This week, in honor of Dan Seidman’s new book, “Sales Autopsy” – 50 Sales Horror Stories I’ll share my own sales horror story – my sales call gone bad – and the lessons that can be learned from it.
Trent was a very happy long-term client. I helped him revamp his sales force and double revenue in just two years. He moved on and became president of another company, significantly larger than the first one. He asked me for help doubling sales at this company, hooked me up with his management team to work out the details and we had an approved plan in place. Done? Almost. He didn’t want to roll it out until his new 2nd in command was in place to kick it off. A put-off? Not based on my track record with Trent.
After Trent hired Barbara, he called and asked me to join them for a long lunch to bring her up to speed. When I arrived, Trent wasn’t there and Barbara had only 20 minutes. Rather than developing a relationship with Barbara (error #1) or rescheduling the lunch for when she had more time (error #2), I tried to bring her up to speed in 20 minutes because I knew Trent wanted to get things going. In less than one-minute I had chalked up two mistakes! By the end of the meeting she didn’t seem very comfortable and we hadn’t discussed enough for us to move forward so we agreed to talk again by phone, a conversation that didn’t take place until a month later. She was still not sharing very much and I was feeling pressure to get this project off the ground for Trent. That’s when I made error #3. Rather than dealing with her short answers and obvious discomfort I tried to get things moving but she wasn’t ready to start. We scheduled one more time to talk and two weeks later we reconnected on the phone. This call went much better until we dealt with the final two issues – style and content. Error #4 – I assumed she wanted to know about training style and content but she wanted to talk about my personal style – she found it offensive! She hated me.
Now that I knew what the real problem was, an issue I should have unearthed six weeks earlier at our twenty minute introductory meeting, I was challenged to turn this thing around but I had to work quickly. I apologized, took full responsibility, and asked how she would have behaved if she was charged with getting Trent’s project moving. She was totally surprised. While I assumed we were meeting to get things started, he told Barbara that I was the guy he worked with at his old company and she should meet with me but was free to do whatever she wanted. She didn’t feel any obligation to work with me and couldn’t understand why I was so aggressive (about getting started).
My behavior wasn’t consistent with what she expected for a first call and her behavior wasn’t consistent with what I expected for a project kick-off. We both laughed and agreed to a fresh start next month.
But I committed four errors that I never should have made. True, I didn’t know that Trent gave us different expectations but with my experience and expertise I should have realized what was happening long before I did.
What are the Top Ten Lessons?
1) You’re never as prepared as you think.
2) Never assume.
3) As soon as you sense there’s a problem, deal with it.
4) Always take responsibility for any problems, regardless of whether or not it’s your fault.
5) You can be the best in the world but if they don’t like you they won’t buy from you.
6) Make sure the other guy has the same set up expectations as you.
7) When you don’t have enough time, always reschedule.
8) If you don’t have a relationship, you don’t have S.O.B. Quality.
9) Always make sure the decision maker is involved in the meeting.
10) If you identify the real reason you aren’t getting the business, only then do you have a chance to get things turned around.
If I had reread Baseline Selling and taken my own advice I wouldn’t be writing this week’s Baseline Selling Tip about this subject.