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Little Things Count!

by David Brock on December 15th, 2010

As I was hanging up on a call with a new prospect today, the prospect said something that caught me off guard.  He said, “Dave, I want to thank you for calling me right on time.  So few people do that, it’s important to me and tells me a little about your professionalism.  I really appreciate your respect for my time.”  It really caught me off guard, I think I mumbled something like, “Thank you, I thought everyone did that.”

His comment is interesting.  I notice it myself the same issue myself.  Someone wants to sell me something, we agree on a time to talk, the appointed time arrives, the minutes tick away, eventually the call comes in–perhaps 5 minutes late, maybe 10 minutes late.  It’s always accompanied by a pro-forma apology, and the pitch begins.  But I’ve sat around 5-10 minutes waiting for them to find the time to talk to me?????

I may be obsessive, but people say they can set their watches based on the time I call them.  If someone has scheduled a time to let me speak with them, or to speak with me, I think it’s important to meet that time commitment.  Is there something wrong with that?  Today, everyone is time poor.  Time is one of the most valuable things to each of us–making sure we don’t waste people’s time is important.  It’s not just about having something valuable to say, but it’s about respecting their time. 

It’s also about meeting commitments.  I’m like everyone else, sometimes, I get pushed behind schedule, and I’m late to a meeting — but rarely.  I always feel really bad about it because I’ve missed a commitment.  To me a time commitment is as important as a commitment about a product or service someone is trying to sell me.  If a person consistently cannot meet their time commitments, is that an indicator about their ability to meet their other commitments?

“But Dave,” you say, “we can’t help that–our customers are late to meetings, we get pushed behind schedule, that’s just the way things are these days.  No one starts on time–and it’s only a few minutes.”  That’s true, our customers may not have the same sensitivity to our time as we would like–but what kind of excuse is that?  It’s our responsibility as sales professionals to meet our commitments—period!  I know as, I plan my day, people will run behind schedule and be late.  So I add buffers to my scheduling.  But just because my customers may be late, that’s no reason for me to be late.  Interestingly, punctuality and meeting commitments rubs off.  As people know that I call when I’ve committed to call, or be someplace when I’ve committed to be there, they change their behaviors and start doing the same.  We respect each other’s time, we respect each other meeting small commitments.

The small things do seem to be important.  It seems to me that doing the small things right also makes sure the big things are done right.  Am I being too hard nosed, or does this make sense?

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  1. David,

    It’s amazing how much credibility and respect people can gain by calling people when say they will call them. I abhor it when people are late for calls or meetings because it demonstrates a lack of respect.

    You are NOT being obsessive about it because it’s one small thing that seperates a sales professional from a sales person.

    Good post (as usual!).

    • Thanks so much for the comment Kelley–you are always a great proponent and role model of these simple, basic things that make such big differences. If we can’t get these little things right, what reason does the customer have to expect we’ll get the big things right? Thanks as always (and thanks for the flattery). Regards, Dave

  2. Col Virendra Kumar permalink

    Well , as usual lot of valuable inputs. We can not really dictate the customers but yes , I would certainly feel bad if some some executives dont follow the schedule. It turns out to be waste of time for everybody.Customers too has to be apprised about how our company or we value our time .It is diplomatically telling him that even his time is important and valuable for us.

    In Indian context, specially in private companies, I have found that some times , not showing up at appointed time or keeping somebody waiting becomes the symbol of exercising influence or power. In fact , I am amazed that some proprietors would like to do it even at the cost of affecting the profitability of the company.It shows lack of professional approach. Very sure that these companies never reach their tipping point.

  3. One more thing to add to starting on time is not running late. Don’t tell me it will only be a 15-minute call and keep me on the phone for 30+ minutes. I will cut you short as my schedule only allowed for a 15-minute buffer. Excellent post thank you for taking the time to write it.

    • Stacey: Absolutely! As a side story, I have a client that has huge time discipline. Meetings start on time—always. If a person is late, regardless who, they aren’t allowed into the meeting. They end on time, always. In my very first meeting, I had planned the time poorly, we were scheduled for an hour, I needed 5 more minutes. They stood up on the hour and walked out. I was left alone in the meeting room.

      It’s amazing how much they got accomplished with this time discipline.

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