The Worst Sales Call I ever made

…and the great business lesson it taught me.

My last blog post (oh so long ago) retold the story of the best ever sales call I made. With every yin there must be a yang so today I’m relating the worst call I ever made, but one that ended up with a huge business lesson for me.

In my past life as a Technical Sales guy I wore many hats – two I wore happily were Manager of our distributor network and Chief Technical Trainer. On the distributor side I was responsible for visiting the reps on a regular basis and make sales calls with them when appropriate. I spent hundreds of hours driving around Illinois and Texas and Alberta in the passenger seat of the local rep’s car discussing clients, football, politics, anything and everything. As the technical trainer I presented product training to rooms of engineers in Tampa, Houston, Vancouver, wherever I could organize one. Lunch and learn sessions with Texas BBQ were always my favorite.

Texas
Texas

If the occasion arose where I could combine the two it was a very sweet deals, killing two birds with one stone. Jim, my rep in Houston was very active and he arranged for me to do a training session with one of his customers at an engineering company out in the wilds of Texas. I flew down the 1600 miles from Newark to Houston and drove myself to the hotel on the other side of Houston just off the Katy Freeway. Jim picked me up the next morning on a bright but mild Houston morning. We drove 90 minutes out of Texas to his customer’s facility. So far so good – I was a little frazzled from the travel but nothing I couldn’t cope with. We got to the facility and waited in the lobby.

20 minutes went by and the engineer in question still hadn’t turned up. Jim did some calling around only to find out that the guy had, at the last minute, decided to take the day off to go fishing! I exploded – “Doesn’t he realize I’ve traveled all this way to meet with him and to give him the benefit of all my knowledge?” Jim remained surprisingly calm. These kind of calls just went with the territory – some days you won the battle getting into see people, some days you lost. Getting upset about it didn’t help the situation. I wasn’t convinced but started to calm down myself during the ride back and the obligatory stop for a couple of margaritas.

And twenty years later the lesson of that day still resonates. Despite how wonderful you are and how fantastic your product is and how important it is for you to make your own figures, none of that matters to the client. Their schedule isn’t your schedule. Their priorities aren’t your priorities. A day fishing is always likely to trump a visit from another boring salesman. Getting upset isn’t going to solve anything and taking the rough with the smooth is just the way of things.

What was your worst sales call?

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