June 4, 2007
Sales Call Catastrophe:
You Can’t Win When They Ask, ‘Senior or Junior?’
You’ve made sales calls. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve
got a list in front of you, containing companies’ names that you think
might be good prospects. And you asked for the names of the decision
makers, specifically the CEOs if possible, because you silly people
think we CEOs make decisions.
there is your next call: Musicola Works Industries. Nicholas Kershaw,
CEO. You call.
“Musicola Works Industries, how may I direct your call?” says the
friendly voice who answers.
You reply confidently: “Nicholas Kershaw please!”
And then the friendly voice says the three worst words on Earth.
“Senior or Junior?”
you’ve got a problem. No, you’ve got a lot of problems. Where do we
For one thing, you have no idea who you meant. You want the one who’s
the CEO. But if you say that, you’re giving away that you don’t know
either one of them. In other words, you’re exposed as a cold-caller, and
at this point you’ll be lucky if they let you talk to Nicholas Kershaw
III, who is two months old and is busy blowing snot bubbles.
You could guess! Senior has to be in charge, right? So say Senior. But
what if they tell you Senior is pretty much retired now and only comes
in an hour a month to polish his 1979 Chamber of Commerce Man of the
Year plaque? You’re busted then, too.
you could say Junior. At least you’d know Junior probably isn’t retired.
But there is a very strong possibility that Junior is a complete dipwad
who wouldn’t even have a job at Musicola Works Industries if not for
Senior’s doting good graces. Junior could be Vice President for
Strategic Initiatives – in other words, he bops around on e-Bay most of
the day. On the plus side, you’re probably going to get voice mail,
since he won’t be back from lunch until 3 p.m. at the earliest.
Companies with seniors and juniors sharing space are nothing but trouble
anyway. Whatever it is you propose to do for this company, you’re going
to face one of the following problems:
Senior didn’t pay
for that in 1965! Why should he now?
If you do that,
what will Junior do?
No one had been
doing that, but Junior had been thinking about it.
Senior likes you,
but Junior thought you looked at him funny.
What would Mom say?
I’m not saying family businesses can’t do well and be good to work with.
But seniors and juniors have curious relationships – at the family
picnic, no less, let alone in the office. Inevitably, one is in charge
and the other is waiting to be in charge. Or one just took charge and
the other just won’t quite leave. How would you like to take over as a
company’s CEO, but still have your predecessor wandering the hallways?
How would you like it if he once changed your diapers? (Or at least told
your mother to change them. These are older guys.)
The other possible scenario is that Junior will never run the
company, and everyone knows it, because Junior is a complete idiot. Not
so bad, you say? Well, now you’re doing business with a company that
keeps idiots around. Idiocy is not a disqualifier, which means
competency is not a qualifier, which means that when you do a good job
for Senior, it will make Junior look bad and he will start demanding the
right to flyspeck your invoices.
Bottom line – you can’t win here. As soon as the friendly voice asks if
you want to talk to Senior or Junior, explain that it was a mistake all
along, and you really were looking for Sammy Kershaw, the famous
country/western singer, and you just thought he might be there.
Then hang up, and hope that the next person you ask for only comes in
one model. Any more than that, you’re just asking to end up banished
from the adult table.
© 2007 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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