I’ve probably made hundreds of sales call over the years. Some stand out because of the location (the mountains of Puerto Rico, Downtown Vancouver, Bologna in Italy) and some because of the result (signing a $150,000 order with Heinz Ketchup) but the best ever was somewhat unrelated to the final outcome.
In a previous life I sold process equipment to some of the biggest companies in the world; Exxon, Heinz, Nestlé to name three. When the opportunity came to sell something to Miller Brewing it didn’t seem too difficult or too special – but they did ask for someone to sit down with them to discuss the application and installation so I flew to Milwaukee to meet with their engineer. I met up with my contact at the main gates to the brewery and was whisked inside.
As any of my acquaintances will tell you – I LOVE BEER! So the chance to look around any brewery was always welcome but my contact went out of his way to give me the full tour, way beyond the “standard tourist” where he shared with me each step and each piece of equipment. Obviously a man in love with his job!
We eventually made it to his office where we discussed his application in more detail – I had no doubt that it would work and told him so. He said great and gave me the go-ahead right there and then.
That on its own may have made it a pretty good sales call but what happened next was what made it the best ever sales call. My contact asked, “Did I like beer?” Is the Pope Catholic? Of course, I said. He closed the door and opened his own R&D refrigerator and took out a couple of unlabeled bottles. My equipment was going to be used on a new product line for a new beer – Clear Beer! He had some samples – would I like a taste? He poured out the liquid into a glass, it looked just like 7-up but with a head and it tasted…well it tasted just like beer! He was looking for some feedback on taste and looks and I was a willing guinea pig.
Now, Clear Beer was tested in a few markets but never took off, but a couple of years later Zima took off in a big way, not for Miller but for Coors and I always wondered whether the there was a connection between the two events.
So – that’s the one that sticks in my mind as my favorite sales call. What was your favorite? Check back next week for my worst ever sales call but how it led to a very important business lesson.