Why it pays to always be on your best behavior on a sales call.
I won’t mention his name, but he knows who he is. The world-wide biggest loser sales person of all time. An individual who has carried this title for the 15 years since I last spoke with him. A vindictive, thoughtless, tactless, self-control lacking, sorry, sorry person. Let’s call him Willy.
The story goes like this. Years ago I was in the market for a new piece of equipment to replace an older version I already had. Willy had supplied and serviced the old equipment, so when we were ready to replace it we called him. He met with us, suggested a suitable replacement and allowed us to try out a demo model for a few days.
The demo model seemed to work well enough and we decided we wanted to purchase one. At that time corporate policy for the company where I was employed required we receive at least two competitive bids for purchases over a certain dollar amount.
So the project went out to bid. Another company also let us test their product, which we found to be comparable if not identical to Willy’s.
When the bids came in, I was surprised. Willy’s competitor had underbid him by 15%, and offered a very attractive leasing option.
We had worked with Willy’s company for a long time. His office was local; the other supplier was about 20 miles away. All things equal, I wanted to buy from Willy.
When he called to check on our decision, I noted his price was high and told him by about how much, and added that we liked the leasing option offered by the other company. I then told him we would entertain another proposal, but that he had to get close to the other bid to be considered.
Willy followed up the next day with another proposal; one that reduced his price by about 2%. He was still more than 10% high, and he hadn’t proposed a leasing option. His fate was sealed; I purchased from his competitor.
The next day Willy called me and started the conversation by complaining about his hangover. He then asked if we had made a decision. When I told him we bought from someone else, his reaction absolutely floored me.
“Are you kidding?” Willy asked. “You bought from them? That’s dirty business. That’s just dirty business. I can’t believe you bought from them. This is a really small town. This is coming back to haunt you, buddy! Good luck with it.”
Then he hung up. I never, ever heard from Willy again but I can tell you this—I would never even consider buying another product from him or from his company.
Burning a bridge the way Willy did earned him the Matt Kirchner “World-wide biggest loser sales person of all time” award. Here are some of the runners-up. The stories are all true, but the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
The Trashy Talker—My company and this guy’s company got into a dispute over an invoice. He actually said, “I want to handle this with a lot of class, I don’t want to stick it...” and then finished the sentence with words that aren’t fit to print. He actually prefaced his statement by saying he wanted to handle our disagreement with class. Go figure.
The Kick-Backer—This one insinuated that he would slip me some money on the sly for awarding him our business. I never allowed him back into my plant.
The Money Monger—I did a quarter million dollars a year in business with this person’s company. He sold me a product, which I then installed in a customer’s building. The product was defective. I asked him to provide a working unit so I could replace the defective one. He said he wanted me to pay the invoice for the defective one first.
“But it’s defective,” I said.
“That’s our policy,” he replied.
His idiotic policy cost him the business. I awarded all $250,000 to his competitor.
The Barbeque Drooler—This guy took me to lunch at a local barbeque restaurant. He was fine until the food arrived. Then he dove into his pork sandwich like he hadn’t eaten in a month. He literally had barbeque sauce all over his face. Not just on his lips or a dribble on his chin, but sauce all over his face. I don’t even remember exactly what he was selling, but I sure remember the sauce.
The Accuser—This fellow, whom I hardly knew at all, asked me jokingly if his competitor had our business because I was having an affair with the president of his competitor’s company. That was his sorry attempt to build rapport and win business. He did neither.
The Apathetic—This one worked for the natural gas utility. I could either buy direct from him, or from a reseller who bought from him and then resold his product. I was buying from the reseller but considering switching to buying direct. During our meeting he seemed so disinterested in winning my business that I finally asked him bluntly whether or not he wanted the work. His response? “No, not really, it’s actually less work for me if you buy from the other guy.” So I did.
And the list goes on. What’s the lesson? Be on your best behavior on every sales call. You never know who’s paying attention.