For those of you who don't know, I do sales for a living. For those of you who know a little bit about sales, you may be thinking "Then how the heck do you have time to write these seemingly endless scrolly posts?". Well, that's a good question, and as soon as I think of an answer, I'll give it to you...Actually, as I said in a previous post, I only cover about 8 accounts for my company. In my effort to support these people and reach my sales goals, I have discovered that there is an upper limit to how much time I can spend actively engaging the people in these accounts. At some point, you cross the line from "helpful, concerned, supportive salesperson" to "really big pain in the a$$". Over time I have developed a finely honed sense of just where that line lay. The result is that about 30% of my job now is just showing up.The good news is that I'm really, really good at just showing up. In fact, I would venture to say that I am the hands down champion at just showing up. I think it's a skill I developed during my military training. If ever there was a group of people who were concerned with people showing up, it was the military.Of course, that isn't what I wanted to tell you about today. Today, I wanted to tell you about a personal victory. You see, today I closed the sale of my career.It all started 3 years ago. I was searching through lists of companies in my territory and came across "The Big Fish". I was surprised that "The Big Fish" wasn't already covered by somebody else. I mean, this company was a household name, not just in this country but internationally. Surely somebody must have called them? I searched through our records and there was no evidence that anybody from my company had ever sold them a thing. Well, I thought, time to fix that...I tried calling the Network Manager at the company (we'll call him Jim) a bunch of times until one day I finally got him."Hi", I said, "It Steve from XXX""Stop right there", he said, "We're all set."Okay, now that's what everybody says at first..."Well", I replied, "I understand how you feel and I know you're short of time, but if you'll spare an hour of your time, I promise you it will be worth it...""Let me put it this way", he replied, "I've always thought people bought from (insert competitor name here) if they wanted well engineered products, and bought from your company if they preferred slick, glossy marketing."Ouch...he continued. "I don't think there's any reason for us to meet."Okay, I thought. So this might take a bit longer than I expected.I called his boss, the Director of Information Systems. We'll call him Sam."Hi Sam", I said, "I wanted to introduce myself and see...""Stop right there", said Sam, "I don't like your company, I don't like your products, and I'm pretty sure I won't like you. Meeting with you will be a waste of my time, since the only way your company would sell us products would be if I died first." (that is not an exxageration, by the way - it's a direct quote)Okay, so two things were clear to me: First, somebody at my company had made these guys really, really mad at some point. Second, there was no way I was going to take that laying down. I made it my life's mission to force Sam to buy and love my products.Opportunity for progress provided itself about 3 months later. I was attending a seminar and ended up sitting next to a low level networking guy from "The Big Fish". We got to talking and it turned out we had a lot in common - we were both engineers, both ex-military, and had kids about the same age. That was my big break.I called him a couple weeks later. "Hi Dave, it's Steve from XXX. We met at that seminar.""Oh sure", said Dave "how's it going?""Not bad", I replied, "how's it going with you?""Not good", he answered, "We had a major network problem last week that took all our systems down for over 4 hours.""Really", I replied, "That's too bad." Of course, it was anything but too bad. It was exactly the opportunity I had been looking for. I wrapped up the conversation with Dave and called Sam."Hi Sam", I began, "It's Steve from XXX. Word on the street is that you had some serious network issues last week. Anything we can help with?""We're fine", he replied.Well, I knew that wasn't true and since he chose to be less than honest, I decided it was time to take the gloves off. I called the CIO, who we'll call Tim. I got his voice mail..."Hi Tim", I began, "Steve from XXX. Listen, I heard you had some serious network issues last week. We're ready as a company to lend you equipment and engineers to help you stabilize the network. Call me and let me know how we can help."About an hour later the phone rang. It was Sam."Steve, it's Sam. I told you everything was fine. Calling my boss is only making the situation worse and isn't helping you or your company. Knock it off."We talked for about 30 seconds more before he hung up. It wasn't a good conversation, but any conversation was progress at this point.Dave and I started talking on a regular basis, sometimes about work, but often about other things. In one of the conversations he mentioned that they had another major network outage tied to their current equipment provider. I called Sam."Hi Sam, Steve again""What do you want?", he replied."Well, I heard you had another major network problem. We're more than willing to step in and help out with equipment and engineering expertise at no charge if you'll let us.""Everything is fine", he replied, "Don't worry about it."Okay, I thought, if you're not going to be honest, then I don't need to play nicely either. I called Tim back and got his voice mail again."Tim, Steve from XXX. Listen, we stand ready to come in and help you at no charge. Given how essential your network is to your business, and since we'll be doing the service for free, isn't is something you should consider? Call me..."The phone rang about 30 minutes later. It was Sam."Be in my office tomorrow at 10:00." CLICK! He hung up.Okay, I thought, an appointment. Now that's real progress.When I got to the appointment, I could tell it wasn't going to be a lot of fun. Sam's face was bright red and his knuckles were pure white as he gripped the edge of his desk."ARE YOU DEAF?!?", he began, apparently assuming that I was from the way he was yelling. "HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING BEFORE YOU LISTEN?!?!"I wasn't sure if that was a trick question, so I sat there quietly wearing the vacant, attentive smile that any long term husband quickly learns to master. He kept screaming for about 10 minutes and then seemed to wear himself out."Listen", he said, "You're wasting your time trying to sell to us. We won't be buying from you no matter how many times you call Tim." The meeting ended.I thought about it. He was right, I was wasting my time. I was trying to sell stuff to a guy who absolutely refused to hear why buying from me might be a good idea. I needed to try a different tactic.The tactic came to me about a month later in a company meeting. It turns out that my company was spending on the order of $1M/mo with "The Big Fish". It hardly seemed fair that we would spend so much and they wouldn't give us the time of day. I called their sales rep for my company and explained the situation and told him that I was going to have to run the difference between our respective spending up to my management to see if they wanted to let it continue. He understandably volunteered to help.The next thing I knew, I had a meeting with the CIO and the president of the company. Sam wasn't there. Amazing what sort of influence several million dollars will buy you.That meeting started the ball rolling. Sam initially tried to stop the momentum, but the pressure from the top was just too high. He was not happy with me and I'm pretty sure he still burns my image in effigy, but that was a small price to pay to take over the network at "The Big Fish."In any event, we spent the 12 months following the meeting with the CIO and the president working out the details and the pricing for replacing all their competitive gear with stuff made by my company. The purchase order for the project came in today. I won't mention dollar amounts, but I will tell you that we sold them a little over 7 metric tons of stuff. 7 metric tons of electronic equipment is a bunch of electronic equipment. My management seemed pretty satisfied with the sale...This sale was sweet in a lot of ways. First, it got me a lot of positive attention within my company. Second, it represents the successful conclusion of 3 years worth of work. Third, and most importantly, it gives me the satisfaction of seeing Sam up to his gills in the very same equipment he said he would rather die than buy. I guess there is something to be said for slick, glossy marketing after all.Steve
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