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Your convenience or mine? A tale of two salespeople

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 | By Linnet Hunter

A staging manufacturer of my acquaintance reckoned up his finances and realised that a brand new forklift was affordable.


He sent out an email on the spot to two suppliers, explaining his work and listing the size, lifting capacity and price he was looking at and asking if a leased forklift would be available between now and the supply of the new vehicle. He ended it with please contact me at your earliest convenience.


The results are shown below:



Supplier A

Supplier B

9.30 am

email sent to Supplier A

email sent to Supplier B



sales rep rang back with info, offer and request to visit

11.30 am


sales rep visited in person to regional factory (a three hour round trip for sales rep)

12 noon


sales rep signed up $20, 000 sale

arranged lease of vehicle over three months until new vehicle will arrive

4.00 pm


leased forklift delivered to factory

5.15 pm

replied via email with details of two kinds of forklift sizes and no follow-up suggestions




There are all kinds of judgements we might make about the sales team capabilities of the two different suppliers and why Salesman B deserves a raise, but I am more fascinated by the phrase… at your earliest convenience. The manufacturer, being an old-fashioned type of guy, knows exactly what he means by this. Ring me the second you get this.


Salesman B either shares his definition, or interpreted the rest of the message to mean that here was a buyer with money burning a hole in his pocket, ready to sign on the dotted line.


Salesman A might get 50 of these types of emails a day from tyre kickers and PTWs (Professional Time Wasters). He may not even have read to the end of the email (a very common habit). I don’t know.


What I do know is that there are twelve elements to an effective request, and if you want something done, being specific about the time you want it done in is absolutely vital.


Too often we are vague, general or non-specific. Can you let me know what action to take as soon as you can? Thanks. Chances are a message like this will get relegated to the bottom of the email pile since it has no deadline and will take thought.


Even the phrase ASAP no longer conveys urgency, because the readers of the message have their own interpretation of the word possible.


Requests that are clear, concise and contain a standard and a required time for completion are much easier to answer and save time because the reader doesn’t have to come back to the writer to find out what it is they really want and by when. This constant need to clarify even simple requests is the cause of a huge wastage, for organisations and solo business operators alike.


So train yourself to be specific and take authority and you may have two salespeople beating down your door with competing offers – at your convenience.