BY TOM D’AMICO, SALES DIRECTOR, MEDIAFLY
Throughout my career, I have seen several sales presentations that ranged from perfection to an utter nightmare. Working in sales you expect things to be unpredictable, as there are always a million things that could go wrong. Like a good John Carpenter horror movie, there was one experience that I had been a part of that was the stuff of nightmares.
Early in my career, before my time at Mediafly, I had been working on a team that was preparing to pitch for a very large company and game-changing opportunity. We did our due diligence and had vigorously prepared for the final presentation. The amount of time and energy we invested in preparing for this meeting was like no other.
A few days before our meeting, they sent us a meeting agenda that helped us tailor our presentation and was in line with previous discussions. We felt extremely confident as we had been speaking to them for about four months on how we would work with them. During the four-month period, they were very engaged in our discussions and everything was pointing to them licensing our software. This kept us extremely optimistic as this opportunity had the potential to change our company forever.
The day of the meeting we walked into their office excited and extremely confident. We were greeted by our champion, introduced ourselves to everyone, and were handed a copy of the meeting agenda. Nothing abnormal and thus far a very positive start. That’s until we looked down and read the agenda…
The agenda for the meeting was completely different from what we were given. There was no need to even say a word. The look of ‘oh shit’ was on the faces of every one of my teammates. Not only that, they failed to mention to us that the CEO, who we had never spoken with, was also going to be sitting in on the meeting. On top of that, we found out later it was the CEO who had requested the amendments to the agenda. It was too late to cancel the meeting, so we decided to brave it out and move forward with our presentation as prepared.
We soon found out that braving it out would do nothing for us. We quickly began to be questioned by the CEO on why we weren’t following the agenda. Our champion who gave us the original agenda and who we worked with from the beginning, didn’t even try to explain the exchange of agendas or situation to the CEO. He essentially threw us under the bus. We stood up there like a bunch of duds as the CEO scowled at us. The beginning of the meeting went so horribly wrong, that both parties agreed to end the meeting soon after it started.
It was embarrassing. While what happened wasn’t our fault, we felt defeated in the sense that we invested so much of our time and energy into this presentation, and we fell flat on our face. We tried to figure out if there was any way to salvage the opportunity but to no avail. This opportunity would have had a massive impact on our company, but one little piece of paper changed it all.
We never heard from them again.
Lesson Learned: Preparation is key, but unpredictability is always a factor. You can spend countless hours, days, or months preparing for a meeting and sometimes the unexpected will completely ruin it for you. Research what tools or platforms are available that can help you put sales content together on the fly, so when these curve balls are thrown at you, you can try to mitigate the damage as much as possible.
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