The Friend Zone

By John Barrows | March 22, 2017

It happened again. I got lazy, didn’t pay attention to the details, and found myself in the “friend zone.” This week’s tip is about something small and easy to overlook, though it makes a big difference. It’s the “call to action.”

Recently I got a call from a prospective client looking for training. The person wasn’t the ultimate decision maker but said all the right things, even asking me to reserve a day on my calendar for the training.  I was lazy and so I didn’t try too hard to engage with power (that’s another issue all together). After our call I sent over the outline of the program that included the pricing. Continuing with my laziness, I didn’t get a defined next step or schedule a follow up call. I let this one go with the old “follow up with me next week” line that I’ve heard way too many times.

Eventually I got a voicemail saying that the decision maker was “definitely interested” in doing the training, but didn’t want to release budget just yet. “It’s not if but when at this point.” Sure, I’ve heard that one before…

I then sent over this e-mail: “I got your voice mail yesterday. Let me know when you think [decision maker’s name] will be open to releasing the budget for the training and when we should schedule our next call to follow up and maintain the momentum. Thanks.”

Notice anything wrong with my response? Did I ask for anything specific? Was there even a question in that response? Nope. “Let me know…” is about as passive as it gets. Ao can you guess what I got for a response? “Sounds good. Thank you, John!” And do you know where that leaves me? Nowhere. I’m now in the “friend zone.” Brutal.

If I had made a simple adjustment to my call to action and had said something like, “When are you free for a brief call to discuss?” I would have increased my chances of having a conversation and reduced the chances of being caught in the friend zone.

A few takeaways on this one:

  1. Don’t be lazy
  2. Get to power
  3. Always get a defined next step
  4. Make sure your call to action is direct and asks for something specific
  5. Avoid the friend zone at all costs

Make it happen!

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  • ewrjanssen

    I’m guilty of this and so is my team from time to time. A small hack that has helped is making sure to book the next call and action while on the current call. Even if it’s just moving the existing meeting invitation for the next call and keeping it in the calendar as a placeholder to ‘keep each other accountable’.

    • boron

      i would argue that this isn’t a hack… it’s actually the point 🙂

      Sandler Sales: the goal of each step is to…. (get a commitment to) move to the next step.

  • Cole Fox

    This aligns with a lot of what CrystalKnows teaches you as you type emails. Always get clear!

    • John Barrows

      I’m on their Board 🙂

  • We all have these tendencies, I guess. Sometimes we come across prospects that sound the same as the others – they inquire, get information, and then turn down just when the deal is almost closed. So we think they’re one and the same not knowing that this one could’ve ended up as a winning deal. You’re right, John. As much as possible, don’t ever be lazy.

  • Eric Thiessen

    This also raises the larger point of imprecise verbiage-sales reps often default to certain buzz phrases that they assume accurately describes their product or solution, but in reality, the prospective customer hears those words differently, hence these types of communication mis-matches. And, as you mention above, this often is only realized when the part of the process that involves getting paid is all of a sudden a roadblock to what was thought to be a smoothly sailing deal.

    I once worked for a large wholesaler that had several programs available to its retailers that would do price shops, offer inventory suggestions, more efficient store layouts, etc at an extra cost. Unfortunately their buzz-word-like titles were referred to internally by their 3 letter abbreviations, so many times prospective buyers of the services were presented with an avalanche of an alphabet soup mix of letters than few could easily decode in conversation. Simpler would have been to refer to them as the price shop program or the layout program, etc, but that was rarely done.

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