“Guess what – I tried it and it worked!”

These were the first words I heard when I answered the phone in the middle of a training workshop.  Normally I wouldn’t answer a phone during a workshop, but we were in a hotel boardroom, and the call came through on the hotel phone, so I answered it. There was a very excited voice on the other end.

“Derrick! I know you’re in a seminar, and I’m sorry to interrupt but I just had to call you so that you could tell the group what happened. Can you talk now?”

Two weeks prior to this, I had conducted a sales training workshop with a group of salespeople. The workshop I was conducting on the day I received the call was with a second group of salespeople from the same company. It was mid-morning of the second day of the workshop when the call came through.

I was intrigued, and so I asked the group to excuse me while I took the call.

“Go ahead – what’s up?”

“Well – you remember we talked about how to approach prospects, and then you told us about sending an agenda for our sales meetings?”

“Sure I do – in fact we discussed that yesterday with this group.”

“Well – guess what – it works! I’ve been trying to get a meeting with the Purchasing Manager with ABC Company for over two years. He turned me down every time I tried. So he was the guy I targeted when we were practicing the initial call and the agenda technique. You know what?” he asked.


“He gave me the appointment and I just got back from the meeting.”

“What happened?”

“Well – I used the phone call approach we’d practiced during your workshop, and he gave me an appointment to meet him. Then I sent him an agenda for the meeting just as you had taught us. He’s asked me to quote on a $100,000 bid and I was so excited I had to call you so you can tell the class that your stuff works!”

“Wow- that’s fantastic.” I replied as he paused for a breath!

“Yeah – not only that, but I asked him at the end of the meeting why he had agreed to see me after all this time. He told me he was waiting for me to approach him as a professional so he knew it wouldn’t be a waste of his time. He told me I had finally acted like a professional, so he decided to see me. Now I have a good chance at a $100,000 order! You have to tell the class what happened so they’ll pay attention and try this!”

We hung up and I relayed what had happened to the class. Talk about getting a real time endorsement for what you’re teaching!

There are several morals to this story:

1. Never give up – persistence pays.

2. Communicate the value in meeting with you when you approach new prospects for an appointment.

3. Send an agenda prior to your meeting  that states what you and the prospect will accomplish during the meeting (whether it be face-to-face or a phone meeting). You can either send this as a separate e-mail, or include it in the body of your meeting notice to the prospect.

By the way, this salesperson called me a month later to say that he had been awarded the order.

Try it – it works!

How an earring cost me a $150,000 sale

Someone smarter than me once said: “If you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not learning.” I seem to have taken that to heart, because I sure have learned a lot over the years! This is the tale of one of my learning experiences.

This story is about cement. The properties of cement can vary widely depending on the mix of the raw materials that go into it. To ensure the right “pour”, and avoid potential disasters, the composition of the final mixture has to be exactly right for the particular building application for which it will be used. I share this with you because some years ago, I was selling for a company that made a $150,000 instrument that used X-ray technology to accurately measure the composition of cement while in production.

I was living in Toronto at the time, and we had a very good prospect at a cement plant in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. My boss and I decided that it was a good enough opportunity for me to take a trip out there and make a sales call on the General Manager of the plant. We didn’t make this decision lightly. Canada is a big country, and a trip to Cornerbrook for a 1-hour sales call involved a day’s travel there and a day back, plus two night’s stay in Cornerbrook due to the paucity of flights. It was a big expense, but it was a big opportunity. We believed the sale was 75% made and that a personal sales call would be enough to seal the deal. So, off I flew to Newfoundland and I made the sales call the morning after arriving in Cornerbrook. I turned up at the plant, and was shown into the GM’s office.

Since this was a meeting with the senior executive on site, I was dressed in a way that I thought was appropriate – booted and suited with my best “bib and tucker” (as my Mum used to say!). The GM most definitely wasn’t suited and booted. In fact, he looked like he’d just stepped off the production line at a cement plant! Go figure.

To say the first few minutes were awkward is something of an understatement. Everything about the prospect’s attitude and body language was signalling that he didn’t think this “suit” from Toronto had anything worthwhile to say. I felt like a fish out of water, but decided to ignore the feeling and press on with the meeting anyway. The trip was costing too much not to.

I made some small talk about how beautiful Cornerbrook was and launched into my opening statement.  My first qualifying question was met with a stone-faced silence. I figured maybe he was uncomfortable with my being dressed in a suit and tie, but as I sat waiting for an answer, he suddenly leaned over to his right in his chair and stared at the left side of my head. With a look of utter disgust, he pushed himself upright in his chair and remained stoically silent.

And that was when I realized what the problem was. Two days before I left for Cornerbrook, I had decided to get an earring. It was all the rage at the time, and the ladies loved a man with an earring (in fact, my wife told me it was one of the things that attracted her to me when we first met!). The problem was that when they pierced the ear and put in a hoop, they stressed that I could not take it out for at least a week. I took them at their word, and left the hoop in. I didn’t really think much about it after that. Until the trip to Cornerbrook that is.

At this point, we were only ten minutes into the meeting, and it was clearly going nowhere. I tried another question which was met with another stony silence. I didn’t know what to do at that point, so I meekly asked him if this was a good time for our meeting. With a disdainful look, he stood up, said he had to get back to the plant, and walked me to the door. That signalled the end of the meeting, and I knew that as I said goodbye him, I was also saying goodbye to a potential $150,000 sale.

The meeting had started at 10:00 am, and it was now 10:10, so I had 24 hours to wait until my flight home the next morning. And here’s the thing – the only good part of this was that Newfoundland is an incredibly beautiful province with magnificent vistas and wonderful people, and so I spent the day sight-seeing.

When I finally made it back to Toronto, I didn’t have the nerve to tell my boss what had happened, so I told him the prospect had decided to go with the competition, which actually wasn’t a lie since that is what he eventually did! Would he have bought from us if I didn’t have the earring? We’ll never know, but I think we would have had a much better chance.

There were several lessons in this for me:

1. Think about what the prospect’s facility is going to be like, and anticipate how your prospect will be dressed.

2. Dress appropriately for the prospect you are calling on. Suits are fine for offices and boardrooms, but for production facilities, construction sites, etc., best to dress it down a notch, (like khakis and a golf shirt, and no tie).

3. If you are going to be a slave to fashion and do something radical like a piercing or a tattoo, try and keep it out of the work place. You never know how people are going to react.

Try it – it works!

How much money is your company wasting on lead generation?


How much does your company spend on lead generation and lead nurturing? Lead generation and nurturing is a huge business segment now, so the chances are that they spend a lot of time and money delivering leads into their salespeople’s hands. So isn’t it a shame that so much of that time and money are wasted?

Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate why I say this.

Before I do that, though, I should first explain that I have two e-mail addresses – the one I use for all of my Delaine business (dpick@delaineconsulting.com), and another e-mail that I use on a personal level and when signing up for webinars, white papers etc. (derrick.pick@sympatico.ca). The reason I do this is so that my company e-mail doesn’t get clogged with all the marketing e-mails and spam that seem to come my way these days. And frankly, I also do it to test the skills of the salespeople who will be contacting me.

So – back to my examples.

I recently signed up for a webinar, and if you’ve signed up for any webinars in the last 5 years, you’ll know that they are one of the most common methods of generating prospect leads. Sure enough, a couple of days after the webinar, my participation triggered a lead nurturing campaign to start.

The first e-mail I received warned me that it takes an average of 6 contacts to get to speak with a prospect. Right off the bat, they told me they were going to hound me at least six times before they gave up. At least they were honest.

Later that day, I got the first call from the salesperson. I didn’t answer because I was busy so he left a message. This was the standard: “I’m just calling to get your feedback from the webinar and hopefully see how we can help Sympatico with your lead generation campaigns….” Help Sympatico? For those of you who don’t know, Sympatico is the Internet Service Provider arm of Bell Canada. Needless to say it was obvious this salesperson had not done any research on me whatsoever. I had absolutely zero motivation to call back, so I didn’t.

The next day, he called again and left another message which was basically a repeat of his first voice mail. Again, I didn’t call back. For the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th call, I could see from my caller history that he just dialed my number and didn’t bother leaving a message. I suspect he then noted in this CRM that he had made the obligatory 6 attempts, and checked the “Not interested” box.

The point is that with just a couple of minutes of research, this salesperson could have discovered quite a bit about me. My LinkedIn profile is very detailed, quite clearly stating that my company is called Delaine Consulting, not Sympatico. A quick check of the website would have provided more information, and then the salesperson could have crafted a customized message that would have motivated me to call back.

One more example. I received a “cold” call from a gentleman who identified himself as the VP of Sales and Marketing for his company. I answered the call, and it was immediately obvious the caller knew nothing about me or my business since in his opening statement he referred to wanting to know how he could help Sympatico grow our business. I asked him if he knew what I did, and he admitted that he did not know. I asked him if he knew the name of my company and he replied hesitantly: “you mean it’s not Sympatico?” I asked him why he hadn’t done any research before calling, and he said he didn’t have time since he had such a long list of people to call. Hmmm….

Coincidence? I think not. Am I being deceptive using a general ISP address in registering for these webinars or when requesting a white paper? I think not. Every registration form now has a mandatory field for the company name, and I always complete it with Delaine Consulting Inc., regardless of which e-mail I use. My company name is right there for them to see if only they’d look.

This behaviour is very typical, and the example I gave earlier of the voice mail message is pretty much the “norm” rather than the exception. Which brings me back to my earlier question of: “Isn’t it a shame that so much of that time and money are wasted?”

Here are a few tips to make sure that the money your company is investing pays off for you:

1. Remember that the objective of this first contact is to engage with the prospect, and have them engage with you. You are not selling your product or service on this first contact, you are selling your credibility and your company’s credibility. Credibility leads to engagement. You do want engagement, don’t you?

2. Do your homework! I want to know that a salesperson has at least done enough research to know my company name and what it is that we do before they call. I’m not advocating spending hours researching every prospect, but it only takes two minutes to scan a LinkedIn profile, and check out a website. If you do this, you’ll have more than enough intelligence to craft your customized value message. You are on LinkedIn, aren’t you?

3. It’s quality that counts, not quantity. Prospects are inundated with marketing and sales messages, so make yours stand out from the crowd by customizing your prospecting script, voice mail messages, and e-mails, and communicating the specific value of engaging with you (the prospect’s WIIFM – What’s In It For Me). That doesn’t mean re-inventing the wheel on every call, but it does mean customizing your script template to the customer you are contacting. You do have a script template that you can easily customize, don’t you?

4. If you are a sales manager, make sure your salespeople are trained and coached in how to make effective prospecting calls. And make sure you’re measuring the right metrics – it’s the number of meaningful dialogues that count, not how many dials and contacts are made. Meaningful dialogues are the only measure that truly counts. You do want your salespeople to have meaningful dialogues don’t you?

Try it – it works!

“Should I just leave now?”


“Should I just leave now,” I asked.

“Yes, I think that would be best.” was the reply.

So ended one of the most ignominious sales calls I have ever made.

At the time, I was selling scientific instruments for a company headquartered in Princeton, NJ. I was living in Toronto, and my territory was Eastern Canada. My typical customers were research scientists in the Physical Sciences: energy, metallurgy, mining, environmental studies, etc.

We had received an enquiry about one of our instruments called an Optical Multichannel Analyzer (OMA for short). OMA’s sound complex, but they are quite simple, really. Basically they’re instruments used in long term Physical Science experiments to count “events” such as a flash of light, a pulse of electricity, or a change in a magnetic field. Many of these types of experiments continued for months, and often years.

I called the scientist who had made the enquiry (we’ll call him Dr. Smith), and we discussed his research, and how he would use the OMA. Although there were several competitive counters on the market, it was obvious from our conversation that he was very interested in ours. I asked the prospect if he wanted to go ahead with an order, and he replied that he was prepared to do that, but asked if it was possible for me to bring one to his lab for a demonstration so he could try it before he ordered it.

I told him I would see what I could do, so when I got back to my office, I called our factory to see if we could get one shipped up to Canada. They said that would not be a problem, and that, in fact, if the scientist liked it, he would be able to keep it if he was prepared to order it immediately. This was a nice $15,000 order so I was quite happy with that arrangement.

I set up the appointment to meet again with Dr. Smith. Since I had not seen this particular instrument before, I asked the factory to ship the OMA a few days prior to the demonstration so that I had time to learn how to use it before I went to see Dr. Smith. Regrettably I hadn’t reckoned on the diligence of our Customs agency, and three days later, it still hadn’t arrived. I called Princeton to find out where it was, and they told me it had been shipped the day I requested it. Upon tracing the package, my fears were realized – the shipment was missing a key piece of documentation, and was being held by Customs until the document could be produced.

Finally, on the day before my appointment with Dr. Smith, the appropriate document arrived, and I was able to extricate the instrument from the grasp of the Customs department. Unfortunately, it was late in the day by this time, and since I had a date that night, I didn’t have a lot of time to familiarize myself with the counter.

That’s okay, I thought – I’ll look at it in the morning before my appointment. However, the morning got away from me, and soon enough, it was time for me to go and see Dr. Smith without me ever taking the counter out of its box. I wasn’t too worried, though. How difficult could it be? All Dr. Smith had to do was plug in a few leads, we would turn the counter on, and away it would go. No worries.

I arrived at Dr. Smith’s laboratory, and after some preliminary chat, we unpacked the OMA and set it up on his bench. Dr. Smith plugged in the leads, looked expectantly at me, and told me it was ready for me to turn on.

With Dr. Smith looking on eagerly, I searched for the On/Off switch. And I searched and searched and kept on searching! This thing wasn’t very big – about 12” x 12” square, and about 6” deep, but do you think I could find that switch? Heck, no!

After what seemed like 2 hours, but was probably only about 2 minutes, I looked around at Dr. Smith in frustration and asked him if he knew where the On/Off switch was. Wordlessly he examined the counter and then declared that he couldn’t find it either. This was becoming very embarrassing. After another fruitless search, Dr. Smith wondered aloud:

“You don’t know where the switch is? But your company makes this machine.”

After another minute of head scratching, Dr. Smith finally picked up the instrument and looked on the bottom of it. Sure enough, there was the switch, with a prominent sticker beside it saying: DO NOT TURN OFF WITHOUT PERMISSION. I found out later that the switch was hidden underneath so that no-one could mistakenly turn it off in the middle of an experiment that might last for months, if not years.

I was elated at this discovery, but Dr. Smith was not. In fact, he said nothing at all as he quietly unplugged his leads.

“So – what do you think?” I asked.

Without looking up at me, he slowly shook his head and with more than a little disdain, replied:

“I don’t think so.”

I thought about explaining that the package had gotten held up in Customs, but that would have been a poor excuse. The fact is that I should have postponed my date and spent the previous evening familiarizing myself with the instrument, and no amount of excuses would have been sufficient to assuage my incompetence. I saw the sale evaporate before my eyes.

“Should I just leave now?” I asked.

“Yes, I think that would be best.”

I learned a couple of lessons that day:

  1. It just goes to show that if you don’t go the extra mile, you will miss out on what could have been.
  2. Successful people do the things that are necessary, instead of the things that they want to do.
  3. Before demonstrating anything – instrument, software, hardware or whatever – make sure you know how it works before attempting to demonstrate it.

Try it – it works!

“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.


“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!

“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”

After having connected with a prospect, qualified their explicit needs, and given a dynamite presentation, the last words you want to hear are:  “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” Here’s how one salesperson successfully handled this put-off.

Tina (not her real name) was part of a team of inside salespeople at a major computer manufacturer, selling systems to individual consumers and small businesses. Three months before, I had conducted a new hire sales training program for Tina and her peers.  As a group, they had come out of the starting gate running, averaging a 14% closing ratio in their first week, which rose to 19% during the next three months. That ratio would have been even higher, but Tina’s personal closing ratio was languishing at 7%, so she was pulling the group average down.

Tina’s manager told me: “I need you to coach Tina. She’s at the bottom of the heap in terms of sales. She just can’t seem to close. Could you spend some time with her and see if you can figure out how to boost her closing ratio? If we can’t get her sales up, I will probably have to let her go. ”

I sat down with Tina and asked her why she thought she wasn’t able to close more sales than she was.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m following the process, and doing what you told us to in the training. I know the products, and I get on really well with the customers, but I just can’t seem to get them to order.”

“How far along in the sales process do you get before they turn you down?” I asked.

“Well – that’s just it – I go through the whole process, and when I ask for the order, most of them say: ‘Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.’ And then they just don’t call back.”

“What do you say to them at that point?”

“I give them my direct extension and ask them to call back if they want to place the order. If I’ve quoted them, I give them the quote number so they don’t have to go through the whole configuration process again.”

“And what do they say?”

“They thank me and hang up.”

“And do they call back?”

“Not many of them – I’ve only had a couple call me back.”

“Do you call them back?”

“Sometimes, but we don’t get a lot of time for outbound calls – we’re so busy with the inbound queue.”

I thought about Tina’s answers for a moment, and then said:

“Okay. Let me talk to your manager about the inbound call volume and see if we can do anything about getting you more time to make proactive outbound calls. That’s one thing that will boost your closing ratio. Now, let’s think about how else we could increase your sales. Do you remember in the training when we talked about a question you could ask of a customer who says: “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”?


“And do you remember what the question was?”

“Mmmm- wasn’t it one of those ‘Obviously….’ questions?”

“That’s right. The actual question was: Obviously something specific is causing you to hesitate – do you mind if I ask what it is?”

“Yes – I remember that.”

“Have you tried asking it?”

“Oh no!”

“Obviously there must be a good reason why you haven’t tried it – do you mind if I ask what it is?”

“Oh – I couldn’t say that!”

“Why not?”

“It’s just not me – I wouldn’t feel right saying that.”

“It’s only words, and they might just get you more business. What’s the worst that can happen if you ask that question?”

“Well, I guess they could just not answer or they could hang up.”

“And you don’t get the sale. But what if they told you what was causing their hesitation, and you could do something about it and help them decide there and then?

“I guess I’d probably close more sales.”

“You might. Do you think it’s worth a try?”

“I guess so,” was her hesitant reply.

We role played the question a couple of times and when she felt she was ready, Tina logged on and took a call from the inbound queue. It was from a mother who wanted to buy a computer for her son.

The call went swimmingly well – Tina qualified the mother, configured a system, priced it, and asked the standard closing question of the time: “Will you be using a credit card for this order today?”

The mother replied with the dreaded: “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days.”

I had been anticipating this, so I had taken out a large piece of paper, and on it I had written: “Obviously something specific is causing you to hesitate, do you mind if I ask what it is?” in big, red, capital letters. I held the paper up and mouthed at Tina: “Say this.”

Tina asked the customer to hold for a moment, then turned to me and said:

“No – I can’t say that – it’s not me.”

“Yes you can,” I implored. “You can do it, it’s just some words. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Tina winced and said: “Okay, I’ll try it.”

She brought the customer back on the line, thanked her for holding, and haltingly read the question.

After a couple of moments of contemplation, the customer said: “You know what, Tina – you’ve been so nice, and the price looks good – I guess I don’t have any reason to hesitate – let’s go ahead with this.”

Tina was so surprised she almost fell out of her chair. She finished the details of the order, thanked the lady for her business, and ended the call. She turned to me in delight, high-fived me, and exclaimed:

“It worked, it worked! Wow – let’s take another call…..”

The very next call was from a doctor wanting two systems for his office. After qualifying, configuring and pricing the systems, Tina asked for the business, and the doctor said he wanted to think about it for a couple of days. This time she confidently came straight out with the question with no fear or trepidation. Amazingly, the same thing happened – the doctor thought about it for a few seconds, then said he didn’t see any reason to hesitate, and he gave Tina the order!

Happily, that month Tina doubled her closing ratio and kept her job.

There are several morals in this tale:

  • Don’t get suckered into thinking that just because the customer says they will call back that they actually will.
  • Don’t let your imagination work against you to prevent you from trying new techniques. If you are going to imagine an outcome, imagine a positive outcome, rather than a negative one.
  • Do try new ideas and techniques – the worst that can happen is you probably won’t be any worse off than before you tried them, and the best that can happen is you get the order!
  • This is a great technique for helping customers get over their hesitation.

Try it – it works!

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share the link with any colleagues or friends you think may enjoy it as well.

If at first you don’t succeed….

I was brought in to one of Canada’s major banks to coach a group of VP’s and Directors who managed large corporate accounts (they were recently been tasked with bringing three new accounts on board with the bank each year by making prospecting calls to C-level executives).

Now, these people had never actually made any prospecting calls before so this was daunting for them, and the bank brought me in to facilitate a workshop on the subject to ease them into it, and then afterwards to provide individual coaching on actual calls to prospects.

We had completed the workshop, and now it was time to coach. This particular coaching was with a Senior V.P. whom we will call Linda. I asked Linda who we were going to call, and one of the prospects she had selected and researched was the CEO of a food distribution company at the city’s main Food Terminal. She had prepared her script and we rehearsed a few times before she dialled.

The CEO picked up immediately, and without any polite preliminaries, simply barked out:


Linda launched into her script:

“Good morning.  This is Linda calling from XYZ Bank….” was as far as she got. As soon as she announced the name of her bank, the CEO spat out something in a language that we presumed was Italian, and then he hung up. Neither Linda nor I speak Italian, so we had no idea what he had said, but we were pretty sure it wasn’t: “Have a nice day.”

Linda looked at me and shrugged and asked what she should do. I asked her if she felt like calling back. She was game for that and asked me what she should say.

“When he answers, tell him who you are again, and say that you must have gotten cut off.”

She dialled his number, and he answered in the same gruff manner:


“Oh hi – this is Linda from XYZ bank again – we must have gotten cut off.”

This time he replied in English:

“Listen, lady – we didn’t get cut off, I hung up on you, and I’m going to do it again!”

And with that, he hung up.

Linda asked me what she should do. She was plucky enough to give it one more try, so I told her what to say this time. She dialled the number, and again got the same greeting.


“This is Linda again. Obviously you must have had a good reason for hanging up on me, do you mind if I ask what it was?”

There was a moment’s silence, and then he said:

“Where are you calling from again?”

“I’m a Senior Vice President with XYZ Bank.”

Again a moment’s pause, and then:

“Okay, lady – you’ve got 30 seconds – what is it you want?”

“The reason for my call is….”

Linda launched into her prepared and rehearsed 15-second value statement, and without pausing for breath, asked for an appointment. There was another moment of silence, and then he replied:

“Alright – I guess you’ve earned it.” And he gave her the appointment.

There are a couple of lessons here:

1. Perseverance pays. In the words of Robert Bruce:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

2. You had better have a well prepared and rehearsed value statement when you make prospecting calls.

3. The variant of “Obviously you must have a good reason for saying that, do you mind if I ask what it is?” question that Linda used worked like a charm. It really is the most useful question in selling.

Try it – it works!

“Are you talking to me?”

A few years ago, I was contracted by a client to conduct some sales training in Hong Kong. Getting there involved flying from Toronto to San Francisco via Air Canada, and then, after a 4-hour layover, going on to Hong Kong with Singapore Airlines. The 4-hour layover wasn’t going to be so bad since I was flying Business Class, and had access to the Singapore Airlines airport lounge.

I made my way to the lounge, and was greeted by a charming lady with a wonderful smile.

“Welcome to Singapore Airlines, Mr. Pick. Please help yourself to the refreshments. My name is Linda, and if there’s anything else you need, please let me know.”

I thanked her and went into the lounge. There were all of four people in there, so I had the run of the place for a while. As the time drew closer to my flight, though, the lounge was filling up, and by the time I left, there must have been about 150 people in there.

As I passed the reception desk, Linda was talking to another passenger, but after I had made my way a few steps past her, I heard her say: “Thank you for using our lounge, Mr. Pick, and have a wonderful flight.”

I took another couple of steps before it dawned on me. She had just called me by name. I stopped in my tracks and headed back to the reception desk.

“Excuse me – are you talking to me? Did you just call me by name?”

With a worried look, she asked: “Why? Did I get it wrong?”

“No. In fact you got it right.”

“Oh thank goodness,” she said with a relieved smile.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “There must be over a hundred people in there. Do you remember all of their names?”

Linda looked down and checked her list.

“A hundred and thirty seven to be exact – actually a hundred and thirty six now that you’re leaving. And yes, I try to remember all of their names.” She leaned forward conspiratorially and whispered: “Of course, I don’t get them all. Some of them I can’t even pronounce, but I do try and remember them all.”

“That’s remarkable,” I exclaimed. And even though I thought I knew the answer, I asked anyway: “Do you mind me asking why?”

“Oh – because it makes them feel good,” she replied, with a look that said “Why else would I do it?”

And it did. I felt like a king at that point – or at the very least, a prince!

“And how does it make you feel, Linda?” I asked.

“Wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to make other people feel good? Not everyone notices or cares, but when someone does, like you, I feel very proud to be of service.”

“That’s fantastic,” I said over my shoulder as I turned to walk away. “It’s a pleasure to have met you, Linda.”

“You too, Mr. Smith.”

I looked back at her in surprise, but she had a huge grin on her face. “Got you! Have a great flight, Mr. Pick.”

Remembering a person’s name is one of the ultimate compliments you can pay to them, and I walked away with an extra spring in my step and a warm feeling inside from my encounter with this remarkable person.

The moral to this story is that customers are not just looking for solutions to their needs; they are also looking to feel good about their experience in doing business with you. Do whatever you can to help people feel good about doing business with you, and you will generate more loyal and satisfied customers.

Try it – it works!

By the way, Hong Kong was amazing. I have to admit I was not looking forward to the trip. I’d heard the place was hot, humid, and crowded. My previous experience of Chinese food was of the Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls variety, and being a finicky eater, I was certain I would not like the food. A couple of weeks before the trip, I was whining about it to my family. My daughter, who was 13 at the time, looked at me and said:

“You know what, Dad? You’re looking at this trip all wrong. You should look at it as an adventure, not a chore. How lucky are you? You get to travel to amazing places, meet lots of different and interesting people, and you get paid for it!”

She was right, of course (smart girl, my daughter!). From that moment forward, I resolved to enjoy the experience as much as I possibly could. It was mind-blowing. Hong Kong is an incredible place, the people were the most hospitable I have met anywhere in the world, the food was fantastic, and the training was a resounding success. Definitely one of my most memorable trips, business or pleasure.

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?”)

“I figured it would be too expensive for you!”

“I figured it would be too expensive for you!”

These words came to mind a few days ago when I posted the following tweet:

Never say: “I know it seems expensive….”. The prospect will let you know if your price is too high without you putting words in their mouth. 

Let me explain. I suffer from a hiatus hernia – a tear in the wall of my stomach. I’ve had it since birth, and it causes me a great deal of discomfort and pain if I don’t eat regularly, or if I eat the wrong kinds of food. In extreme cases, surgery is necessary, but in the past two decades, several prescription medications have been introduced that help relieve the symptoms (antacids just don’t do the job for me!).

I started taking one of these medications a number of years ago – one pill per day to start with. Unfortunately, as my tolerance built up, the efficacy of the medication declined. I was soon up to two pills a day, then three, then eventually four per day.

As the medication became less effective, the list of foods I couldn’t eat or drink grew.  Spicy foods, curry, eggs, mayonnaise, tomatoes, alcohol, coffee, sugar,  etc.

Finally, enough was enough. With an upcoming trip to England (always guaranteed to bring on the worst of my symptoms) I decided to go back and see my doctor. I asked him if there was anything stronger available. He had some samples of different medications, and he gave me some to try.

What a difference the new pills made. Overnight, my symptoms all but disappeared, and during the England trip I was able to not only drink beer, but also eat curry without any adverse effects. Nirvana!

When I got home to Canada, I went back to see my doctor for a prescription for the new medication. I told him how great I felt, and how it had made my trip, and my life, that much more enjoyable. As he was writing the prescription, I asked him if the medication had just come onto the market.

“Oh no,” he said. “It’s been on the market for a number of years now.”

I asked him why he hadn’t prescribed it for me before.

“Well – they’re three times more expensive than your old pills, and since I know you don’t have any benefits or a drug plan, I figured they’d be too expensive for you.”

My doctor is a wonderful man, but frankly, I was a little taken aback.

“Really?” I replied. “I will gladly pay the price, they’ve made such a dramatic difference in my life. I was even eating curry in England, for goodness sakes.”

“Well, if you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll be able to eat all the curry you want, won’t you!”

With that I went off to get my prescription filled. However, the more I thought about the situation, the more upset I got. On the one hand, I really appreciated the fact that my doctor was looking out for my financial well-being as well as my health. On the other hand, though, I thought about all the needless pain I had endured because he had assumed I would find the pills too expensive, without even asking me or giving me the choice.

That got me wondering how often salespeople undermine their own success by making assumptions on behalf of their customers.

Have you ever:

– Made a decision on behalf of the customer?

–  Assumed a customer would find your price expensive, or worse, told them you think it’s expensive?

If we think our price is too expensive, even if we don’t vocalize it, it will subconsciously impact our negotiating power. Price is rarely the only consideration when making a purchasing decision.

The price your customer is prepared to pay for your product or service is measured by the value they will derive from it. This is different for each individual, and should never be assumed. Instead, you need to ask:

“What would this solution mean to you personally?”

If you ask, they will tell you, and you can then present value that is pertinent to that particular individual. Doing this will significantly enhance your closing ratio.

Try it – it works.

Please feel free to share this blog with anyone else you think would enjoy and learn from it.