Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lesson Learned: Prospect Integrity

I've been involved in hi-tech sales since 1986. With that much sales experience you begin to think you've seen it all. And then a large company surprises you and not in a good way.

I'd like to state the company's name right here but I won't compromise my own sales professional code of conduct just to make a point.

Suffice it to say, I wasted a lot of time pursuing a prospect this quarter that is never going to generate any revenue. And had they been honest with me to begin with or at least ethical with me to begin with; I never would have wasted any time with them at all.

Mere sour grapes over a lost sale?


This company approached me at the end of last quarter after downloading our mobile device management software. After trying unsuccesfully for several weeks to get onsite and set up a pilot I was asked for pricing.

My gut told me not to quote.

I discussed my reluctance to quote with the purchaser. He brushed aside my candid concerns about being "column fodder" and explained to me that he needed our pricing for budgetary purposes only at this point. We would still be invited onsite to set up a pilot before the decision would be made.

I ignored my gut. I quoted. I didn't want to lose my shot at a six figure deal.

The day after I quoted I promptly followed up, only to be told to give them a call back in two weeks. Classic. They had their pricing and now they didn't need me for anything else. What else could I do but call back in two weeks?

When I called back my main point of contact refused to speak with me and informed me I would be hearing from his boss. My stomach knotted. This was not good news.

Later the email I received from his boss simply stated that "after careful review" they would not be selecting our product. There was nothing else I could do at this point but put a call into the "boss" and hopefully get some explanation.

He called me back about 10 minutes later. He explained to me that this fortune 1000 account had acquired a systems integration company in Q4 of last year that was a reseller for one of our competitors' products. There was no way they were ever going to purchase from us.

I wanted to ask him to define the word "ethics" for me.

I wanted to see if it was alright for our technical people to bill him for the "free consulting" we gave his firm as part of what we thought was an open sales process.

I wanted to ask him if he would be willing to prepare an indepth quotation for us?

Instead, I just thanked him for the opportunity of quoting their business, wished him good luck with the project and reminded him to keep us in mind if the technology they just purchased didn't meet their expectations.

When that phone conversation ended; at least one of us still had some integrity left.

James Gingerich

Book Review: 20 Days to The Top by Brian Sullivan

There are some authors you connect with and some you don't. Sorry Brian I'm not quite getting it. The acronym PRECISE does give one a basic sales methodology but I've seen better. The free DVD sales seminar that came with the book provided me with a little extra insight as to why the book didn't quite meet my personal expectations.

Highlighting the DVD sales seminar was a short video clip of Brian Sullivan and Julia Roberts from a movie scene that he snuck onto while it was being shot. The topic covered at the time was pride or being proud.

Brian I paid good money for a book and DVD that I expected was going to lay out a 20 day step by step plan and that if I followed that plan my sales would improve. What I got was a collection of tidbits, movie cameos and a sales methodology that at best seemed crammed into the letters of PRECISE more to fit the acronym than to help me advance my sales career.

As a questioning system the acronym CLEAR in chapter 13 does make this book worth reading. Had the whole book been based around this topic in a more "precise" fashion it would have been worth a lot more.

As for the DVD, a little more content and a lot less motivation would make the DVD more appealing. As it stands right now, all I took away from the DVD was the movie cameo you snuck your way into and how much you remind me of that annoying character on the old sitcom "Spin City." Had there been more content I don't think my mind would have been wandering and drawing mental comparisons to old TV shows.
The quotes throughout the book were an added bonus. But unfortunately I do not feel that this book will take me to the top in 20 days.

James Gingerich

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