Don’t take referrals for granted

Wow, was that bad. I just had an in-person meeting with the CEO of a prospect that went so poorly it lasted fewer than 15 minutes. A good friend of mine joined this company as VP of Sales and wanted to bring me in to train the team on prospecting skills. It was a small and diverse team with some field reps who had been in sales for 20+ years and some newbies. The VP had been through the training before, so he knew exactly what it was about and believes in it 100%. He’s actually one of my biggest advocates. Needless to say, the CEO, who had never invested in outside training before but believed in investing in the team, wanted to meet with me to review what I was going to go through with the team.

I prepped for the meeting as usual — did my homework, looked on LinkedIn, reviewed their website, came up with some specific questions, set my goals, etc. The one thing I didn’t do was send a “shared agenda” before the meeting and ask him what he wanted to make sure we covered during the meeting. If I had done that, I may have saved myself the headache of what happened.

I started the meeting as I usually do, reviewing what I knew about them and then asking something specific about him, their business and where he wanted to take things. He immediately hit me back with, “I could talk about that for an hour, and we don’t have that much time. I was under the impression you were going to show me what you were going to go over with the team so why don’t you just tell me what you got.” It was very abrupt and direct and usually the response I expect when someone asks a question like, “Tell me about your business.” I thought my question was a little better than that, but I guess not. The meeting went downhill from there since it now had somewhat of a negative tone to it. I tried to get it back on track, but nothing worked. He kept interrupting me and picking apart what I was saying even though a lot of what he threw at me was the information I was trying to gain from my initial questions that he didn’t want to answer. Needless to say, the meeting lasted fewer than 15 minutes, and we walked away agreeing to disagree.

So what’s the takeaway? First, regardless of how strong the referral you have into a prospective client, make sure you don’t take anything for granted. I may have been a little too comfortable walking into this meeting based on my relationship with the VP. Second, always ensure you align expectations before you walk into a meeting on what you are there to talk about. If I had sent a shared agenda and asked what he wanted to review during the meeting, I probably would have known walking in that all he wanted to do was see what I had and I could have either addressed it sooner or changed my approach.

All in all, I was actually fairly happy about the whole experience. It had been a long time since I got punched in the face during a meeting with a prospect, and this woke me up a bit. It reminded me that you always need to bring your ‘A’ game, you can’t miss steps and you need to and must focus on getting better every day in sales.

 John Barrows, John Barrows Sales Training & Selling Techniques Owner

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