Modern manners

Columns - Parting Shots

March 2, 2018

A few weeks ago in San Antonio I was standing on top of the massive “Inside the Ropes” build that members and supporters of the GCBAA spent a couple of thousand hours and more than $50,000 to create. I was goggle-eyed, just marveling at how amazing the project was and taking pics of the various bunker designs it showcased. A familiar voice next to me woke me from my revelry.

“When are you going to write my column?”

I turned to find my old friend Rick Elyea, seed industry legend, veteran sales professional and a great supporter of the GCBAA and other causes.

“Which column?” I asked.

“The one about being polite,” Rick said.

Ahhhhhh ... yes. He had mentioned it before: “Modern Manners for Turfheads.”

OK, this one is for you Rick.

At the risk of getting all preachy, Rick and I would like to remind folks that good manners never go out of style. Yes, we live in hectic times. Yes, there are a million people trying to sell you stuff. Yes, it’s sometimes irritating to have 15 voicemails and 357 unread emails from salespeople lurking on your phone. The “delete all” option is often very tempting.

Yet, there are very compelling reasons to resist that urge and make some time to respond. Let me share a few …

First, saying “no” is vastly better than not responding. It takes two seconds to reply with, “Thanks but the product doesn’t fit our program” or “Try me again on October 1 when we begin our budget process.” Afraid you’ll hurt a salesperson’s feelings by saying “no?” Hahahahaha. Even the best of us get shot down eight times out of 10. We just want to know where we stand.

Good salespeople are “pleasantly persistent.” Recently one of my reps was successful in reviving an account that had frustrated us for a decade. Why did they change their minds about us? We were friendly, polite and willing to try new things – but we also demonstrated we would stick to it.

It’s particularly important to give someone a “no” if he or she has earned the right to a response. Are they supporters of your local association? Have they been kind to you and your team in the past? Are they professionals who contribute industry knowledge locally?

So, remember a quick no thanks is both polite and a sign of respect.

Second, being kind of others — including your supplier partners — doesn’t make you weak. It makes you wise.

One of the infallible rules of business is the people you pass on your way up the ladder are the same ones you meet going back down. Many of my superintendent friends who’ve moved into sales are pleasantly surprised at how well they are received but some are also shocked at the lack of courtesy. And that’s all it really is … common courtesy … to return a call or an email or a text.

I get a crapload of emails. At least a hundred a day. It’s an occupational hazard. But, if the email is from a human, I will try like hell to respond within an hour or two. Public relations people in particular are often shocked. “Wow. Thanks for the fast response!” Well, for one thing, I used to be a PR guy so I feel their pain. And it’s also the right thing to do. They are (theoretically) trying to help me do my job which is to provide y’all with useful, interesting content. Sometimes they’re pitching less useful stuff, but you never know when they might have something really good to share. Thus, I don’t blow them off.

I don’t see how that’s any different than your world. A salesperson may be offering something you simply don’t need, but going dark on them means they are unlikely to get in touch the next time when they have something you need desperately. See my point?

Finally, as golf evolves into a smaller, smarter business and resources become scarcer every day, don’t you want to have sharp sales folks on your team? Don’t you want access to the proprietary information and data they have? Don’t you want them on the inside offering you constructive ideas and solutions that may have absolutely nothing to do with their product line?

Well, you’re crazy if you don’t answer “hell yes” to all of the above. And it all starts with a simple act of enlightened self-interest … returning a call or replying to an email.

Happy now, Rick?

Pat Jones is editorial director and publisher of Golf Course Industry. He can be reached at or 216-393-0253.