A Crucial Double-Check to Prevent Presentation Heartache

Have you ever been blindsided during a presentation? Every now and then you can lose a sure-thing sale because of something that – it seems in hindsight – you really, really should have known about.

sales call gone bad -- man in shock

photo by icsnaps/dpc

About six years ago I presented an advertising plan to a dentist in Montana. I had met with him a couple of weeks before, and he had been open, enthusiastic, and eager to hear my ideas. Out of 27 presentations I was scheduled to do that week, this one seemed to be a slam dunk — he was primed to do something, and I had the perfect plan for him.

The meeting didn’t go the way I’d planned. Not even close.

[bctt tweet=”Sales Tip: A lot can change for the client in a couple of weeks. It pays to ask.”]

He argued with me about my overall marketing philosophy, didn’t like the strategy I proposed, and called my script “simple-minded”. His demeanor was dismissive, on the edge of downright rude. At the end of the meeting, he told us he’d “think about it”, and walked out before we could ask him anything more.

I was stunned. Usually when a meeting goes bad I know what went wrong. This time a big opportunity had blown up, and I had no idea why.

The next day the dentist’s wife, who’d been at both meetings, called the station Account Executive to apologize. A few hours before our presentation, they had met with their accountant and learned that there was more than $100,000 missing from the practice’s bank account. Embezzlement was suspected. He wasn’t going to buy anything from anyone for a while.

Today’s Sales Lesson: The World Can Change In a Couple of Weeks


Ever since that day, I start every presentation this way:

“Before we begin, I need to ask a quick question. Has anything changed since our last meeting?”

 Most of the time, nothing has, and I can launch things without a problem. But over the past five years, by asking that question I’ve learned that between the last meeting and this one:

·       The owner has just decided to sell the business.

·       The company has agreed to merge with a competitor, all decisions are on hold for the next six months, and the guy we’re meeting with will be leaving the company.

·       The store has picked up a new product line, and will be retooling its marketing substantially.

·       The medical practice has just hired an advertising agency.

Learning this information before diving in has allowed me to make adjustments on the fly. Sometimes it’s caused me to make major changes to the strategy I recommended. On two occasions, we even agreed to cancel the presentation — it was going to be a waste everyone’s time.

Things happen quickly in business, and the questions you asked on Tuesday could have completely different answers the following Monday. Asking if anything’s changed before you dive in can save you enormous heartache.

Question: What’s the biggest surprise you’ve gotten at a sales meeting? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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