I swear, sometimes I ignore vendor calls because when I am nice and say “no thank you,” they hear “keep calling and try to get her to say yes.”

I posted that on Facebook the other day and the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time LMA players (Mike O’Horo and Nancy Myrland) chimed in on what my call must have sounded like. We had fun, going back and forth, but, sadly, they weren’t too far off.

“Hey, wanna buy some apples??”

VENDOR: ‎”I’ve got apples. Wanna buy some? These are really good apples. And apples are good for you, too. So, wanna buy some? Did I mention that they’re good? I mean, really good?”

ME: “Um. No thanks, I really don’t need any apples right now.

“You mean you don’t like apples? Well you NEED to find a way to like apples because I’m selling these apples, and the firm down the street likes these same apples….”

“That’s okay. I’m sure your apples are great, but I’m really not shopping for apples right now.”

“Come on. They like apples at Latham. In fact, I can do a whole presentation on how they like apples at Latham, and at Allen Matkins. They like our apples there, so why don’t I come by next week and show you why you need to buy our apples too? In fact, why don’t you get a group of your senior partners together and I can explain to them why your firm needs our apples?”

“I’m glad they like your apples over at Latham, but I don’t have it in my budget to purchase any apples. I’ve got some pears, and that’s working for us right now.”

“I’m sure your pears are nice, but pears are NOT apples? Did I mention that we have no price increase this year, ya’ know….only $3K an apple, and I’ll throw in a free apple!”

I really do have to go. But thanks for calling.

“Wait, wait. Here’s what I can do for you….but I have to check with my boss first. I’ll give you 2 bushels of cherries, also, if you buy a dozen apples? The only thing is that, well, you’ll have to sign a confidentiality agreement if we agree to this so no one else knows the deal I’m giving you … ‘k?”

“No, really. I have to go.”

“Can I send you an email with our materials?”


Great. I’ll follow up with you next week.

At this point I’ll say anything to get off the phone. Fine. Send me your stuff. I’ll delete it. My office phone rings, and I see your number, I’ll ignore your calls. But, you’re really not doing yourself any favors by being so pushy. I might not need your product today, but one day I might. Maybe here. Maybe at another firm. I might have a colleague looking for what you’re selling. Don’t relegate yourself to being screened out of my professional circle of influence. Don’t be a pushy apple salesman.

  • Oh, so timely! I had a vendor call me three times yesterday, a) not realizing that I work from home and all my office calls come into my cell phone (so it’s not awesome to have two of those calls come in before 5am) and b) not bothering to check the time difference so he’d get me live on the phone. I had a very similar conversation with him that you mention above, and I’ve actually flat out told some vendors that I won’t work with them because they’re too pushy.

    And yet, I had another lovely conversation with a vendor a few weeks ago, who only wanted to discuss free ways we could work together, and sent me an email with information that might actually be of interest to me. I CAN be done. Who knew?

  • This is the story of any marketer’s life no matter what industry. And it’s annoying that the vendor inevitably assumes that just because xyz competitor down the street is doing something you’re going to change your mind. They also don’t do their homework. I can’t tell you how many times as a marketing coordinator I would receive calls from vendors selling products that were either completely irrelevant to me, that I wasn’t in a position to make any sort of decision to purchase or both. Get it together people!

  • debdobson

    You have just described an experience I had yesterday with a vendor.

  • Heather, that was a fun virtual conversation we had last week.

    I’m sensitive to these conversations because I’ve been on both sides of the relationship. Having started my business career in sales, and receiving what I consider to be very good sales training, topped off with training to be a Stephen Minister where we were taught to care not cure…translation here: LISTEN don’t SELL), followed by my in-house experience in legal marketing, I am put off by pushy tactics, and can’t fathom why anyone uses them today.

    All I ask is for service providers, which I know I am these days, not to offend the intelligence of those they are approaching. Listen to what your potential client is saying. Be kind and approachable, while showing intelligence and business sense. Don’t treat anyone as if you are better because you know more about your product or category than they do. A little bit of you in many doses is much better than a lot of you in a few rushed, pushy doses.

    Thanks also, Heather, for the mention and link.

  • A follow-up after reading these comments with the word “vendor” mentioned extensively: The goal of any of us who provide any service to anyone is to be known, liked and trusted to the point where potential/clients feel the word vendor is inadequate for the professionals we strive to be. This is earned, not deserved.

  • I have one who goes through phases of calling me twice daily (9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.) from “Private.” Guess what? I’m not taking those calls either. As Lindsay mentioned, it makes me appreciate the vendors who continually educate us about what they do–whether it be via Twitter, blogs, whatever–and know that one day, we will need them.

  • This should be incorporated into all sales training programs. It’s a warning for all vendors. I will reposting this on my blog shortly.

  • Nancy – I think you hit one something with the “vendor” term.

    I believe any good “vendor” turns themselves into a trusted adviser or friend.

    I don’t look at you, Cheryl, Jillion Weisberg, Patrick Fuller, Tim Corcoran, Darryl Cross, Jayne Navarre (and I can go on and on) as “vendors.” You are all colleagues and friends.

  • Pingback: How About Them Apples?()

  • Kelley L.

    The funny thing is that at the exact moment I pulled this up to read, I got a call from my apple salesperson, which I ignored. Then I got a voicemail and an email with materials before I even finished reading this post. I wonder if I should forward this link to the salesperson?

  • Aww, thanks for the kind words. Heather and I presented together on a panel at LMA a few years ago where we shared war stories from both sides of the aisle. There are so many poor salespeople in every field, but I’ve worked to improve the stature of legal vendors through establishing an LMA Committee (now reborn as a SIG), delivering high-end sales training to all my salespeople over the years (including retaining Bill Flannery) and trying to represent best practices myself at all times. But I’ve also tried to educate marketers how to be better buyers. When I was in-house I was also bombarded by vendor calls — and amusingly most had no idea that I had experience in their ranks — but I made time to periodically meet with key vendors and potential vendors, even for a little while, so I could draw on their knowledge and experience of what my peers and competitors were doing. It wasn’t always my intention to copy other law firms, but it certainly helped me build a case with the lawyers when I could point to other law firms addressing the same challenges. Point is, it’s a two-way street and our collegial industry isn’t improved when salespeople do a poor job or when marketers refuse to take calls. Finding the right balance is challenging but possible if we work at it together.

  • The key concept is, “Not everyone will, or should, buy from you.” Contrary to the “always be closing” mentality of the Zig Ziglar-style old-school sales training, a no-buy decision is not necessarily a reflection of some skill deficiency in you, so don’t take it personally and strive to overcome that failure. There are many legitimate reasons why it’s actually a bad idea to buy, whether from a particular supplier — or at all. It’s not about you; hard as it may be to imagine, there are actually decision factors that have nothing to do with your offering or you, so get over it and move on.

    Rather than spend your time trying to wear someone down, spend it identifying the conditions under which someone can’t wait to buy from you. Then, direct your interactions to identifying groups of people who logically are subject to such conditions, and then in person mutually determining the degree to which this individual buyer matches those group conditions. If there’s a high match, it’ll get done unless you get lazy. If a low match, no amount of sales perseverance will change that. Move on.

    You can only sell to someone who has sufficient reason to buy. The quality of your offering rarely constitutes such a reason. Again: It’s not about your product or you. In fact, both are usually in the way of the sale, which is about the relative degree to which an organization is compelled to solve a business problem.

  • Great comments, Mike.

  • Kate Lutes

    Truly great vendors, who have taken the time to build relationships and deliver value, are business partners.There are a few business partners that I routinely depend upon and they are definitely considered an integral part of our team.

    As for vendor solicitations, I tend to be much more willing to meet or speak with LMA sponsors because they are making the effort to partner with our industry. However, I do encounter vendor behaviors that make me scratch my head and wonder, “Do you really think this strategy is going to lead to you replacing the business partner I already use that has done fantastic work and delivered a project to me ahead of schedule?” For me, the answer is usually no.

  • I’d also add to this that a lot of the vendors who get in touch with me (and like Nancy and Heather alluded to, I’m speaking about “vendors” and not business partners) are not even in the legal industry. Because my title is “Director of Network Development,” they assume that I’m in IT. 95% of the calls and email solicitations I get are related to IT and have zero relevance to me. If someone does their homework before getting in touch with me, and is at least trying to see what it is I really need and want, then I’m much happier to talk to them. And Tim, to your point, I almost always take calls when I’m in the office!

  • This discussion calls to mind the blog post I wrote some time ago in advance of a conference, offering suggestions for legal vendors to improve their game: http://www.corcoranlawbizblog.com/2009/08/excuse-me-sir-may-i-interest-you-in-things-you-dont-need/.

  • Bill

    I’m the marketing director of a personal injury firm. I have had run-ins with pushy salespeople, but nothing too crazy. With that being said, every two weeks, like clockwork, I will get a message on my voicemail that goes something like this:

    Salesperson (In a very downtrodden voice): Hello, I’m calling concerning a personal injury matter. I’d appreciate if you’d give me a call back at (555) 555-5555

    If you didn’t know any better, it sounds like someone who wanted to speak with one of our lawyers about a genuine personal injury/ accident matter and was sent to my line by mistake. Well, the first time I got this call I called them back to see what I could help them with. Well, turns out it is some outfit that gets all these PI leads in my state and wants to send them to us. At cost of course.

    In the end, their ploy worked. I called them back and they got me on the phone for 30 seconds, but I will not do business with them. If they have to deceive me from the word go, why will they not later on?

  • Great conversation!

    When I was in-house, as the firm’s Director of Online Marketing & Technology, I was constantly getting calls from PRINTERS. Even after I explained that I hadn’t sent a job to press since 1999, they’d continue the sales spiel until my voice changed from polite — to not-so-polite.

    Realizing there wasn’t going to be a sale with me, they’d desperately try to get me to transfer their call to the person doing the buying. No dice, because I knew they’d just tell my colleagues: “Nancy recommended I call you.” (Kiss of death, in my book!)

    So back in ’09, I wrote two blog posts about how law firm marketers and vendors could improve their working relationships. And in hindsight, I was referring the professionals in the “business partners” category…

    Nonetheless, I ended one of the posts with the following, “Be a good client, because you know never know when you’ll be the vendor.”

    Listen up, vendors!

    Want good service from your vendors? Then you gotta be a good client.

  • Darryl

    So, a friend sent me this, because my voicemail message says…

    “Hi, you’ve reached Darryl at XYZ firm, where I’m the Director of Technology. I can’t come to the phone right now, but please leave a message with your name, number and reason for your call. If this is a cold sales call, hang up, because I won’t return your call.” I’ve worked in legal tech for around 15 years, and at first, I’d make sure to call back, and let everyone know that I wasn’t interested. Well, that made them realize that I was a live body, and could be bothered. I have to say that the only time I was tempted, was when a salesperson sent over coffee and pastries, with a note that said “Instead of a cold call, I’m sending over hot coffee.” Unfortunately for her, I was scheduled to be in Los Angeles, rather than my home office that day. My co-workers enjoyed the coffee and pastries, though.

    If I returned even the calls I STILL get (this is a “warm” sales call, I’ve worked with one of your co-workers, I’ve done something with your firm in the past), I’d not have time to do the job I’m paid to do.

    Trust me, salespeople, if I need your service, I’ll find you. We’ll do business.


  • asdfasf@gmail.com

    Well, just be assertive, just say no thank you. Being nice means giving a clear no. Read Emily Post Etiquette the latest edition.