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Little Things #3: Thank You

Enough Already with the Needless "Thank You"
Topics: Process

April 2, 2012 at 8:58 am by Blair

Continuing my weekly thoughts on little things you can do now to improve your business development effectiveness, I come to one of my favorites: the thank you. No, I'm not encouraging you to be more polite, but less. 

Don't misundersatnd me (as a lot of people seem to do on this point, so clearly I'm failing in my delivery) I'm not trying to make the case to be impolite. I can think of very few situations where it would be beneficial to you or otherwise appropriate to be impolite, but many in the creative professions are guilty of being overly polite and syrupy in the effusiveness of their sales communication. 

The classic example is the follow-up email. Let's say you've just had a good meeting with a highly coveted prospect and you follow up with a summary of the agreed-upon next steps. Eight out of ten people (yes, that's just a guess) will choose to open their email with a thank you. "Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. I felt it was a great meeting..." 

Often, such emails are begun in this manner out of sheer reflex. Stop and think: if you're thanking the prospect for his time then you got more out of the meeting than he did, but who's the one with the problem here and who's the one with the solution? Who should be thanking whom? 

Again, I'm not trying to make the case for impoliteness but I am asking you to examine your choice of language and be honest about why you open your correspondence this way. Is it a learned behavior rooted in the false notion that you are in the service business? (You're not.) Is it a reflex from your proper upbringing? Are you assuaging your guilt for having failed to add value to the prospect's situation through intelligent questioning, admitting he would have been better off using that time to re-alphabetize his files? 

Sometimes it is appropriate to recognize that a busy person had to squeeze you into an already full schedule, but even then, when you're typing those little words I hope you have the conviction that his investment in time was worth it, and just maybe, the reply you receive will be, "No, thank you for coming to see us." 

In summary, it's not always wrong to begin such correspondence with thank you, but it is wrong to always do it. The next time you find yourself typing those words just stop and ask if an opening like the equally polite but far less needy "I enjoyed meeting you yesterday..." wouldn't be more appropriate.


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