I could have called this post So Sales Argonaut, Do You Sip Wine Or Hunt Boar First?
In light of an agony aunt chatting away about her trade (on BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live, 5 April 2014, roughly 67mins in), listeners were encouraged to call in with “the worst advice you’ve ever been given”.
Cue Andy. He’s been in and out, and now back in, office equipment supplies for 25 years.
“I was a new young salesman with a company.
I was selling photocopiers.
I hadn’t got the deal and I had a phone call from a customer to say that a proposal I’d put in for two machines had been accepted and I should meet them next morning at ten o’clock and get the paperwork signed up.
So I thought ‘fantastic!’
So I ran into my boss’s office and I said, ‘I got this deal!’
He said, ‘brilliant, brilliant, when you seeing them?’ and I said, ‘tomorrow morning ten o’clock’.
He said, ‘Don’t wait ‘til then, don’t wait ‘til then! Something might happen in the meantime. Just jump in your car and go straight over there’.
So I jumped in my car and drove straight to the customer’s.
The guy came out and said, ‘what are you doing here?’
I said, ‘well, I’m here with the paperwork, I was just passing the door’.
He said, ‘well, leave it there’ and he stormed out.
He never went ahead with that deal.
He wrote to my boss – the boss who’d told me to go – complaining about my heavy-handed sales tactics.
I was then taken into the boss’s office and told off.
I never did get that deal.
It’s rankled ever since.”
Indeed. A situation anyone with even a modicum of Sales experience will likely recognise.
It’s happened to me as well. Forced by a boss to whizz over and squeeze their fingers ’round their pen, I know what it’s like to utter the time-honoured “I was in the area…” only to leave without any ink drying. That day or any further. The ‘pressure’ creating a fatal re-think.
Yet at the other pole I have also suffered. Normally, the competition either drop the price through the floor or worse, particularly where they’re an incumbent, threaten sanction with other business. On a more comedy note – in the sense that you can laugh about it now, several years later – there are never-won big deals when overnight a takeover occurred, the buyer got the bullet or probably my most surreal, the global outfit that went publicly belly-up with the instant loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and doors locked shut tight for all and sundry next morning. Me included.
Our copier friend knows the risks;
“If someone says ‘yeah, we’d like to go ahead’, you always want to see them, like, ‘now’, kind of thing. So I understand the pressure but in that case it upset the customer.”
So what do you do given the same prickly horns to ride?
My instinct is that you invite greater jeopardy being too pushy. On this deal the passing of one night’s sleep doesn’t strike you as causing a catastrophe. (Although we know it can. And what about the fabled ‘cooling off’ period that supposedly applies?)
It may have had more to do with reinforcing the (destined to under-achieve) management style of the operation. Today, technology can help more and more. Instant remote ordering gets easier each quarter.
I’m also reminded of when the ‘nod’ duly received puts the ceremony unbelievably the other side of your current period deadline.
That’s a whole post on its own. Possibly entitled ‘the 32nd of the month’.
Anyway, if you feel you are vulnerable to a new dawn heralding a backtrack, the rather irritating thought must flow that you’ve taken shortcuts and/or are not as secure on your bid as you’ve claimed.
In which case, advice really ought not be forthcoming.
Letters of intent, confirming delivery dates with other involved parties, getting the boss involved, a new or extra incentive for sealing it ‘today’, generating a purchase order number, planning first post-sale meeting, widening the attendance for the signature.
They’ll all get thrown into the mix.
It is not anti-Sales to suggest that winners over the long-term – the ones writing sustainable, repeatable, growing business – rarely worry faced with this supposed dilemma.
I genuinely think you’ll win more than you lose by trusting the client, because the client trusts you.
If they never do, then you and I probably aren’t kindred souls.
As Andy laments for the foolhardy;
…to be heeded by any Sales Argonaut placing the flowing wine of sustainable business after the hunt for the next boar of a deal.