No matter your business, we’re all in the business of sales.

I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with professionals whose sole purpose is to sell me something – television, print and radio advertising representatives, online digital video sales people, photographers telling me I need to use their services, trade organizations saying I need to “belong.”

No matter the source, we’re all selling one another something. I spend a great deal of my time wading through sales opportunities as the “gatekeeper” for my clients. It’s an undertaking all its own, but it’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly and the due diligence my clients expect of me and our firm.

Have you ever noticed that good sales people often aren’t thought of as sales people at all? Instead, they’re “friends.” Being a trusted “friend” can be key in successful sales. And, in today’s tough environment, more sales people should become “friends” with prospective clients.

More often than not, I come into contact with some of the most unlikeable sales characters. What makes them un-“friendly” sales people? I’ll let you be the judge.

(All actual incidents took place just this last month.)

Placing an initial sales call on any given Friday afternoon. Unless it’s necessary, I do my best NOT to contact clients on Fridays. No matter how nice of a person I think I may be, I’m likely the last person (i.e. their vendor) my clients want to speak with as they’re wrapping up their week and business at hand.

Placing a sales call to their cell phone, when they’re not immediately available on their office line. I realize our world is more mobile than ever before. However, there is still a professional code of conduct that exists; you must respect the privacy of someone’s cell phone number until you get the “okay” to regularly call it.

Not doing ANY homework. I always try to do homework so I can better recommend to my clients why they should do “this” or “that.” Just like my clients, I’m not receptive to people who call and ask me for money without telling me, specifically, how I (or my clients) may stand to benefit from the investment.

Tardiness. I don’t mind waiting an extra 10-15 minutes for a phone call or for a sales person to arrive at my office – if I know you. It’s an entirely different situation if you called me and are soliciting me for thousands of dollars, and then either no call, no show or stop by 30 minutes later than our scheduled meeting time.

Randomly showing up at the office – and staying for 30 minutes. I get it. Face time is good. I periodically stop by our clients’ offices as well, but a good sales person knows how to strike that delicate balance between quality “face time” and interfering with day-to-day business operations.

Responding to specific questions with rhetoric. All businesses have a specific, strategic message – key phrases and statistics – they want to communicate with clients, vendors and the community. As a marketing professional, I understand that. But if I ask you a specific question about your product or service, please answer it directly. My day-to-day business endeavors are based largely on trust, and if I don’t feel you’re going to give it to me straight, I’ll look for someone who will.

Regardless of my rant, there are still a number of sales “rock stars” out there. People I have thoroughly enjoyed doing business with for more than a decade, although I don’t think of them as sales people at all. Instead, they’re my “friends.” They’re there to lend a helping hand, provide insight when sought after, and keep me in the loop when it concerns their business and industry.

They’re resources I use time and again, and as a result, do business with. They’re “friends” – the best kind of business people who also happen to be great sales people.

Amber Stidham is the director of strategic planning at Imagine Marketing.
Contact Amber at

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