There are a few signs of a sales person who’s heading into a bit of a spiral. Two really, really obvious ones: “organising my files” rather than being on the phone (or on the road); and “that contact’s dead”.
If the sales person concerned is speaking metaphorically, you have a problem. A contact is always a contact. No matter how tangential, no matter how burned, no matter how long ago you dealt with them, if you know them and they know you, they’re part of your network.
Obviously, if there’s been a comprehensive breakdown between the company and the contact, it’s more difficult to make that contact ‘live’ again – but the opportunity to make things better is in itself a reason for contacting people.
But most people won’t be like that. They’ll be people you once pitched; or people you know; or people you’ve met through casual contact; or even people – God forbid – who you’ve contacted to try and make a sale to.
Contacts aren’t necessarily sales contacts. Not everyone will want to buy what you have to sell. Crucially, though, they may know someone who does, and this above all is the key reason why no contact is dead. It is through referrals, through motivating your contacts you recommend you to their friends, that your contact base grows.
LinkedIn does this quite well electronically; Facebook sort of does it socially. But there is no real substitute for doing it in person – getting to know people, and getting to know their people, and ensuring that no-one you know ever, ever becomes a dead contact. Where social media excels – indeed, where social media is superb – is in ensuring that these contacts stay in touch.
Terry Pratchett, in Guards Guards say:
Noble dragons don’t have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive.
Things aren’t quite the same for your contacts, but it’s certainly true that if they’re still alive, they can be valuable to you.
Of course, if the contact genuinely is dead, ignore this blog. Sorry.