How to Coach a Salesperson

A salesperson sent me the thread of email conversations that took place between him and his prospect during the last couple of days. I’ve included it here with four exceptions; I changed the names, put the messages in order so you won’t have to read from the bottom up, bolded the important pieces of information so you’ll see them the first time through and put my comments in red:

Salesperson’s follow up email:
Anything new develop on your decision making process?  I’m trying to get you to Chicago, but I’m not sure what it will take. 
Prospect’s response:
Right now we are holding off on any decision.  However, the issue is not fully closed. [salesperson probably keyed in on “issue not fully closed” instead of “holding off”] Our current supplier is in the process of implementing a new system that on paper should take care of most of our issues which prompted our RFP.  At the time we did not know this new system was planned.  We now have a wait and see mentality and may revisit our RFP info if this system does not meet our needs in a timely fashion.  Thank you for your patience and I will let you know if and when something breaks.  Feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
Salesperson’s reply:
In the mean time, how much time, money and aggravation is this costing you and your company?  What happens if the solution on paper doesn’t work?  You are losing more time, more money and the frustration level will skyrocket for everyone including your donors..I recall you mentioning they did not have the floor space, or the capacity to handle your workload, that they were a “mom and pop” shop and could not handle the inventory and the turn times.  What has changed other than the fact they are in the process of implementing a new system in the last few weeks? [up until this point, this was a great email although I would have preferred for a conversation like this to take place by phone] 
Is there anyway we can show you our technology in a demonstration?  Our system is already in place and we use it daily so there is no learning curve involved.  I just don’t want you to miss the opportunity to look like a hero to your board.  I can’t tell you what to do, but I sure in the heck would not wait to see if their system is the answer. I would consider other demonstrations that way you can compare apples to apples. [exactly what to say if you want to be viewed as a commodity] You have nothing to lose but an hour of your time to see how well our fulfillment system will work for you. What do you think? [salesperson reverted to the way he used to sell – “can we give you a demo?”]
Prospect’s response:
We would be happy to schedule an hour to see a presentation.  If you want to come to DC and present to us you are welcome to do so.   Just know that we are making no commitments at this time.
Perfect, that is all we can ask for at this time.  So in the next 2-3 weeks can you give me 2 or 3 different dates and times that would work for you?  We would prefer early afternoon..this would allow us to fly in and out in the same day, but if it’s not convenient for you, then we will stay over for a night[nice job looking desparate]
I have the following openings: Wed 5/21, Thurs 5/22, Wed 5/28, Thurs 5/29.  Any time late morning or early afternoon is fine. Let me know as soon as you can so those dates don’t close up.
Now the salesperson writes to me and says: Hey Dave, Now that I finally got them to give me the opportunity to demo, and we have a confirmed appointment, is there anything else I should really be prepared to do once I get in there?  I don't want to blow it or lose this opp.  I know I'm going to go back to 2nd base and review all compelling reasons to buy and to buy from me.  They've had a long standing relationship with the mom & pop shop as you can see [above], so any additional tips you can give me, would be great.  I know I have to walk them through the decision making process, and timeline and if I propose a solution that fits their need and budget, I'm going to have to rehearse with them the "how are you going to tell mom and pop that you are leaving scenario"? I'm reviewing my notes and studying like crazy the Baseline selling binder.  all the while still making other calls!  I want this one bad!  Please note that I am taking 2 other subject matter experts with me to make this spectacular!  

Here is what I sent the salesperson:

Don’t be upset with me for saying this but I think you have a case of “happy ears”.  Sounds like you had gotten to 3rd Base – at some point – and now you’re back at 1st, but getting ready to run home….
They’re happy for you to come to them;
They’re not making any commitments;
They’re in wait and see mode;
She never answered any of the questions you posed in yesterday’s email;
She only said yes to a demo.
So, my questions:
Why are you doing a demo if they aren’t making any commitments?
Why are you bringing the resources of two more people given the scenario?
Why do you think there is anything to “blow” given that you don’t have anything yet?
What do you hope to accomplish?
What’s the best possible outcome?
What’s the worst possible outcome?
It seems to me that you caused this problem yourself when you asked if there was any way you could demonstrate the technology.
Here’s what I would write back to them:
Hi Mary,
I was planning to bring along two additional experts to show our capabilities.  When I was asked when you would be making a decision I told them you couldn’t commit to anything now.  They asked, “even if it solved your problem, even if it blew you away, even if it saved you time and money, even if it was perfect?”  Based on what you told me, I said no.  I was told it wouldn’t be wise for me to travel to DC under those conditions. Did I understand you correctly or did I miss something?

Now, some questions for my readers: 1) do you get wrapped up like this salesperson did or can you clearly see these problems when they are presented? 2) can you get your salespeople to stop and regroup? 3) can you present them with the proper action so they have a chance to avoid a trap like this? 4) can you make sure they get a lesson learned from their adventures? 5) can you make the lesson profound enough so that they don’t repeat it?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan