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I Screwed Up

by Doug Davidoff | Dec 16, 2010 11:06:00 AM

Selling (the right way) is hard.  As we train and lead salespeople and executives all across North America, I regularly try to remind them that selling is, in fact, difficult, and that it’s remarkably easy to fall back on old, natural habits that get in the way of making the sale.

Just today, I made a basic selling mistake.

I was introduced to the CEO (I’ll call him Mike) of a young, growing company by a fellow consultant who arranged the meeting.  She set me up perfectly and my initial call with the Mike went phenomenally well.  In hindsight, I think it went too well.

Mike got right into the growth opportunity he was pursuing.  I asked some good diagnostic questions and we got deep into conversation.  I was able to identify the problem he was having and that was preventing his desired result.  I shared my observation with Mike.

Mike was very grateful for the insight, agreed with it and asked me the greatest prospect question of all time – “Doug, how can you help me solve this problem?”

So I floated some trial balloons, laying out some ways that we “might” be able to address the problem.  Mike was eating out of my hand.  I said give me a week or so to put some specific ideas together and he agreed.  He finished the call by saying, “Doug, I really feel good about what you’re saying and I’m excited to be able to have a guy like you help me deal with everything.”  If that’s not a buying sign – I don’t know what is.

Fast forward to my webex presentation.  Executed flawlessly.  Mike is loving everything that I’m telling him.  Now it’s time for the closing question:

Mike, on a scale of 1-10 how do you feel about what I’ve shared so far and moving forward.

Mike’s answer – “15…

(Ready for the shoe to drop)

…I just need to talk with my two other partners and run this by them.  Doug, would you be willing to share your thoughts with them?”

$%^&!!  Partners?!  Partners?!  Mike never said he had partners.  How could Mike let me do all this work and not tell me he had partners?!

Oh yeah – I never asked.  I got so caught up in the “clarity” of the situation, I completely messed up some of the most basic tenants of any sales situation.  Now to Mike’s partners I’m just a solution – and as I’ve written before, solutions are worthless.

I created a tremendous amount of value with Mike because we collaborated on diagnosis.  Mike’s partners didn’t get to participate in diagnosis, so they didn’t get that value.  No wonder they’re wondering how I’m different than other consultants.

I think I’ll save the sale.  I’ve made mistakes frequently enough that I’ve also learned how to recover from them.  The point of my story is selling is hard.  We constantly make mistakes and, unfortunately, they’re often the same mistakes.

But remember, making mistakes is part of the game when you’re growing.  The real story isn’t in making a mistake – it’s in adjusting and learning from the mistake.