Five out of six salespeople failed do these very simple things; and they lost a big sale.
Seventeen leaders representing every region of the country sat behind u-shaped conference tables in the meeting room as this Fortune 1000 company evaluated potential sales training companies to train their national sales team. Six sales reps representing the finalists were sitting throughout the lobby waiting for their turn at bat. Each had been allotted exactly 20 minutes to make their sales presentation. Twenty minutes—no more. After that time, they’d pack up their things and leave, and the next in line would enter. Big account selling at its finest.
Five salespeople went in, five came out. When Jim entered the boardroom, the sixth and final salesperson in line, he knew it was time to deliver the goods if he wanted to move on to the next round in the selection process. He connected his laptop to the projector while cold stares from the decision-makers waited for his presentation to get loaded on the big screen. He gave his presentation, thanked everyone for the opportunity, and left the meeting.
“We’ll make our decision in a few days. Goodbye.” said his contact as he headed for the lobby to return his visitor badge and head for the airport.
The call came the next day—Jim’s company would be moving on to the next round. In fact, his contact told him that his was the best presentations of all the presenters. Naturally, Jim wanted to know what he had done right. He knew that he had come with a competitive mix of products and services, but he assumed everyone had done that. And he was right.
Jim was surprised to learn that he had differentiated himself and his organization in three very simple ways:
1. He finished on time. Jim knew that the meeting coordinator would enforce the time limit strictly, so he cut down his presentation and rehearsed it over and over again until he could deliver it consistently in less than 20 minutes. In the end, he was the only presenter out of six finalists to finish on time, with two minutes to spare.
2. He expressed gratitude. Jim used those extra two minutes to say thank you. He asked for, and received, permission from the meeting coordinator to walk around the boardroom, thanking everyone individually for the opportunity and shaking hands. No other presenter did that. They didn’t have the time.
3. He stayed positive. Jim’s contact told him that he had been the only sales rep not to start his presentation by commenting on the time limit. Even a seemingly neutral, “Well, I’d better get started, I only have 20 minutes,” was an implied complaint about the prospective customer’s evaluation process—a fact not lost on the 17 people in the boardroom that day. Jim was the only presenter who made his presentation without mentioning it.
In the end, Jim and his company not only moved on to the next round in the evaluation process, but also won that big account. Part of that, of course, was because the prospect saw value in the solution Jim’s company offered. But another part of it was directly attributable to three simple sales principles—rehearsing the presentation, staying positive, and saying “Thank you”. Those three simple things were contributing factors that differentiated Jim from his competitors and landed a major account for his company.
And cost the others a lot of money.