Telling a salesman not to sell is a bit like telling a stray dog to leave the pretty poodle at the end of the street alone but, sometimes, I really wish sales people would know when to cool it!
I find that cringe-worthy overselling is often so off-putting to some company executives – you want to fling yourself in front of the projector just before death by PowerPoint tips them into a state of deep coma.
Recently, my FTSE200 organisation needed to use a consultancy for an urgent project. The firm chosen got the business because they had been highly recommended through our insurance providers and the outfit did their job and completed it well.
Yet, using this consultancy highlighted some major gaps in our business and an urgent need to get these remedied – quick!
I was put in charge of building this relationship and briefed the company thoroughly, telling them exactly what was needed. As an aside, we also asked them to come in to the full plc board meeting to present their findings on the incident they had helped with. That means they had been given, on a plate, every senior decision-maker in our business. They would, quite literally, walk away from the meeting with a major piece of business.
However, despite my detailed briefing of what the board members needed to know, this consultancy decided to go completely off piste and embarked on a hard sell of every single service they offer as a group. This mammoth task involved the consultancy’s presentation team launching a history lesson on their company’s birth and development. So, those at the board meeting were treated to the first 10 slides focused exclusively on their organisation’s construct with nothing, whatsoever, to do with what they were offering to do for us!
As I am sure many of you senior members of the sales leadership fraternity will be familiar with long and arduous board meetings, you should be able to sympathise with our plight as we struggled to keep interested in this tedious self-grandiosity of the consultancy’s extensive talents. Did they not realise that they wouldn’t have been invited into the room if we did not believe they were up to the task? So, instead of focusing on what WE wanted, they waffled on at length about themselves.
It will come as little surprise that they, eventually, walked away completely empty-handed and I now have to brief the project out to other companies because our CEO and CFO were put off by the over-keen selling ploy, which, in retrospect, was a huge shame because they are one of the best in business and had been a dead cert to get the contract had they not bored us all breathless!
It should be a simple moral to this story but, in light of the fact some of you sales people need this drilled into your skulls, I’ll spell it out in terms a four-year-old could understand: if you find yourselves in this situation, just don’t sell – do what you are asked and leave it at that, getting out of the room as soon as you can to leave the corporate decision-makers time to chew over what has been said without eating into their busy business schedule. You just might be surprised with how things pan out.
But, for those too set in their sales ways to change, there could be solace in my memory of working in radio broadcasting.
On a client trip, a very senior buyer at a large agency told me that our top sales executive was so persistent and boring at sales meetings that he used to give him the business just to get rid of him…