SALES CALL GONE SOUR!
by Jack Cohen
Your sales team has just done an incredible job of getting through to the CEO of a small, but growing IT firm. The CEO has conveyed to the sales representative how the lack of adequate field reporting is stifling the company's ability to effectively manage and measure sales performance. The CEO asked the sales representative to arrange for a short 30 minute overview of how this vendor's service will produce desired business results. The sales representative agreed to set up a conference call with a technical resource for the following morning.
The following morning, the client assembled its team - the lead technical resource and the client's financial manager. The CEO was running a little late but the client team initiated the call at the appointed time. The vendor had its team assembled and the call began. Fifteen minutes into the call, the CEO arrived, introduced himself, apologized and proceeded to ask if someone from the vendor team could address the specific issue that was discussed in the call a day earlier.
The Call Going Sour
The vendor's technical representative made the classic mistake of 'show up and throw up.' The client CEO reiterated that he just wanted a short 10 -15 minute discussion of how the vendor could address the specific issues discussed the evening before. After a short period of muffled discussion on the vendor side, the sales representative begins to explain that the technical guy could 'take 3 hours' to address the client's needs. At that point, the CEO responded, " I don't want a 3 hour discussion. I want someone to tell me briefly, how you can help me." The response on the part of the sales representative stunned everyone in client boardroom, including me. I was there as an observer. The sales representative stated, "Frankly, my technical guy is insulted that you were late and was prepared to provide you with the capabilities of our service." The CEO simply stated, "I'm sorry I was late, and I'm sorry he is insulted. See ya.!" He then stood up, and walked out. The sales representative, obviously astonished, said, "Well I guess that is that." The technical lead from the client responded, " I guess so." The call ended. The damage was done. Two minutes later, the CEO returned to the conference room stating that it was time to call the other vendor who might be able to address his issues. Needless to say, that call went much better. There was even a discussion of the experience with other vendor. The first vendor had a superior solution and an inferior sales presentation and team.
What is the Potential Damage for the Vendor?
This call failed for the vendor for the following reasons. The sales representative did not meet the expectation of the client for a brief high level overview of how the service could be of value. The sales representative and his technical resource allowed emotion and ego to interfere with the objective of the call. The CEO was late and he did apologize. While there is an expectation to respect everyone's time, sales calls don't always come off with precision and the lead on the sales team needs to be prepared to handle it.
The vendor team not only lost this prospect as a client, they lost any chance that this prospect would ever buy from them or recommend them. Consider the compounded cost of this blunder.
They lost the sale. They lost potential revenue of repeat business for the the initial sale. They lost the potential revenue of new products and services and repeat sales yet again. This sales call gone sour cost this vendor thousands of dollars in potential revenue to the company, and thousands in commissions for the sales representative. They lost potential revenue from referrals. Contemplate the revenue impact to the vendor if this was not an isolated incident!
What Could Have Been Done to Avoid This Result?
Sales calls gone sour usually result from lack of training and lack of preparation.
As a CEO or senior executive, your sales management team should have a premeditated sales process and training program in place. That training should include role playing that include a wide range of sales situations including those situations where even the best planning sometimes goes wrong. In the instance of this real life example, the sales representative lost the prospect when he tried to defend his technical lead.
The sale representative could have stepped in and with a prepared 10 to 15 minute overview which he was asked to prepare in the pre presentation call the night before. He could have and should have briefed his technical lead on the prospects request. It was obvious that he didn't. The sales representative could have asked to reschedule the call at the outset. It may have been that lack of preparation and/or lack of experience in adapting to a shortened presentation window may have caused some panic and loss of control of the presentation.
The takeaway here is that sales is a premeditated process that includes training and role playing. When management provides the sales team with the skills and the tools to handle real life sales situations, the sales team is better equipped to handle bumps in the road. A well trained sales team can avoid sales gone sour and turn these opportunities into sweet revenue.