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Or the sad tale of the unprepared sales person

I am sorely tempted to start this blog off with “Once upon a time, in a land far away……..”, but this story about failing to prepare for a sales meeting is unfortunately very true.

Not being one to tell porky pies (Cockney rhyming slang for lies), this story is actually set in the town of Scunthorpe, barely 15 miles from my home in the UK. Despite always wanting to consider myself a Princess, there are no fictional characters and I have changed all but my name, to protect the innocent.

This is a story where the ending could have been so very different, if only the sales person had been just a little bit better prepared.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Funnily enough the story starts, and ends one cold day in January. I had been engaged by the Managing Director of a local business to coach his sales team and improve their sales skills as well as the processes of the company they worked for. I had arranged to accompany one of the team for the day to provide 1-1 sales coaching in front of prospects and clients.

With only one appointment in the diary for later on in the morning, I was fearful of another day practicing cold calling. There were other issues involved, but needless to say I was more than a little disappointed that the sales person had not managed to book at least one more meeting as their target for the day was 4.

Then the phone rang about 10:00 with a message from a big prospect saying they had a problem with their normal supplier and could my client supply a solution by the following day. Now my style, where possible, is to coach in a live sales environment, which I find is the best way to sustainable improvement. So when the sales person said they would email them back, I asked why couldn’t we see if we could get a meeting later in the day.

Meeting the prospect face to face to better understand their needs as well as build a better relationship is always a better idea than an email. [easy-tweet tweet=”The closer you can get to prospects, the more likely you are to win the business.” user=”@SucceedatSellin” hashtags=”#Howtosell”]

The appointment was made for the afternoon, and after the other meeting was finished we turned up 10 minutes early. After being seated in reception to wait for the lady we had come to see, I asked the sales person what they wanted to achieve from the meeting. Boldly they said “I want the business”. Now I like a confident sales person, but felt a little nervousness at this blunt response.

Now I could go on into minute detail about objective setting at this point, but will choose to leave that to another time.

The meeting itself

After a few minutes we were escorted to the prospects office and the face to face sales process starts. Mostly the questions were good, and despite a lot of closed questions from the sales person the prospect was warm and friendly making it easier for him to find out key information. A few things were missed, but unable to resist being in a live sales situation with potentially a very hot opportunity to close, I did jump in with a few relevant questions of my own.

We established what the prospect was looking for and discovered that there was another contact at the Head Office near York who made the decisions for the whole group. The sales person was very happy that all appeared to be going well in front of me so we left the meeting shaking hands with a promise to email the prospect back with a price later on that day.

The debrief

Then as we walked across the car park to go back to the office the following conversation took place.


“That is a great opportunity, but why didn’t you ask for the business?”

The sales person:

“I need to send them a price first.”


“Why didn’t you give a price to the prospect while we were in the meeting?”

The sales person:

“Oh I forgot to take my prices with me.”


“How do you think you could improve on that next time?”

The sales person:

“Remember to take my price list with me?”


“What do you think you could do to help you remember next time?”

The sales person:

“Rely on my memory?

Yep it was hard work, so I decided to ask another question.


“That was kind of the prospect to suggest you contact the big decision maker at head office. What was the name of that person again?”

The sales person:

“Oh I can’t remember.”


“Why do you think you can’t remember?”

The sales person:

“I didn’t write it down.”


“Is that because you didn’t open your presenter and make any notes?”

The outcome

Did the sales person get an order in response from his email? – No because the prospect replied back saying that another supplier had already solved the problem.

How did he find out the name of the decision maker at Head Office? – Well I told him as I had made notes during the meeting. However, several weeks later I found out that he still hadn’t managed to speak to the big decision maker at head office.

Needless to say the sales person learnt two valuable lessons that day.

  1. If he had the pricing on him, he might have just managed to close the business there and then in the meeting. Let’s face it the prospect had already said they were going to buy in the next 24 hours, so why not ask for the business as soon as possible.
  2. If he had opened his presenter and made notes he would have been able to contact the main decision maker. Relying on ones memory is a risky strategy. Making notes helps remind you as well as demonstrating to the prospect you are interested in them and their business.

In essence, if he had been better prepared with all the tools to hand and when needed actually used them, he would have more than likely won the business. His poor preparation badly affected the rest of the sales process so he never stood a chance at even trying to close.

Remember these wise words.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Fail to prepare – Prepare to fail” user=”@SucceedatSellin” hashtags=”#SalesTips”]

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