I like to categorize one of the worst things that have ever happened to me on a sales call as one of the BEST things that ever happened to me on a sales call.
Imagine heading up to a very important meeting at a large bank headquarters with a VP of Something Important and a Director of Muckety Muck to discuss the final process details of a big print project they had agreed to award my company. I was so close to signing this deal I needed this meeting to be smooth and simple.
I got off the elevator on the 12th floor and stopped in to get the key from the receptionist to use the executive washroom as I was a few minutes early and both nervous and excited. I set my large handbag with file folders and contract in it on top of the counter, washed my hands, and stepped away to dry them.
My overloaded handbag slowly fell over into the sink and with its descent, activated the motion sensor so that the faucet began blasting water into my purse. All you can do in this instance is scream and try to make it stop. It seemed like minutes of this water torture because my large purse was somewhat wedged under the faucet and all that frantic struggling did a fine job of turning it “NOT” off. I was able to finally pull it free after what seemed like an eternity of rushing water.
It was a nice bag – lined leather with a structured bottom. It did a great job of keeping the water in. My files, wallet, phone, keys, and that contract . . . all soaked.
I was a bit freaked out and panicked at this point but what can you do but dump out your purse and try to figure out what happened so you can explain it.
I walked into the office, handed the washroom key back to the waiting receptionist and as she escorted me to the conference room, I could feel the water begin to seep out of the corner of my purse and run down my side, leaving a trail of water droplets on the carpet behind me like a dog that’s escaped the bathtub.
When the two serious, gray-headed men in suits joined me at the table, I started the meeting by saying, “Hey, guys, let me ask you if this has ever happened to you . . . “ and proceeded to explain the story of how it came to be that my purse was creating a puddle on the floor and the contracts I brought to review looked like they’d been left out in the rain.
In the end, we laughed our butts off and bonded over some of the embarrassing, stupid, or random things that have happened to us. They signed the contract that day, well, they signed it later when I emailed it to them and when we met or saw each other after that day, they poked fun at me or always had a little human story to tell me about something funny. It was certainly a memorable meeting, but more than that, it was that very human moment of embarrassment that I accepted and chose to share with humor – that brought us together.
This experience helped knock down that scary feeling of meeting with VPs and C-suite people that held all the power. I began to frame everyone as my peers in the decision-making process and that changed the vibe and tone – especially in important meetings.
Shared experiences promote empathy and understanding – bringing us closer to people.
So, the next time you’re nervous, thinking that you’re meeting with someone who has the ability to crush your deal, or they have a title with tremendous power . . . just remember that you both sleep in jammies, have had the flu, dance when you cook dinner, or cry during sappy commercials. We are all equal humans doing our best.
To help level the playing field, tell stories – particularly those that demonstrate we’re capable of mortal mess ups, human error, and ridiculous circumstances. They help us all feel like we’re on the same level. Peers of humanity, if you will.
Remember, your customers are humans working with weird bosses, kids that lick their shoes, and have interesting talents such as singing in an all-female pirate band (ps – these are all REAL examples from people I know).
When you open up to your customers or buyers as their very human peers and stop thinking of selling as manipulation based upon technique, you’ll see a very different relationship based on mutual respect and some level of understanding.
Until next time, stop hoping and start SELLING!
PS – What’s the best sales blooper story you have? Comment below and we might share the lessons learned in a future blog post!