How poor qualifying nearly cost me my life

Every salesperson knows that poor qualifying can cost you a sale. But poor qualifying can also be detrimental to your health, and possibly even fatal. Allow me to explain.

Back when I lived in England, I decided to add a bit of excitement to my life with a Honda 350 Twin motorcycle. I loved that bike (in spite of breaking my foot driving it home from the dealership on the day I bought it – but that’s another story!).

Close to my home at that time, there was a lovely straight stretch of divided highway leading into a wide traffic circle with great sight lines. If you hit that circle at the right time when there was no other traffic on it, it was a left-right-left combination of tight curves that produced a high octane blast of pure adrenaline. What a rush!

On the day in question, my house mate had brought his new girlfriend back to our place for the first time.

She gushed when she saw the Twin parked outside. “Oh – I love motorbikes! Will you take me for a ride? Pleeeease?”

“Sure, if you’re up for it.”

I fished my spare helmet out of the closet, we climbed on, started it up, and were off. I headed straight to the divided highway and the traffic circle. As we approached the circle, I could see the road was clear.

“Are you okay?” I shouted back over my shoulder.

“Great!” came the reply.

So I cranked the throttle, and we were pushing 70 mph going into the first left of the triple curve.

Now, as anyone who has driven or ridden pillion on a bike will tell you, when rounding a curve, you lean the bike into it, rather than actually steering around it. There are very few things more thrilling than leaning into a bend at high speed.

As we approached the traffic circle, I shifted my weight and leaned the bike over to the left to take us around the first curve. Immediately, there was a scream from the back seat, and the rear wheel started to wobble from side to side as it was subjected to the competing forces of me trying to lean the bike into the curve, and my passenger trying to correct my leaning. At 70 mph, you don’t want the bike to be wobbling like that. If you come off at that speed, something very nasty is going to happen to you.

Reacting instinctively, I threw my weight to the right to straighten the bike out. That got us around the right-hand section of the curve. I slowed right down for the next left to take us off the circle and put us back on the highway. Thank goodness we were on that traffic circle and the road was clear when all this happened. If there had been any other vehicles in the circle at the same time, we would surely have hit one of them. If we had been on a regular road, my manoeuvring would have put us straight into the path of on-coming traffic. Either way I would almost certainly not be here writing this today.

We were very lucky, but that didn’t prevent me being infuriated, and very frightened. As soon as I could, I stopped the bike, put it on it’s stand, and jumped off.  I was literally trembling.

“What the heck were you doing?” I screamed, pointing back the way we had come.

“Why?” was her tremulous reply. “What happened?”

“You nearly killed us, that’s what happened!”

“Well, I got scared! I thought we were going to crash.”

Then it struck me. She didn’t know how to ride! What happened was entirely my fault. Based on her initial enthusiasm, I assumed that she had ridden before.

“Have you ever been on a bike before?”

Neglecting to ask that one simple question almost cost two people their lives.

In a trembling voice, she replied: “No – this was my first time. I thought it would be fun.”

“Well it is if you know what you’re doing. We just got very lucky.”

Seeing the look of fear and trepidation on her face, I apologized for shouting at her. We got back on the bike, and I drove her home – very carefully.

Looking back on this incident, I realize now that there are three very good lessons in it for salespeople. Follow these three rules to ensure you are fully qualifying prospects:

  1. Never assume anything. When in doubt, ask.
  2. Prepare for your sales calls by really thinking about the information you need, and about how to phrase your questions to gather that information as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  3. Write down a list of all the possible questions you will need to ask during the call.

Poor qualifying isn’t likely to kill you, but it will cost you sales.

Try these tips – they work!

(And, please, if someone asks you for a ride on your bike, for goodness sakes ask: “Have you ever been on a bike before?”)

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