BY MATT SUGGS, EVP OF SALES, MEDIAFLY
In my 20 years of sales, I have seen presentations that were shining beacons of marketing perfection. But 20 years is much too long to avoid any mishaps. I have gathered quite the collection of sales horror stories that range from presenters arriving late to meetings, to inappropriate jokes kicking off a meeting with a Fortune 500 company. It’s safe to say I have never been bored in the sales world.
Here are a few of my stories:
The Rep Who Wouldn’t Shut Up
People LOVE to talk. This became evident in one case where I was working as a pre-sales representative and we were set to present to the SVP of Finance and other high-level employees for a food processing company. As my teammate started to go through his pitch, it was clear the group wasn’t engaged.
Instead of moving through the information swiftly, he dragged on, staying on the same PowerPoint slides for five minutes each. It was enough for the SVP of Finance to point-blank say, “Can we go ahead and see the demo?” Apparently, the message wasn’t received, and my teammate kept the pitch going. At this point, the group was getting visibly mad, so I knew I had to do something or risk the meeting ending in disaster. Finally, I stepped up and closed my teammate’s laptop, disconnected it from the projector and said, “Well, thanks a lot. We’re going to move on to the demonstration now.” It was the best thing I could have done; the SVP literally thanked me for shutting off the guy’s laptop.
Lesson learned: It’s all about knowing what the customer wants to talk about and adjusting your message to that particular audience. You have to know what will spark (and keep) their interest in what you’re saying. Leading the audience while you’re in the meeting is important in order to focus on your topic and avoid leading the audience astray.
Pass on the Sass
In the late 1990s, I had a coworker who was a pre-sales representative that was an extremely flamboyant and boisterous guy. Let’s call him Rob.
We were pitching to a company that was looking to move to a client server ERP solution, and they were interested in Rob’s solution. Rob began going through his pitch and explaining all of the information about how emails work with the solution. The company’s VP of Finance raised his hand and said, “Rob, we don’t actually have email here. But we do have voicemail.”
All of a sudden, Rob looks at the guy and goes, “Voicemail?! Well whoop-de-doo!” You can imagine that didn’t fly well with the rest of the group. In fact, the SVP simply closed his book and left the room. Later that day, as the team was driving back to Chicago, the sales manager on the account got the call saying, “You guys don’t need to come back.”
Lesson learned: Be professional! Snarkiness and sarcasm have no place in a meeting where people are taking the time to learn more about your product. Tell them the information they need to know, and if there is a discrepancy, talk it out and come to a mutual understanding.
While it pays to prepare a great presentation, you should prepare for all the logistics as well. The worst case of preparation I’ve had is one of the most bizarre situations I have experienced. It’s a funny story now but wasn’t so funny then.
I was asked to come support somebody in a meeting, which was supposed to be held in Manhattan. We were driving along through New York, ready to deliver a kick-ass presentation and thinking we were making great time. That dream was short-lived, as the sales representative with us realized he couldn’t find the location even though we were given the right address. We called to ask the other team in Manhattan who said, “Well, we’re in New Jersey…” We were literally in the wrong state! This was not just your typical Google Maps mistake – we missed a whole state. Thank goodness we were able to reschedule the meeting.
Lesson learned: Most horror stories, especially this one, can be eliminated as a result of proper preparation. There are presentational challenges, such as the stories above, and there are technical challenges, which speak to what Mediafly does in improving meeting conductivity.
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