of other marketing books, describes a management guy as “a sales guy who knows how to read financials.” Should business owners be salespeople who know how to read financials? I think so for the most part, especially in our business of printing. Why? Selling is where the money is. It’s not who produces the best product on the best equipment with the best staff. All of that helps, but the victory belongs to the person who initiates the most contacts with suspects and is adequate in everything else.

If you accept that, and I know many don’t, then back to initiating contact with strangers. If we have enough energy (motivation) and clear goals, we should end up spot on the target, so to speak. We often don’t.

Why? We are sidetracked by “stinkin’ thinkin’.” For the most part, it is the self-talk that keeps us from initiating contact and being as successful as we can be; which brings us back to Dudley and Goodson. They’ve identified 12 different types of stinkin’ thinkin’, which they call Sales Call Reluctance types.

I spent a week last month immersed in their training, theory, and practice. Found out things about myself I didn’t know. And, as one printer friend of mine said, “I’ve made more real sales calls in the last four weeks than I had in the last four years. Fact is, once I got in the habit, it’s hard to stop.”

Imagine that. The good news for all of us is that our hesitations are largely learned behavior, so we can unlearn them. In the next few installments, I’ll tell you about the most common patterns of Sales Call Reluctance as uncovered by Dudley and Goodson. They might surprise you.

Tom Crouser is CEO of CPrint International. Contact him at Join Tom in a seminar near you as he discusses “Surviving the Economic Downturn” (schedule at See the ad for Tom's services in this issue.

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