It was a hot August day and they were about forty-five minutes early to demonstrate their data technology services. Scott and his partner decided to get a cold drink at the closest convenience store. He bought a super-large frozen cherry drink, and his partner got a lime-flavored one.

They drove back to the prospect’s building and sat in the visitor’s spot, mentally preparing while they finished their frozen drinks. When they were ready to go, Scott looked over, and his partner’s mouth, lips, teeth, and tongue were bright green – really bright, like a clown’s.

He grabbed the rearview mirror and flipped it toward his face. Scott’s features were glowing red.

They couldn’t wipe it off. An oily rag under my seat was equally useless and their corporate brochures refused to absorb the dramatic colors.

circus selling.jpg

It was time for the appointment so the two guys walked to the entrance. People in the lobby actually burst out laughing at these two sales bozos. They sat down with the president, but were so rattled about how silly they looked; they gave the most uninspiring presentation one could imagine. The reps were asked never to come back.

POSTMORTEM: Obviously, thinking more carefully about one’s actions just before a sales call is important. However, the psychological reason a call like this fails is that you can’t gain rapport with a prospect if he or she is uncomfortable being sold to by circus clowns. That is unless you happen to be calling on another circus clown, or the Ringmaster, or minimally, the guy with the shovel who follows behind the elephant. There’s no hope for a rep who makes an unprofessional first impression on a prospect. I told this tale while speaking to the worldwide conference of the Sales & Marketing
Executives International, and received a smart suggestion for Scott: Bring some frozen drinks for the prospect, too – it might just save the sale.

© 2006 Sales Autopsy by Dan Seidman, Kaplan Publishing, coming in October 2006.

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