I still remember the first two sales calls I made although they were almost two decades ago.
One was a cold call and the other was a face-to-face meeting. I think I made every mistake in the book but these two stand out the most.
Sales Blunder #1
It was 1995 and I was in transition.
I had left the restaurant business and thought I would pursue my dream of training and speaking. I created a seminar called, “How to Make Incredible Tips” and it focused on helping servers and bartenders increase their income. And, it would also help a restaurant increase its sales and make more money.
I knew I need to make appointments and had never cold called so I picked up and read “Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work.” I read the book, studied the principles and made my first cold call.
It was a disaster!
After I stumbled through my opening, my prospect growled, “What are you selling?”
I threw away my script and launched into my natural voice and told him about the seminar I had created. He said, “Not interested” and I heard a loud click in my ear.
As I hung up the telephone I thought, “This book is crap!”
However, I re-read it and eventually realized that I had overlooked a key point…
“Verbally practice and rehearse your opening so it sounds natural and comfortable.”
I had mentally run through my opening but when my prospect answered the phone it was the first time I actually stated my opening aloud. No wonder I stumbled and sounded like an idiot.
Sales Blunder #2
Later that week I managed to secure an appointment with the manager of a local restaurant. Although I was prepared (I had a nice glossy presentation prepared since PowerPoint hadn’t been thought of yet) and I arrived for my appointment a few minutes early, I completely botched the call.
Here’s where I made my next BIG sales blunder.
After the initial introductions, I sat down with the manager and spent 5 five minutes telling her about my business and my background (hospitality and restaurant). Then I talked non-stop for about 15-20 minutes (it quite possibly could have been longer but that’s what I recall!) and I walked her through each and every page of my slick presentation.
I didn’t ask any questions.
I didn’t know what the average sale was for the restaurant.
I had no idea if they did any type of training.
And I didn’t know if my seminar would actually benefit them.
I shudder when I think about it.
But that wasn’t all!
I hate to admit it but once I finished my pitch I just sat there wondering what to do.
My prospect said, “This sounds good” and then didn’t say anything.
After several moments of uncomfortable silence, I gulped and meekly asked, “So…would you like to go ahead with this?”
“Yes, let’s look at when we can schedule it.”
But, here’s the really funny point…
I didn’t have a DayTimer or calendar on me!
PDAs and Smartphones didn’t exist yet so I reached into my pocket and pulled out my package of cigarettes (yes, I smoked then and actually carried the cigarettes in my shirt pocket—didn’t everyone?). The cigarette pack had a calendar on the inside flap and we proceeded to schedule my first seminar.
When I look back on those situations I realize how much I have learned since then. Here are five…
1. Be prepared. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a cold call or a sales presentation, you need to be fully prepared BEFORE any type of sales call or appointment. In the mid-90s you could get away with winging it but that just doesn’t work in today’s business world.
2. Focus on the buyer or prospect. Instead of pitching your product, service or solution, focus on helping your prospect solve a problem.
3. Spend less time talking and more time asking questions. I know you’ve heard me say this before but it still one of the most common sales mistakes people make.
4. Ask for the sale. It sounds simple but I am continually surprised how few sales people actually take that step.
5. Be ready for the next steps. It is certainly much easier today with Smartphones but sometimes sales people don’t always manage the next step as effectively as they could.
The school of hard knocks is a great teacher and I firmly believe that everyone can improve their results if they take the time to learn the lesson contained in each botched sales call.
What about you?
What was one of the best sales lessons you learned from a mistake?