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July 28, 2010 / Tony Arena

How To Ruin Your Reputation With One Phone Call

How do you come across? Are you perceived as a product pusher or a trusted resource? Someone that gives first or someone only looking to take? Do you act the same way online as you do off? On Twitter and in person? On the phone and on Facebook?

Fun fact for all of us entrepreneurs: Reputation matters. A lot. Online and offline.

Harsh reality: Every interaction, big or small, is either a chance to enhance your reputation or destroy it.

Here is a fun story that happened to me yesterday with takeaways for all of us. I wish I was making it up like the time I saw a unicorn, but I’m not. See here is the thing (and this goes way back).

So, anyone that knows me knows that I’m not a huge fan of the phone. Yesterday, someone called me who met me at a recent event I spoke at and asked me to call him back.

Trouble could already be sighted. Why? Because he didn’t give me any reason to call him. He just said he met me at a specific event and he wanted me to call him back. I’m not sure what possessed me to do this, but I actually called him back to see what he wanted.

He picks up and gives me some nice accolades from my speech (buttering me up like a delicious biscuit). Then he starts mentioning some company he either works for or with (I was unclear) which offers some products and services (company name not included to protect the annoying).

To me, this wasn’t crazy…yet. He explained what the company did. I then figured he would pitch me trying to get the company on the show, but instead he took an even worse route. He tried to hard sell me the product. Telling me about how great it was. And asked probing questions about my “current provider.”

I politely told him I wasn’t interested. As you can imagine, I figured this would be the end of the call. But, somehow he switched the subject and then started asking me for free advice on how he should market and promote the project.

Meaning, on this random phone call, we have gone from cold selling to picking my brain for free advice. Awesome. Once again, politely, I answered his questions as best I could while eyeing my balcony to see if I could make a run for it and jump off it.

End of story? Not quite.

After the questions, I told him (I should have said this much earlier) that I had to go. But, then he starts asking for a meeting to sit down and “talk about how we can help each other.” If you are taking notes, we have now gone from cold selling to free advice to now trying to waste time with a meeting where once again he would probably cold sell me and then ask free advice. I told him I didn’t have time.

Finally, to cap all this off with a cherry, he started asking uncomfortable family questions. Asking what my parents did, etc. I told him I had to go and got off the phone.

Wow. Just…wow.

The result? No, I don’t despise this guy, but I certainly will NEVER EVER do business with him. Or refer him. Or help him in any way, shape, or form. He has been placed on a (not real, but in my head) list of untrusted product pushers.

The funny thing is this story could happen to everyone and I’m sure it has happened to you (leave below your favorite stories). It might have been on the phone. Or in person. Or via email. Or somewhere online. It isn’t the medium, it’s the message. The message of going for the quick sale. Selling with features and benefits. Shoving your agenda down people’s throats.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ridiculously sick of this kind of selling, marketing, and promoting. Aren’t you?

This is one of the BIG reasons I wrote Smarter, Faster, Cheaper – to help entrepreneurs like all of us NEVER to fall into the product pusher category and, instead, become a trusted resource.

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Bob Greenup / Aug 12 2010 12:46 am

    Hi Tony,

    As you know I develop and train businesspeople in networking and word-of-mouth marketing skills. Your story is an excellent example of how NOT to do it, and I will relate your story in my training sessions.

    Thank you for documenting it as a lesson – personal experiences like this get the message across so much clearer than just stating the facts.

    Best Regards
    Bob Greenup

    • Tony Arena / Aug 12 2010 5:59 am

      Hi Bob,

      I’m very pleased you find it useful. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. Hope we keep in contact.

      Warm Regards,
      Tony

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