“Stop right there and don’t take another step!”

All I could see was his colossal silhouette filling up the doorway and blocking the view to his office. This was one big man. His arm came up and he held up his palm to indicate that I should not proceed any further. If the look of him made me nervous, the words he spoke struck terror in my heart:

“Stop right there,” he commanded, “And don’t take another step!”

So began my sales call on the VP of Sales Development for one of Canada’s biggest financial brokerage houses – a sales call I almost didn’t make.

I had been referred to the VP (we’ll call him Dave) by their Human Resources Manager, a good friend of ours. She had mentioned me to him and he asked his executive assistant to arrange a meeting for us.

Now, I should tell you that this was early on in the existence of Delaine Consulting. We had been in business for less than two years, having completed a number of projects for smaller companies, so it was a major coup to land an appointment with a senior guy in such a large and prestigious company. It was such a big deal for a fledgling company like ours that I was convinced that we couldn’t possibly bring any value to such an imposing organization.

In fact, I was so convinced that they wouldn’t need us that I decided there was no point in even turning up for the appointment. On the day in question, I arose from bed at the usual time, had some breakfast, took a shower, and then sat down on the edge of the bed to watch “Good Morning America” (this was in the days before Breakfast Television!).

After a few minutes, my wife came into the bedroom to get dressed for work.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“Don’t you have an appointment to go to?”

She knew I did since we had spent some time the night before rehearsing my approach to the meeting. She also knew what it would mean for us if we ended up doing some work for them.

“Yes, but I’ve decided not to go.”

She demanded to know why.

“What’s the point,” I sighed. “What on earth would a company like that need with us? There’s just the two of us, and they have hundreds of brokers. These are pretty sophisticated business people. Why would they need us? I just don’t see any point in going.”

“Hmmm. Don’t you tell salespeople to use positive self-talk?”

Hesitantly, I responded in the affirmative.

“And don’t you teach them to use their imagination positively instead of negatively?”

“Yes,” I grudgingly conceded (if the truth be told, I had actually used my imagination to amazingly negative effect and indulged in a bunch of negative self-talk that very morning, so much so that by the time I had finished showering, I had convinced myself that there was no way this company would need us).

“So for goodness sakes, start following your own advice. Get your backside off that bed, get dressed, and go and meet with this guy. How will you know they won’t need you if you don’t go and find out?”

She who would be obeyed had spoken, and I had no choice but to do what I was instructed to. Suited and booted, I headed out the door and drove into downtown Toronto. With extreme trepidation, I made my way up to Dave’s office to be greeted by his Executive Assistant:

“Dave is ready for you – you can go right in.”

As I walked towards his open office door, the doorway suddenly went dark, filled by the bulk of this mountain of a man. That’s when his voice boomed out the words:

“Stop right there, and don’t take another step!”

I froze in place and was absolutely dumbstruck. Dave continued to stand blocking the doorway.

“Do you have a basic sales training program? Because if you don’t, you’re of no use to me and there’s no point in us meeting.”

It took a couple of seconds for his words to sink in, and when they did, I could hardly believe my ears. After convincing myself earlier that I couldn’t be of any value to him, I had just discovered that he was interested in the only product we actually had back then – a basic sales training program. After a couple of seconds of stunned silence, I managed to stammer out that I did indeed have a basic sales training program.

“Well – don’t just stand there, come on in.” And with a deep booming laugh, he moved out of the doorway and waved me in.

Three hours later, I left his office with a mandate to create and deliver a customized training program for his new hire brokers. It was huge success, and was instrumental in catapulting our fledgling company to a new level of achievement!

There are a couple of morals in this story:

1. If you are going to talk to yourself prior to a sales call (and you will), use positive self-talk to boost your motivation and bolster your resolve.

2. Don’t let your imagination work against you – instead, use it to imagine and visualize a successful sales call with a positive outcome.

3. To be successful, we all need a supportive environment and an encouraging life partner to keep us going. But you’ll have to find your own – my wife is too busy coping with me to help you!

Try it – it works!

One thought on ““Stop right there and don’t take another step!”

  1. Derrick:

    What a great experience that you have shared. I can understand your initial hesitance however it was great that Elaine had a strong confidence in your ability to close deals. Sometimes we have a tendency to second-guess ourselves.

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