As part of the renewal of my subscription to “Selling Power” (www.sellingpower.com) I recieved a book called “The Top 60 Sales” – a series of anecdotes on selling.I sent in my best story. We will see if I get published (smirk). This is it ….
When I first started selling I worked for Canon selling copier and fax machines. I was fresh out of University and was fortunate enough to convince the top sales person in the company to become my mentor (Sales author Paul Shearstone) and had a great boss. Through that process I learned the foundation to what has made me successful today: tenacity. They taught me to always be learning (Reading, listening to audio books, learning from those around me) and to never give up.
During my 2nd year I moved into the number 1 position in the company at 330% of plan, turning a $30K per month territory into a $100K+ per month territory and I did that on deals like my most memorable.
The deal was memorable from the start. At that time, color copiers were new and very expensive – we had a demo model that we could all use. I did something no one had done before, I created my own copier flyer and convinced the company to pay for a mail drop into my territory (A mass mailer to all businesses within the postal codes that I managed). A week later, I received a call from a lady in purchasing at TransAmerica – asking about our copiers. I promptly returned the call, made an appointment and during the appointment found out that they were buying $200,000 worth of copiers and fax machines! The caveat being that TransAmerica had a world wide contract with Pitney Bowes and I was primarily being used only as a benchmark for quality and price.
Over the next 8 months, I spent countless hours building a good working relationship with the purchasing manager, the office manager and staff in the branch. I pushed past the benchmarking status and convinced them of our value proposition, quality and industry leadership. I convinced them to short list to two vendors and do a product bake-off (I knew that our products were far superior to the competitors). During the bake-off, I camped at their office baby-sitting the machines, holding training sessions to show off the advanced features and how it could make the staff’s life easier and having services proactively service the machines to demonstrate our attention to detail.
Our machines sat at the customer site for 2 months ($100K of demo equipment) and the purchasing manager gave me the verbal – they were going to go against the world wide contract (At a premium) to select our products. I dropped off the contracts for the VP to sign and she told me to be patient, that it would get done by the end of the month. It was the last day of the quarter, I still did not have the paper and I was sitting in my boss’ office when he dropped the bomb “The branch manager does not think that you are going to get this deal. They are pushing me to pull the equipment”. I knew that if we pulled the equipment now, that paperwork would never get signed so I responded “We can’t do that. This is my deal. What do I do?”.
My boss gave me the kind of advice that you usually read in one of the old style Zig Ziglar type of sales books that I have read 100 times, he said “Go to that office, ask to see the VP and sit there until he sees you and you sign this deal”. I was stunned, but it was either do that or watch 8 months of work and my first really big commission check go out the window. So it did it. I called the purchasing manager, explained my predicament and told her I was coming over (She was very tentative). I went to their office, asked to see the VP and waited. A few minutes into my wait, the purchasing manager came out and stated that the VP was not happy that I was here, that I had the deal, come back in a couple of days. I stood my ground, appealing to her with regard to my predicament and their commitment to closing the deal before the end of the month.
She left. I waited.
A half hour went by and I noticed the purchasing manager talking to someone (that someone was hidden from view – just around the corner). She approached me and again stated that she was sorry that the paper work was not done, that she understood my frustration but that we would just have to wait another few days because it required several signatures and was not complete yet – and the VP had to leave for the day. At that point, the VP bolted past me with a nod and headed for the elevator – I excused myself from the manager and jumped into the elevator with him.
To say that he could not believe his eyes was an understatement. I politely talked to him about what a great experience it was working with his company, how I was looking forward to servicing them, how I was ready to go that extra mile to make them happy and closed out with their commitment to sign the paper by the end of the month and how that had put me in a really tough situation. This conversation went on from the elevator out to the parking lot in front of his car with the occasional objection such as ‘I know, but you will just have to be patient’ and ‘If I didn’t have to leave right now to pick up my son downtown, I would do it”. I answered each objection “I understand, and know that you are going to follow through” and “Is there anyone who can sign upstairs on your behalf?”.
Standing in front of his car door (So he could not enter) he looked at me, smiled and relented “Go upstairs, I will call one of the other VPs to sign it on my behalf”. I smiled, thanked him and went upstairs. I stood at a filing cabinet while a VP signed those documents, the whole time commenting that he “could not believe that he was doing this”. I thanked everyone and drove back to the office yelling at the top of my lungs about the paper that I had in my hands and my first really big commission check.
After the deal was closed, I sent each person a hand written thank-you note, took key people out for a thank-you lunch and followed up to ensure that we also won the second part of the deal (15 fax machines – we did). I would not recommend this to everyone (That was a one time event for me), but due to 8 months of hard work, service and relationship building – when push came to shove I had a strong foundation on which to push that deal to close.
One of my top 5 most memorable deals. I have more (smile).