Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Ron Gleysteen of Enercept Building Systems in Watertown, SD, was concerned he’d get lost in a crowded field of bidders. So he took a daring step.

My company was one of 85 participants on an industry-sponsored Web site that invited visitors to ask questions, seek advice and request bids. One day a bid request appeared on the site. The prospect indicated that he preferred communicating by e-mail.

Here was my dilemma: If I answered by e-mail, my response would probably get lost in the crowd of replies. Besides, e-mail isn’t my strong suit. I’m a whole lot more comfortable having a real live conversation with a prospect.

Who says I can’t call?
I figured that most of my competitors would play by the rules and stick to e-mail.

But I realized I didn’t have to play by those rules – especially if my odds of winning that way were likely to be low.

If the prospect had ruled out telephone contact, of course I wouldn’t have called. But he hadn’t. He’d simply checked a box on the Web site indicating that he’d prefer an e-mail response.

So I decided to play to my strength. I started calling.

The prospect hadn’t included a phone number in the request. But using his e-mail address I was able to track down his number. At first, I wondered if I’d made the right decision. No matter when I called – early, midday, late – he didn’t answer.

It was too late to go back, so I kept at it. I’d send him e-mails asking for more details, and leave the same messages on his phone.

He didn’t answer the voice mails, but he did respond to my e-mails. Eventually, I got the sense that this guy cared about quality and seemed willing to pay for it.

How I finally broke through
But I still wanted to speak with him. So I left a voice mail and said, “You know, you are harder to get hold of than a trophy walleye in a kid’s swimming pool.”

I guess he liked the joke, because he called right back and said, “Ron, that’s a good one.”

But he also said that 20 firms had responded to his bid request. My odds still weren’t looking so good.

Then a surprising thing happened. He e-mailed to say that because of our “good-neighbor” relationship on the phone, I was one of six finalists.

Go figure. All those calls he didn’t take had made us good neighbors.

From finalist to winner
I still had a long way to go. I was the highest bidder by 30%. Via e-mail I went through my specs with him and explained the quality distinctions that accounted for our price difference. And soon I got an e-mail: “You win!”

It was a $40,000 sale, with a follow-on sale right behind it.

Maybe I would have gotten the order without all those voice mails. But I don’t think so. The calls set me apart from my competitors.

This was my greatest sale because I realized I didn’t have to follow someone else’s rules. It was my sale, and it was up to me to decide the best way to win it.

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