Sales Lesson or Life Lesson?

My wife and I had to go to a wake in Connecticut this evening. On the way down, my wife wanted to stop at the Christmas Tree Shop in Buckland Hills to get some ideas on picture frames. We did. She did. It was 6 PM. I hadn’t eaten since a light lunch at noon and we weren’t going to be eating dinner until after 8 PM. So, I bought a can of mixed nuts to munch on during the rest of our drive to the funeral home.

A few miles down the road, we’re both enjoying the nuts and sipping our Dasanis and I said, “Boy, that was a good idea! Huh?” (The nuts were really hitting the spot!)

She replied, “Yeah! That red is gonna be perfect!”

It took me a minute to realize that she was talking about the frames that she found. She still doesn’t have a clue that I was talking about the nuts!

Now, you have to admit that in this situation, it’s pretty funny, but on a sales call, it’s not funny if it doesn’t get corrected. It is the salesperson’s responsibility to assure total communication on a sales call. Ask questions. Re ask. Make sure the answers make sense.

As for my wife, I think she liked the nuts, but the frames were perfect!

Success Secret #5

How do you know when it’s OK to break the rules when you’re selling? How do you know that the prospect is asking the real question? How do you know that the prospect is telling the truth?

How about some examples?

So, I ask the receptionist, “Is Paul in?”. She asks, “Who may I say is calling?” I say, “Rick Roberge from David Kurlan & Associates.” She asks, “What is this about?” I say, “Sales development.” She says, “We’re all set.” and hangs up.

Or, I can follow the rules and do this: “Hi, this is Rick Roberge, is Paul in?” She asks, “Where are you calling from?” I say, “Westboro.” She says, “Hold on.” She comes back and says, “He picked up a call before she could get to him.” I asked, should I leave my number with you, or go to voicemail.” She says, “I’ll take it.” I give my name and number (no company). She asks, “May I tell him what this is about?” I reply, “I wish I knew. Hopefully he’ll be able to help when he calls.”

In case you don’t believe this, Pete Caputa, Paul LaFlamme and Steve Crowe watched it happen and heard both sides of the conversation. Incidentally, my target, Paul, the managing partner of a good size CPA firm called back 2 hours later.

In the first hypothetical but very realistic example, I didn’t follow the rules and I was dead in the water. In the second, I was in control, and got my phone call returned. I don’t have to answer the receptionist’s questions just because she asked them. I’m calling to talk to her boss and it’s er job to put me through.

The rules say to ask questions, get a compelling reason and create urgency. If your prospect says, “Hey, I’m short on time. Let’s get right to it. What can you do for me?” The rules don’t change. You can either follow them or ignore them. But if you ignore them, you run the risk of hearing, “That was nice, but we don’t need it.”

The rules say to get the prospect’s budget. If you don’t get their budget, be prepared for, “Oh, we didn’t figure on that. We don’t have that in our budget.”

So, back to the question, “How do you know when it’s OK to break the rules when you’re selling?” Maybe never, but definitely not TODAY. The rules are designed to keep you in control. If you break the rules, you run the risk of handing control over to the prospect. If you do, whose agenda rules? Whose system will get used? Who gets to ask about money? Who’s gonna control price, timeline, etc. The prospect.

So, when do you break the rules? Never or not today. You pick.


I seldom talk about my tennis playing in high school and college, but I loved playing, watching, talking tennis. Life, wife, kids, career, house, beach house, moved it way down the list of priorities to the point that I don’t remember where my racket is. Oh well!

Saturday, I caught a glimpse of the women’s singles final match at Wimbledon. The favorite lost the first set, but eventually held it together and won the match by one game. Take a look at the match summary. This was not a case of domination. This was a battle all the way.

Here’s the “blog reason”. Does what happened to Amelie and Justine ever happen to you when you’re selling? When I was watching the match, I watched the players talking to themselves. If you watched their eyes, you could almost predict the next point. Sometimes determination. Sometimes worry.

Check out the match summary again. Look at how close the players were in each category.

Look at the Unforced Errors numbers and Double Faults. Each of these top level, professionals GAVE their opponent over 20 points.

Either one of them could think that they deserved to win. Both of them could think that they deserved to lose.

Only one of them won. Get it? Little differences during can make for major differences in the results.

Compelling Reason vs. ABL

I recently had two conversations (separated by about a week) with a business owner during which we talked about their business and some of the sales-related issues. During the first conversation, the owner told me about a specific situation where the prospect should have bought, but absolutely turned their brain off and gave the stupidest objection possible. The owner’s jaw dropped in shock when they heard the objection, but they took it and left without a sale. I made a suggestion that would have probably not only have re-opened discussions with the prospect, but also would have positioned the owner as someone who could get things done.

During the second conversation, I heard that business was OK. That the owner hadn’t tried my suggestion because it was outside the box and in the face of the prospect. I noticed other changes in the owner’s attitude that indicated that I was no longer getting the whole truth and my “ABL” light went on. (If you don’t remember ABL, check out the link before you go on.) So, I asked a question something like, “Mr. Owner, it sounds like everything is pretty much the way that you want it to be and I don’t see any reason why you would want my help with sales development.” Their response was, “I don’t have $10,000 to spend on sales training.” It wasn’t, “I don’t need help.” or “I won’t follow your suggestions.” or “What would I get for $10,000.” or “We have all the business that we can handle, so we don’t want to sell better.” or “I wish I could figure out how to afford the $10,000 because we really do need the help.” Somehow, they had decided that I would charge them $10,000 to work with me.

Two problems:

1.) We weren’t on second base. There was no compelling reason. There was no urgency. I did not have speed on bases. We hadn’t agreed to any evaluation. We didn’t know how much their problems were costing them. And…..they had not qualified to do business with me.

2.) Because of reason number one, I didn’t know what needed to be done, what to charge, etc. But…I do know one thing. I’d definitely charge a lot for the repetition factor. Remember, I’ve already made several suggestions to this owner that they chose to ignore (including giving them a referral which they asked for and never followed up on because they were too busy. Why ask for it if you’re too busy?). So, I would include a lot of money in my price to cover the fact that I was gonna have to tell them, remind them, follow up, tell them again to make sure that they did the things that they needed to do. So, if they choked on 10 they were definitely gonna gag on 20 or 50. I just sped up the process.

This owner’s business is reasonably successful. They’re happy. They usually feel good about where they are, but sometimes they wonder if it could be better and what it would take. Then they go back to work.

Some will. Some won’t. So what. Next. This person will probably never refer to me. I surely won’t refer to them because of the last one. We’ll both do fine.