Many years ago I was responsible for running an inside and outside sales force in the construction industry. I tried to teach valuable lessons to my sales team that I had learned throughout my sales career. One of the most valuable lessons I think I successfully conveyed was to treat everyone at a company that you are either pursuing, or already have an established relationship with dignity and respect. Build your relationships up and down the chain and I meant EVERYONE! All the way down to the laborer sweeping the floors of the warehouse.
I had one sales rep that was young and still learning the ropes. He did not take my advice and failed to build relationships up and down the chain at one of his largest accounts. He would tell me how strong his relationship was with the head of purchasing and that there was nothing to worry about during our weekly account reviews.
A few weeks later the head of purchasing for that company left in pursuit of another opportunity within the industry. The warehouse laborer for that company was also being trained by the previous purchasing manager and took over the position. My sales exec failed to build that relationship. If he had only said hello, expressed some interest in the laborer, learned a few things about him like where he was from, what his goals were within the company. If he would have brought him a coffee and bagel every now and then. Instead of focusing solely on who he believed, was the only relationship that mattered.
He probably would have doubled the business with that client. The laborer would have remembered how my sales exec treated him when he had nothing to offer and he would have rewarded him. Instead my sales exec had to climb an uphill battle because the reasoning for my sales execs new found desire to build a relationship was blatantly obvious and not genuine.
Someone may be sweeping the floors today but tomorrow or six months from now they may become the head of purchasing, or an account executive, or maybe even start their own company. We do not know what the future holds. I learned that lesson when I started calling on potential new client and on my first visit I was a bit early so while I was waiting I started chatting with and had a great conversation with a warehouse laborer before heading into the office to meet with the head of purchasing.
I landed a nice sized order from them a few days later and I remember the purchasing agent telling me that I should count my lucky stars. When I asked why, he told me that he was going to give the order to another vendor but the CEO and owner of the company told him to give me a shot. I was totally baffled and confused. I did not know who the CEO was, I never met him. The purchasing agent then stated and I am paraphrasing here but he said something to the effect of " apparently you guys had a talk in the warehouse the other day and he was impressed, said he wants to see if you can perform. " The light bulb went on and I realized that the guy I thought was a laborer, because he was dressed down and sweeping up the warehouse was actually the CEO/owner! That lesson has stuck with me ever since.