One day I was talking with one of our in-house geniuses, Tim Walsh, about customer service. He shared a story with me about two sales competitors who were trying to sell him on their products. I asked him to send me the story so I could share it with you.
The new year brought big changes to the email marketing team. One of the largest was an updated email marketing service platform. We had outgrown our provider at the time and knew we would need to go with a top-tier vendor if we wanted to reach the next level of sophistication.
We started the vetting process in August 2009, but due to some contractual obligations, we could not proceed any further until early 2010. One company we were considering took full advantage of this “down” time. John, our salesman, regularly kept in touch, sent press releases, and really worked to establish a relationship—even though we were not yet ready to buy or even look. The other vendor we were looking at did not.
When we started the process backup in late January, John had already established rapport with us while the other company had to play catch-up. I ran point on this project, which meant everything came through me. While I was not the decision-maker, I was the key influencer. It’s kind of like that line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Your father may be the head of the house, but I am the neck, and the neck can turn the head wherever it wants.” While I did not have that much power, (muahahaha) my recommendation weighed heavily in the final decision.
At first, both companies seemed equal. They both had great products—the best in their industry. And we seemed to connect with both sales teams when they came for on-site visits. But it didn’t take long for those similarities to end. As the sales process continued, John’s company became the front-runner. I think the other company could sense they were losing ground because their sales manager called me in a panic to say, “It feels like we are losing.” Can you believe that?
I tried to reassure him and told him it was a marathon, not a sprint. But then he sprinted right around me. Granted, this is a large investment, and he knew I was not the final decision-maker. But the process took an ugly turn for his company when he went over my head and attempted to have conversations with those he perceived to be the decision-makers. (Remember, I am the point man here!)
John stayed true to that arrangement and ultimately won the sale. They established a good relationship with us—the client—respected the boundaries, and emerged victorious.
This is a fantastic example of how not to be a salesperson! Did you catch the two key issues?
First, the other company didn’t maintain communication with the client while they were in limbo. Big mistake! Nearly 70% of sales are lost because a customer feels the salesperson is indifferent to their business.
Second, the other company tried going around the point person when they felt they were losing the sale. Any great salesperson realizes the importance of the point person or gate-keeper. Disrespecting their authority by not following processes means that you will not follow processes with the product you’re selling either. And it’s just plain rude. You’re telling the decision-maker that you don’t believe they knew what they were doing when they put that person on point. Again, big mistake!
So what do you do? Always remember that communication is key! The less of it, the less likely you are to get the sale. Also, teach your people to recognize who they are talking to. If they don’t understand the importance of a point person, they probably won’t be getting the sale anyway.
Question: How have you seen sales people make mistakes like this?