The Bakersfield Massacre

I am going to start writing about sales.  I am going to start with my worst sales call ever.  This is always a question I ask in an interview, no matter what field you work in if you’ve been doing something well, there has been a time when it went all wrong.

Background: It started with the five P’s.  Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  Or in this case: the six P’s Poor Planning Predicts Piss Poor Performance.  This meeting happened over five years ago and was at a time when certain clients had to use our old product.  SaaS was just not allowed in the gaming world, so they had to use our client/server product which now is long gone.  It wasn’t the primary reason for the trip to LA, but like all good trips you schedule several meetings around your primary call.  I had not practiced demoing the client server version for over a year, because we really weren’t selling it and really had gone into maintenance mode of this product.  I was really concentrating on our main meeting and was going to “wing” this one up in Bakersfield.  Boy that was a mistake, I would find out how true this statement would be.

We got to the offices and they were pretty disheveled.  It got worse when we arrived at the conference room and there were plates of chicken wing bones all over the table that we had to clean up.  It was only going to get worse, much worse, I should have known.

The meeting started and I floundered.  The paradigm of the old software was completely different.  It was built on the command and control style of building and executing reports, instead of the fluid style of our new software of segmenting groups and executing actions off of the groups.  The nomenclature had also changed to allow us to serve many constituents.  I was struggling to show even basic work-flow.  It was terrible.  I was red, I was sweating, I was embarrassing myself, and my company.

Finally, our hosts had mercy and said “just show us how you do this promotion here on your cut sheet”.  I couldn’t.  I didn’t think it could get worse but it did.  I finally put away all pride and excused myself to call the product manager.  I asked him how we did the promotion.  The answer was: We didn’t.  We did it in the new product, and had updated all of our cut sheets including the old ones.

It was time for a mercy killing, my pride was on the floor getting stomped, I just wanted to leave with a shred of dignity.  I explained that we didn’t actually do that promotion and started to get ready to leave.  Our host wouldn’t let me; he wanted to see the rest of the software.  I stumbled through the rest of the software and left.  My head was literally buzzing.

In the end we lost to “no decision” and in an even stranger fate, the client recommended us to another company.  However, I had learned first lesson of sales the hard way.  Never, ever, ever go to a client un-prepared.  It doesn’t matter how important or un-important you feel the meeting is.  If it’s worth a meeting its worth over-preparing and rehearsing every detail.

  • Aaron Klein

    Great post and great reminder. Thanks.