Back in the days of building my own distributorship, I worked hard to secure an appointment with a large prospect in town. It took almost two years of diligent calling and following up, but I finally got an initial appointment.
I was very excited about the opportunity. I did a great deal of work to prepare for the appointment. I researched the company. I prepared some information to bring and share. I thought of several detailed probing questions. I was completely ready the day of the big appointment. I showed up 15 minutes early. I practiced my presentation and questions in my mind over and over again as I waited in the lobby.
Finally, the big moment arrived. I was escorted to the manager’s office for our meeting. I took my seat, and after some brief pleasantries, I plowed right into the presentation and questions I had so carefully prepared and rehearsed.
Everything was going amazing. She let me know about some big challenges they were having with a fulfillment program. This was my big opportunity.
I don’t recall the actual question she asked. I know it was something to do with the ways we would approach getting her the solutions she was seeking. I do recall telling her that we had many potential solutions, and then I specifically said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
That changed everything.
Her face went ghost white. Her demeanor changed instantly. She asked me if I had noticed all the pictures on her walls and shelves. Candidly, I had not. I had been too focused on my presentation and questions. As I quickly looked around her office, a bit confused by the turn of events, I saw the problem. Her office walls and shelves were full of pictures of her cats.
She politely told me that she would never be able to do business with me and escorted me out of her office.
Wow. What a CATastrophe.
Here’s the lesson I learned. While it’s important to prepare for a sales call, it’s equally important to pay attention. It’s critical to look around the decision maker’s office for clues about what’s important to them. These clues can help guide us in connecting with our prospects. These clues can also help prevent a catastrophe like mine. The keys to a great sales call are both preparation and observation.