Thrown out of a feed store? 

Had your business card thrown back in your face?

If the answer is yes, great!  That means you are trying.  My next question is: “When did you go back?”  We’ll get to your answer in a minute.

If your answer is no, not so great!  My next question for you is: “Why not?”  Oh, I can hear your answer from here: “I’m a good sales person and I don’t offend anyone enough to get kicked off a sales call” or “My customers love and respect me, and they wouldn’t do that.”  Whatever reason you gave, I can tell you it’s not accurate.  Either you’re being too nice or you aren’t going to the challenging customers.  Basically, you are not challenging yourself.  If you only go to the safe customers, the safe prospects and if you only have safe discussions where you don’t challenge the customer, then you will never get kicked off a farm or thrown out of a feed store or have your card tossed back at you.  While you will avoid the discomfort, you will also avoid the sale that could have been.

My Story

After seven years of working with Paul, we formed a good relationship.  I had 100% of his business.  I worked with Paul on contracting his products to achieve significant savings on his farm.  I knew him, his family and his main farm managers pretty well.  When a health-related issue came up with his animals, I was one of the first people Paul called.  So, why was he now screaming in my face and telling me to get off his farm?  Money.  Paul contracted his feed with me and then prices dropped over the subsequent months.  When it came time to order, instead of ordering the higher priced contracted feed, he ordered a similar feed at a lower price off the price list.  Instead of the contracted 20%, he ordered the 19%.  By the time we caught the error, he no longer needed feed for the season.

We had a small problem with an easy fix that was about to turn into a bigger issue.  I gathered up the signed contracts for the correct feed and the paperwork for the feed he had ordered in error.  I summarized it all and had a dollar amount for the difference he owed.  All we needed to do to fix it was invoice him for the difference.  While I was prepared for the explanation, I wasn’t prepared for his reaction.  First, I failed to pick the right setting.  We met on the farm instead of in an office where we could discuss it.  Second, we didn’t meet in privacy.  We met far enough away from other people on the farm, but they were within earshot of his reaction.  Timing and location are very important in crucial conversations.  Choose wisely.

Paul walked over to my car and away from his workers who were helping him with his fence.  He grabbed the papers from my hand, read them for a few minutes, then shoved them back at me.  He then commenced to open up on me with an onslaught of accusations, curse words and finished by telling me to get off his farm.

In shock, I gathered my papers and drove off.  Soon my shock turned to anger, then frustration as I thought about how I felt wronged.  I reflected back on how much I had helped him through the years, keeping his costs down and his animals healthy.  Knowing that he was well connected to my other customers, I contemplated what to do.  Going back in a month to contract feed with him was not on that list of options.  So, I didn’t.  Not the next month or the month after or the month after that.  After his tirade, I thought there was no reason to go back.

Guess what happened about four months after our encounter?  Yes, he called.  Paul wanted to know why I hadn’t been out to contract feed.  He wanted to know when I could get out with prices for the following year.

Your story

For those of you who answered “Yes” to the original question, I have a follow-up question: “When did you go back?”  If you answered “Never”, then go back and reread my story.  Or better yet, go call on that person, now!  Not all will turn out like my perfect ending, but what if they do?

I know you have to swallow your pride or control your urge to retaliate.  But, you are a professional.  You know how to conduct yourself.  Hopefully, you were not intentionally in the wrong over what caused this person to throw you off the farm.  Lastly, if the outburst was not this person’s normal behavior, odds are high that they feel bad or guilty for what they did.  Allow a cooling off period and go back.  Several times, I had the person actually apologize for their behavior and we returned the relationship to solid ground.

Please understand that I am not advocating you take a good customer relationship and turn it into a situation where you get kicked out.  I am saying that if you are avoiding the tougher prospects or more challenging situations because you are afraid of their anger or dissatisfaction with you, then rethink your approach of avoiding them.  Go back, at least once and confirm that they do not want to do business with you. 


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