Is A “Broken Ice Machine” Killing Your Sales?

Little things mean a lot when you’re trying to persuade.

Details can kill sales

Photo by StockPhotoPro


Not long ago I met with the administrator of a nursing home and rehabilitation center on the East Coast. The center had received some very bad publicity over the previous year after failing several state inspections.

During our meeting, the administrator told me that most of the problems cited in the inspections had been fixed — staff had been retrained and staffing levels increased, new procedures had been put in place and equipment had been upgraded.

She wanted to launch an advertising campaign to get the public to take another look at the facility.

As she took us around the main building, we walked by a row of vending machines.

The soda machine had a sign that said “Out of Order”.

The candy machine also had an “Out of Order” sign.

The ice machine had a sign that said “Please See a Staff Member for Ice”.

It was pretty clear that these machines had been out of service for quite some time. For a business trying to change public perception, this sent a terrible message.

If they couldn’t even bother to fix the vending machines, what kind of shape was the medical equipment in? Were they paying attention to sanitation and infection control? Could local residents trust this nursing home to take good care of their loved ones?

If you work in sales, everything your customer sees is the equivalent of that ice machine. Your attention to detail… or lack of attention… sends a message.

  • How does your car look inside? What do your clients see when you take them to lunch? What do your managers see when you take them on a call? You may or may not be able to afford a luxury car — but whatever you drive, you can keep it clean.
  • How are your clothes? Are you dressed like a trusted advisor, or like you’re going to the club? Is your suit clean and pressed? Are your shoes shined?
  • Have you proofread your LinkedIn profile? A new customer may check you out before your first meeting. Grammatical errors, misspellings, and poor writing can create a bad first impression. Written English matters.

On the wall by the door of a Syracuse HVAC contractor’s office is a large mirror. Directly above the mirror is a sign:

Would you buy from this person?


The salespeople walk by this mirror on the way to their cars every day. The owner told me that two or three times a week he sees one of them stop, look in the mirror, and go back to their desk to fix something.

The things your customers see willeither support or sabotage your efforts. In sales, it pays to sweat the small stuff.


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