Any experienced sales profession knows the value of putting your thoughts in writing. Whether the subject is as simple and factual as confirming a meeting, or as important and complicated as a new business proposal, preserving your thoughts digitally or on paper makes good sense for numerous, obvious reasons. Now let’s talk about how it can get you into trouble.
Yes, there is a potential downside to the written word. Particularly if you are not careful. Because once it’s in writing, it’s permanent. And if what you meant to say is not what the client concluded from your letter, your writing can do more harm than good. Remember, perception is reality, and you need to do whatever you can to clarify your point of view.
We heard the story recently about what happened when a salesperson summarized a meeting discussion in a pre-proposal he sent his client. In an attempt to review his understanding of the client’s situation and to summarize the needs he’d heard, he put in writing some of the words the client had used. Some were not terribly complimentary of other people in the department and their reluctance to accept new ideas.
The client loved the proposal because the salesperson had clearly articulated what had been discussed at the meeting. He was quite impressed. In fact he was so impressed that the sent the document to his manager.
That’s when things turned sour. The boss was not impressed. He did not like the language the salesperson used. He was not in the meeting and concluded that the salesperson was coming across as judgmental, even condescending, because of what he expressed in the letter. When the boss read the memo, he did not realize that the salesperson was simply reviewing the highlights of the discussion. All this was based on what had been discussed in the meeting in a very open way. The client thought it was an excellent summary of what had happened. But the boss thought the salesperson had overstepped his bounds. It was a classic example of someone interpreting what was in a written document with a lack of information and not having the context in which the conversation took place.