Rule 1 In Sales: Respect Time

The first rule of sales: Respect time. Respect the time people give you to speak with them.  Respect the time you have set aside to sell.  Respect the time you have to spend with your family, friends and personal commitments.

I cannot stand it when people do not respect a schedule.

It’s something that bugs the crap out of me.

Every meeting should have a start time and an end time.  The person who runs the meeting should adhere to that schedule.

It’s a sign of integrity.

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at a retreat for a large company.  The EVP of marketing for the company called me and asked if I would do a Sales Force Effectiveness presentation for a group of executives from a successful division of the firm.

The president of the division was conducting the meeting and he and I held a prep call in advance of the meeting. On the call we discussed the substance of the talk and we discussed the timing.

This was a great chance for me to showcase my talent in this area and I was in this particular city working with a law firm, so I offered to do the talk for a fraction of my fee for a keynote speech.

The only condition…I needed to leave at 4PM to get to the airport for a flight to another city for another client.

“No problem” said both the president and the EVP of marketing.

“We will get you on at 2 and you can speak for 45 minutes, take some questions, and get to the airport with plenty of time to spare.”

I arrived at the venue at 1:45PM.  I was greeted by the EVP and we walked into the meeting room.  To our surprise the meeting was running almost 3 hours behind.

The EVP approached the president and reminded him that I was on a deadline and his commitment was to get me “on” by 2 and “out” by 4.

This had no effect.

Around 3PM the president started a panel discussion that was scheduled to take place at 11AM.

At 3:30PM he segued into the topic of sales and invited me up on stage…but never ended the panel discussion.

Since the panel was still taking questions, the president had me stand on stage, next to him, I guess waiting for a chance to end the discussion.

Then, at 4PM, since the group had been in the room since lunch, he adjourned the meeting for a 10-minute break.

At that point, I shook his hand, thanked him for inviting me, and left the room to hail a cab to the airport.

Was this guy clueless, disorganized or a combination of both?

I have no idea but just as success leaves clues, so does integrity.  This was enough evidence to convince me that I didn’t need to waste my time with that particular division of the company.

My Business, My Choice

I have a standing meeting that starts at 7AM every Thursday.  I arrive early and watch people file in.

Without fail, the most successful people show up consistently early each week.  They network. They find their seats. They get breakfast.

And they have allowed for the inevitable occasion of a traffic accident, bad weather, unforeseen circumstance, which could delay them.

Also each week, the same few people straggle in after the meeting has started.  They take their seats on the outskirts of the room, noticed by all as people who either lack an alarm clock, commonsense, or both.

In the six years I have attended this meeting of business leaders, I have never done business with one of the people who consistently arrives after the meeting start time.

My feeling has always been: If they don’t care enough to show up on time for this weekly meeting, they probably won’t care enough to handle any business I would give them.

Does this seem unfair?

I don’t care.

It’s my business. I get to choose.

For me, this is a rational litmus test.  If you’re late to a weekly meeting a couple of times in five years, it is not a problem.

But if you commit to doing something at a specific time and, in spite of all forces being in your control, you fail to keep that commitment, I will not work with you.

More importantly, your clients, your employees and your referral sources judge you by this same standard.