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Selling Copiers "Reading Between the Lines"

Cone of Silence

Much of the content that I use for my blogs comes from the daily grind of selling hardware & software. There will be days when I hear something unique, have a conversation with a client or a spark if imagination that will cause me to write.

Actually, yesterday was one of those days.  Our VP of Major Accounts came over to my humble abode of 24 square feet and asked me about an he email he had received from a potential new client.  The email kinda went like this.

"Sorry, been out for a couple of days, however I wanted to reach out to you. What would be the timeline that we could get installation of the systems once we sign the documents?"

Trying to read between the lines, our VP explained that it seemed the client was ready to move forward (or maybe they were not) with that email and he was now in a quandary whether to offer some additional funds from the manufacturer and that he was able to encumber.   Meaning, should he not give the funds and save them for a rainy day, or still give the funds to move to closure.

I offered up that if it were me and I had been able to garner anything additional for a client that I would pass it along with a covenant to move the order to closure. Not only would I be able to deliver the answer to question that was asked, but I would be able to put the icing on the cake with the additional funds.

Back in the day, we had two basic methods of communication, the phone conversation and the in person conversation. Tones of voice, the occasional mannerism helped both parties in communicating their stance and or point of view.

More now than ever, I find my self trying to read between the lines of voice mail messages, and emails.   With voice mails I can get hear the tone of the message which will offer some help, but with email, there's basically nothing but a bunch of words that are begging you to decipher what the content really means.

I can't help myself and I find my self thinking about those received emails, ok this sentence means this but the next sentence contradicts the first and the last sentence leads me back to my first thought.  It would not be as bad if clients and or prospects would communicate the old fashioned way with in person appointments or by phone. 

One of my fears in the not too distant future is that many of those phone conversations and in person conversations will go away. I have this bad feeling that more and more people only want to communicate via email, text and social media. Why is that? Do they really want to hide?  Is that just a Generation Y thing because they were weaned on computers, Xboxes and cell phones? Is that the way they want to communicate with others?  Could it be I'm a Baby Boomer in a Gen Y world and I just don't get it?

I kinda went off on a tangent, but my point is that I think we all tend to try and read through the lines too much.  There's nothing better that a good ole phone conversation and or an in person conversation.  Thus, when it doubt, make that phone call, but maybe think twice about leaving a voice mail or sending another email.

-=Good Selling=-

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In the scenario your VP asked you about, I would let them know our typically delivery/install process and the associated timelines and would ask if they would like me to email them the necessary paperwork or schedule a time to review it together.  If the contact says yes, we're likely moving forward in the process.  If he says no, it makes it easy for me to find out why he is asking & gives me a platform for uncovering and addressing his objections.  I would withhold any mention of additional incentives until I know where the conversation is going.

Maybe because I'm a little younger and typically (by preference) work primarily with IT contacts inside of my accounts, but if someone wants me to email them a proposal and answer questions via email/text/phone, I almost always do it.  If it is a project I have spent a lot of time on, we'll review it face-to-face, because we both have time invested in it, & there is likely some level of complexity to the proposal.  That being said, once we have agreed upon adjustments that need to be made to the proposal or exchange dialogue via email, I will send any adjustments over via email.  It's a waste of both of our time to insist on meeting every time pricing is involved.

If someone is just gathering information & wants to work together without meeting, I'm going to invest exactly as much time in it as they are. In the end, how I want to work or what my preferred process is is irrelevant; the client's or prospect's preference is what matters.  If they are treating a product as a commodity, I will quote it and sell it to them as a commodity and go on about my business working with my clients and prospects that are worth spending time on. It is funny how often I sell something to someone without even meeting them.

If someone asks me for a price to buy a printer, I don't send them a proposal.  I send them an Order Agreement with the model, accessories and pricing on it. The majority of the time, they send back a signed order, because they want a simple transaction. A lot of IT guys are annoyed they ever have to talk to a salesperson which is why they make most of their purchases online after conducting their research.

Art, well put and so true.  We have to use the technology advances of email and vmail to keep up with the pace.  We have to be very careful on choosing between the live personal transaction or electronic.

First, if someone doesn't know who you are through a preceding live chat, there can be misinterpretation of what you leave them.  They may not know how to take it, or ignore it regardless if the message conveys value.

We always need to take into account that we don't know when an electronic message will be read, and what the mindset is at the time of reading/listening. Your message may be addressed to your contact, who may no longer work wherever and the message reviewed by supervisors.

The live conversation is most valuable, I always try to encourage to pick up the phone and talk vs a long chain of texts or messages.


Art, this article is a quandary that I'm sure everyone's experiencing more of.  It's often you field the email request or phone request with the information they think they need and "just send me a quote".  Unless they're a solid customer I almost always push for and get the appointment.  I usually leave a voicemail, but not with the information requested, typically I ask for a call back and then also follow that up with a quick email saying I left a voicemail, give me a call back.  

I can attest though, that email is a tricky one.  As a truly competitive sales person, I feel like we're always second guessing the meaning of the words and the situation.


in this particular case, I would have picked up the phone and called the customer.  It's the new year and "new promotions" are available from the manufacturer for the gear.  This question though is more of an interested buying signal, so if you think you've got the hook in, use half of the credits available to set the hook and reel them in.  If they balk a little, use the other half for "free install, clicks, etc".  


Id be curious to know how this one goes or went.

Happy Selling!


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