Written by Sean McPheat |
In tribute to the many sales managers, trainers, directors and coaches who are always in need of more creative, effective and memorable ways to relay sales training concepts, I am starting a new series called, “And the Moral of the Story is…”
Start your weekend by looking here every Friday morning at 10:00 am for some entertaining sales stories. Like “King Kong’s Got Nothing On Me,” from Memories of a Sales Manager, some stories are funny, some are serious, but all have a strong sales message!
If you miss one, not to worry. You can find them all in the new MTD Blog category, “Sales Stories.” Next Up: “The Harmless Sale,” from my buddy, John Landrine in the U.S.
The Harmless Sale
We sold outdoor signage for independent businesses, via door-to-door as I met this one prospective customer who proved a real challenge. The man owned a small travel agency and during my sales presentation, the customer challenged or refuted almost everything I said. He would deny any claims I made, though I had some facts to back up our claims and he had nothing to support his positions. Of course, though, as a professional, I was not going to get into a debate with him.
Me: “Our studies show that your street has about 22,000 cars pass by here every day and…”
Customer: “No! No. That’s not true.”
Me: “Well, Thomas, do you have a different figure? How many cars do you think pass here every day?”
Customer: “I don’t know…I just know that it is not 22,000. You are just wrong on that”
He would do this on nearly everything I said and I realized that he was not actually objecting or just being obnoxious. I realized that he had a serious distrust of sales people. He would refute anything any sales person said simply because a sales person said it. So he continued to try to provoke me into a debate, but I did not fall for it. I continued and went to close asking for the order as I always do.
He said, “It’s a nice looking sign. But you know all that stuff you said is not true don’t you?”
I replied, “Every word is true.”
He said, “Come on John! If you will just admit that you sales people exaggerate everything and that the sign is not really going to do me any good…then I might buy it. But I want you to admit that the sign will do no good. Admit that you exaggerate!”
I said, “Sir, every word I said to you is true as all of our research and history shows. Plus, I do not lie…period.”
Finally, he came with his ultimatum, “Ok. If you want to make a sale…then tell me that sign does no real good. Otherwise you can leave.”
I said, “Thank you for your time.” I then closed my briefcase, packed up my sample and walked out.
As I was packing my car, he came out and stood in the storefront, looking up and down the street.
“So, ah…” he began very slowly. “You know, there really are a lot of cars that go pass here.”
“Yes.” I said as I continued to load my car and prepare to leave. Then he began looking at the top of the building around where the sign would go.
“Ah, so where did you say that sign would go? I mean, just for imagination’s sake…,” he said. I closed the car door and came over to him.
“Yes, it would go right there…,” I pointed. “…and I would have it facing a little to the right. That way it gets all of your north and south traffic and some of the east and west traffic as well.”
He said, “uhm…uhm. Interesting…” as he stood there.
I knew the man was in pain. I had sold that sign and he wanted it and knew that he needed it. However, his false pride would not ever allow him to say, “Ok, I believe you are right…I want the sign.” In addition, he had already told me to leave, and to his surprise, I did.
Now he was stuck. How could he get the sign and save face? I began to think of a way to help him out of his misery and finally came up with…
“You know Thomas; I think there is ONE thing we can agree on.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?” he said.
I concluded, “That sign, up on the corner of your business…certainly will do no harm.”
His face lit up like a bulb! “Yeah!! Yes!” he began yelling. “It won’t do any harm! It may not do any good…but it surely can’t hurt! It can’t hurt! Go get the contract, let’s write this thing up!”
And the Moral of the Story Is…
Should John have given in to this customer’s request, more than likely he would not have made the sale anyway. The customer would have simply used John’s admitting to falsehoods as further justification for his irrational statements and negative beliefs. John would have solidified in the mind of the prospect that NO sales person can be trusted. Also, if by some chance the customer did buy, it would have been the mostly costly sale John could have ever made. It would have cost him his reputation, tons of additional customers and possibly his career…not to mention…his dignity.
You must uncompromisingly believe in what you sell. Never be one who will do or say anything to make a sale and be ready and willing to take no for answer.
Originally published: 29 July, 2011
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