When I began working in sales, I was on a mission to get up to speed as fast as possible. I read all the sales books, went to seminars and took everything I learned as the gospel truth.
One of my biggest sales opportunities at the time was a fast-growing construction firm. I’d already gotten my foot in the door and met with Tinsey, a very articulate woman who told me she was making the purchase decision for her company. In this case, the produce was copiers.
Not long after our first meeting, however, I read a book that insisted salespeople should work directly with the ultimate decision maker — the person who had the power to say “yes” or “no.” Any communication with underlings was just a waste of time.
That was a real wake-up call for me. I’d been calling at the wrong level.
Tinsey was simply the administrative assistant to the CEO. Clearly, I needed to take some corrective action — fast. So I immediately called the construction company to set up a meeting with the head honcho about the pending copier decision. When he agreed to get together, I was ecstatic.
Wanting the meeting to be a smashing success, I spent a lot of time preparing my pitch. As I waited in the lobby, I couldn’t help feeling pleased with how well I’d recovered from the terrible position I’d been in earlier. No more selling to “peons” for me.
Then, Tinsey appeared around the corner. Surprised to see me, she asked, “What are you doing here, Jill?”
“I’m here to see Mr. CEO,” I replied, suddenly not so confident I’d made the right decision.
“What for?” she demanded.
I answered lamely, “I’m here to talk with him about your copier decision.”
Hearing that, she launched into a tirade of such a magnitude that I’d never encountered before.
“I told you,” she raged, “that I was making this decision. Not Mr. CEO! Me. Who do you think you are, going around my back to meet with him?”
She was right in my face, shaking her finger about two inches from my nose. I’d never made anyone so mad in my entire life — and it was in my new job that I loved. I was mortified. Embarrassed. And suddenly, feeling very faint.
The next thing I remember, I was lying on the floor looking up at a crowd of people. They were all talking at once: “Are you okay? Do you need some water? Should we call a doctor?”
Embarrassed to my core, I kept telling everyone, “I’m all right. I’m all right.” After sitting on the floor for a few moments, I finally felt good enough to stand up again.
As I stood there, still shaky, I apologized to Tinsey. She suggested I leave and not bother meeting with the CEO. I followed her directions explicitly and never returned.
You may laugh at my story and think, “Jill, how dumb can you be?” And you’d be right.