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I Relearned Everything I Knew About Sales In 60 Seconds….At A Deli

This weekend I stopped at Evan’s New York Style Deli in Marblehead, Massachusetts, to pick up some sandwiches for the beach. From the heaping piles of corned beef to the fast-moving counter service, Evan’s always delivers an authentic New York experience. Evan himself runs the show and takes pride in making customers happy by keeping stomachs full. I stood in line at the counter on a busy Saturday during the last weekend of summer; fittingly, the place was packed with people stocking up for the beach, boat rides or cookouts. At 12:05 pm, it was peak time and the deli team was in the weeds.

As the line snaked along, I heard the phone ring and Evan answer with his usual straightforward, no nonsense tone. “Hello, Evan’s Deli. What can I get for you?”

I couldn’t hear the dialogue from the other end of the line, but you could tell from Evan’s tone and facial expression that he wasn’t having it.

“Excuse me? Sorry, but I don’t think I have time for this call right now…in fact, do you even know where you are calling? You’re calling a deli. On a town next to the ocean. In the summer…on a Saturday…at NOON!”

I can only infer that the person on the other end was scrambling to give an explanation at this point.

“Yeah, I get it, you’re doing your job. But let me give you some advice, you’re not doing it well. Start by doing a little homework. Next, think about calling on a day when I might be a little less busy. And finally, never call a deli at NOON…ever!”

Evan presumably cut this salesperson off as he continued to stumble: “I’m sorry buddy, I’m sure you’ve got a great product, but if you’re dumb enough to call me right now, I would never trust my money with you or your company. Best of luck, goodbye.”

Most of the people in line probably didn’t notice the call. But I couldn’t get over what just happened. So simple: don’t call a deli at noon and expect them to listen to your pitch. Ever. Sales is a tough job. It’s gotten harder over the last few years as the economy continues to dig out. But I think sometimes we make it harder than it needs to be.

Three tips to make it a little easier:

  1.  Do your homework. Think through not only who you’re reaching out to, but why you are reaching out to them. How exactly will your product or service impact their daily lives? Smiling and dialing doesn’t work. It never has, never will.
  2. Strike when the time is right. Think about the roles of the decision makers that you are trying to reach: when is their peak time? When will they have the bandwidth to take your call? Most importantly, when will they be in the best frame of mind to hear your pitch? There is no one-size-fits-all in Sales. Find the right potential matches and you increase your odds instantly.
  3. Get creative. Salespeople are a dime a dozen. What can you do to distinguish yourself from the rest? Most reps go through the motions every day, try to hit their call numbers and punch out as soon as they can. You don’t have to be that type of rep. Think about the specific business problem that you are trying to solve for the specific decision maker and tailor that message. Make your prospects think. If you do that, eventually they will give you a shot.

Selling isn’t easy. It isn’t for everybody. Make it a little easier on yourself this week: don’t call delis at noon.
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Ed Calnan
Ed Calnan
Chief Revenue Officer, Seismic
Ed is the co-founder and CRO of Seismic, where he leads the company’s go-to-market efforts. Ed brings 20+ years of sales leadership experience from ADP, Thomson Financial, S&P and EMC to Seismic. In 2016, he was named a Top Boston Startup Founders Over 40 by Tech.co.