If you live in the South (and possibly even if you don’t), you know when a fair, soft-spoken Southern woman says, “Bless your heart!” it’s the kindest insult anyone will ever say to you.
It’s perhaps why I gravitate so much to other people in my industry who are not from the South. Although born and raised up and down the East Coast, my family’s roots from Connecticut and New York City still dictate most of my personality. When I say something, I mean it. And if I’m annoyed with you, you’re probably going to see it on my face. I can be calm and polite if we are discussing a sensitive subject. But there will - I promise - come a point where I want to know if we are moving forward or not. And I will try to find a soft way to say that so as not to hurt your feelings (I’ve had varying levels of success with this).
I was having coffee with a new contact, originally from New York City, and who reminded me a lot of my dad. He was very direct but thoughtful and we quickly bonded over how frustrating the sales process can be in Charlotte. He told me a story of a woman who often said, “Bless your heart!” when he spoke with her, and when, after several months, he couldn’t close the deal - he ended up asking her point blank: “Why do you keep taking my calls if we’re not moving forward?”
Her response? “Well bless your heart, I just so enjoy talking with you.”
I’ve had similar experiences. People who want to be friends, and who enjoy chatting and getting to know new people. I’m all about getting to know you and I’m not interested in high-pressure sales by any means. After all, if we work together, you are going to be paying me hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over the course of our relationship, so you should know and like me (and vice versa).
But business is business. And one of the many things I’ve learned from my sales coach (who was in advertising sales in New York City back in the day), is that you can still move people through your sales funnel quickly and professionally. And if they seem to run you around in circles to begin with, that’s a sign. It doesn’t mean they’re not good people or people who may be interested in your services later - but right now is not their time to purchase.
The South is special for this. Unlike other places in the country (where I’m sure have their own special language cues), I’ve learned that the more saccharine sweet someone is the quicker my red flags are popping up.
It’s not personal. If you’re asking me to join you for sweet tea on your front porch some Sunday afternoon, I’ll be all about that. But during business hours? That’s another story.