Here’s something that can’t happen with virtual selling: your buyer can’t have Security throw you out of their building.
Which is too bad. Those are great and painful learning experiences.
I flushed a multi-million dollar opportunity with a prospect in the LA area because of a simple driving error.
It was an account I’d been trying to break into for a couple of years. Several others from my company previously had taken a run at it with no success. There was some concern on the buyer’s part that our technology would enable competitors to enter their market at a lower cost and steal share.
I cold called Dave, the Director of Ops. He gave me a little daylight. I worked my way up the food chain over the course of several meetings and months and Dave had finally brokered a meeting for me with the VP of Sales & Marketing.
This guy had a fearsome reputation in his industry for being a notoriously difficult person to deal with. Some folks had whispered to me that he held more power inside the company than the CEO and was trying to maneuver him out the door. And this VP was the guy with sole authority to make the actual purchase decision.
The goal for my meeting with him was to get his agreement to do a 90-day trial with our system.
I flew to LA the morning of the meeting. Due to delayed flights and LA traffic I was running late. I arrived at the buyer’s building with about 2 minutes to spare, only to find the entire parking lot was full. Not a single space was available.
After speeding around the building a couple more times I finally spotted an open slot near the back entrance. I quickly parked, grabbed my bag and sprinted to the front lobby entrance.
I walked into a modern space. An open atrium stretching up the fourth floor. The receptionist called my contact, Dave, who retrieved me and took me to a conference room on the fourth floor. He said the VP hadn’t arrived yet but would be there in a couple of minutes.
We had barely been seated and talking for sixty seconds when suddenly this booming, deep, and very angry voice echoed up from the atrium and bounced throughout halls and offices in the entire building.
“Who parked their f**king car in my f**king parking space?”
Dave froze in mid-sentence. Like someone was holding a gun to his head.
He looked at me with an expression that couldn’t quite contain the sheer amount of horror and panic he felt. He face went pale and I actually was worried he would pass out.
He quickly stood up. “Where did you park?”
Somewhere in back.
“An open space right by the back door?”
He grimaced in agony. Like I’d just slugged him in the gut. He just held out his hand and said “Well, thanks for coming…”
I asked Dave to take me to the VP’s office so I could apologize for having had the temerity to park my car in an empty, unmarked and otherwise unlabeled parking spot. The VP was so put out by my transgression that he refused to acknowledge me. He even refused to shake my hand.
Instead, he called security to come escort me from the building to my rental car.
And that was it. That was the last time anyone from that company would talk with me.
So, what lessons did I learn from my faux pas?
The first lesson is to always park as far away from the customer’s building as possible.
A second was to pay closer attention to detail. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry it probably would have dawned on me that there was a good reason that parking spot was still empty at 10 am.
More importantly, it doesn’t matter what medium you use to meet with buyers (video, phone, in-person, email, messaging) pay attention to the seemingly small cues the buyer is sending. Facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, word choices; they are all sending important messages if you’re focused and mindful in the moment.
Lastly, assume nothing. It was just a parking spot for goodness sakes. How important can that be? Well, as I learned, very. Exercise caution in your communications with buyers until you can confirm your assumptions. Here’s an example, I see and hear many sellers make the mistake of addressing buyers as “buddy” or “pal.” It’s lazy language and is based on the mistaken assumption that buyers are okay with this fake, forced familiarity.
Now that’s not the only time I was escorted from a building by Security. But those are stories for another day.
Bestselling author of Amp Up your Sales and Zero Time Selling, Andy Paul is #8 on LinkedIn’s list of the Top 50 Global Sales Experts to follow. With more than 170,000 followers, Andy is a highly sought-after speaker and sales sage who interviews the world’s foremost sales minds and extraordinarily interesting people to bring you strategies and insights that you can use to generate epic wins and massive value.