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

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