I was sure-footed and confident as I arrived and then waited outside a meeting room at my client's office. They were having an annual type of planning meeting and the executives of the company - a manufacturer - had flown into this regional office. My contact arranged a meeting for me with the division president, CEO and others to discuss the idea of rolling out a training program nationally. I'd met with my contact who loved the results of our program for them and he'd coached me with an overview of the company and all the players in hopes that we could roll it out nationally.
As I sat outside of this room with what must have contained about 17 people, I started to realize the meeting was going long. I hadn't heard from anyone in quite some time and began to wonder what might be going on in there.
Finally, they had a break. People did not look upbeat though. They looked like they came out of the first round of a fight. I saw stress and some comments were being thrown around with ideas for the company.
I was escorted right in, and what I should have done back then was talk more about what had just happened and how it felt that the room seemed to me. I would have liked to get some interaction going on and perhaps be able to tie in comments from their earlier discussion into my ideas moving forward. Instead I dove into my presentation, oblivious to what had been going on for the past 90 minutes. My "internal coach" did not make eye contact. I sensed a problem, but continued.
Have you ever felt like time was suspended as you talked? That no one was really tuned into what you were saying? This was my experience with a board room full of managers and executives.
There was at least enough sense in me to make my presentation a bit shorter when I asked questions throughout and didn't get much in the way of answers. I wrapped up - asked for final questions (which of course there were none) and got out of there about as quick as I could.
Afterward my contact stepped out and told me that there had been a discussion about such extreme disappointing revenues company-wide that the conversation just before me was about closing manufacturing plants down - including the location I was meeting them at.
Kudos to me for picking up on something bad happening - but unfortunate I could not have addressed it to at least have had a more valuable 20 minutes with a group of people who had been thinking of doom and despair during my talk.
Nothing came of my presentation - the company laid off hundreds and shortly after was acquired. I learned a couple of things that day:
- Do more homework. I could have asked better questions to learn just how bad off this situation was - and postponed my presentation or totally altered it
- Don't just take one person's word as a total representation of their company. As mentioned previously, ask important questions and do the research
Finally - don't waste people's time. I could have stopped five minutes into it and shared how it felt in the room to see if they would open up - and if not - I would have ended the presentation for another time. It is like talking to someone who is fixated on reading an important message on their phone as you are trying to talk. You need their attention and input.
I was reminded of this story after seeing Openview's Experts Share their Worst Sales Horror Story and wanted to share mine. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I have many more - for Halloweens to come.
Do you have a worst sales story to share? We'd love to hear it - just drop it in the comments below.
Lori Richardson is recognized on Forbes as one of the "Top 30 Social Sales Influencers" worldwide. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside sales teams in mid-sized companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the "Sales Ideas In A Minute" newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.