April 24, 2015
This is a long one, but it may be the most important newsletter I’ve ever written. You may want to read it twice and print it out for reference like I’ve done.
And now, for the rest of the story…
Patrick and I had a meeting this morning with one of our clients to discuss her marketing campaign.
We had already suggested some of our marketing services for her, but I also wanted her to think about public relations and media outreach as part of her overall plan.
Since PR is not in our wheelhouse, I invited a media relations expert to join us and pitch her services to compliment ours.
We met ahead of time to discuss our client’s needs and to brainstorm some ideas that would work well for her business. The PR rep obviously knows what she’s doing and had some great ideas, hence the invitation to meet our client.
Unfortunately, being an expert in your field and having great ideas does not inherently make you a good referral.
Here is an account of the mistakes she made that not only cost herself business, but cost us business, as well…
Mistake #1: Our referral arrived before us, but instead of waiting for us to go in together, she went in 10 minutes early and started the meeting without us. That’s just bad etiquette.
Mistake #2: Our referral spent 10 to 15 minutes justifying why she was there by going into detail about her vast experience.
First, you should NEVER talk about yourself for 15 minutes in a sales meeting. That’s sales 101.
Second, her credibility was already established simply because I brought her and said good things about her. Our client zoned out and our referral ignored my attempts to refocus the meeting on our client.
Mistake #3: Our referral completely jumped the tracks on our previous discussion and began presenting a litany of other PR ideas that we already knew wouldn’t work for our client.
Then, when either I or our client suggested an idea had already been tried or wouldn’t work for various reasons, our referral became defensive and wouldn’t drop the subject.
That reminds me of a saying, “Would you rather be right or would you rather be rich?” In this case, being right was obviously more important.
Mistake #4: Our referral made recommendations for things like social media and direct mail that are clearly outside her wheelhouse.
Her advice was not only bad, but we had already discussed some of these things with our client and decided on a direction.
Now we’ve been put in a position to justify what we had already recommended and explain why the advice our referral gave was inaccurate, which tarnishes our referral’s credibility…and ours for recommending her.
Ugh! Could this get any worse? Yes….
Mistake #5: Another sales 101 lesson is to talk less and listen more. During our meeting, both I and our client were forced to interrupt and talk over our referral because…to quote my mother, “we couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”
By the end of the meeting, our client was talking directly to me and almost completely ignoring our referral. Meanwhile, our referral was completely avoiding eye contact with me.
You could feel the tension between all of us, as Patrick later pointed out. Not good.
Mistake #6: After the meeting, our referral said her goodbyes to me and Patrick (not our client), and “stayed behind” to use our client’s private restroom.
First, never use your client’s private restroom when there are public restrooms in the hall outside the office.
Second, always walk out together. You’re a team, after all.
Third, don’t attempt to stay behind and talk to someone else’s client without them. That’s just wrong on SO many levels.
We waited for her to finish so we could leave together…as a completely dysfunctional team.
Mistake #7: (Yes, there were a lot of mistakes made by our referral.) While waiting for the elevator, our referral said how well she had connected with our client and how much they liked each other.
Self-reflection and the ability to read people are important skills to have if you’re in sales. There were four of us in the room, but I guess only three of us could sense the tension and read the nonverbal cues.
On my drive home, I called our client to assess the damage and apologize for our referral. Our client was very gracious, but confirmed my suspicions…she has decided to hold off on PR and media outreach for the time being.
Not only that, but she’s decided to hold off on one of the other marketing services we were proposing, so our referral not only cost herself business, but she cost us business, too.
Now, what can we learn from this?
Lesson #1: Someone may be an expert, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good referral. You also need to consider personality and social skills.
Lesson #2: Meet ahead of time to discuss not only what you’re going to pitch to the client, but also discuss the rules of engagement and HOW you’re going to pitch to the client.
Tell your referral that you’ll go into the meeting together and leave together…as a team.
Let your referral know that you’ve already established their credibility so they don’t need to do that again.
Make sure they understand that YOU will be running the meeting, not them.
Tell them this is your client and all communication during the sales process needs to go through you.
Most importantly, tell them to:
- Talk less and listen more.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Listen to the responses.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Listen to the responses.
- Offer a solution as succinctly as possible.
- Ask a question to gauge understanding and interest.
- Listen to the response.
- Rinse and repeat.
A sales meeting is NOT the place to show off how smart you are. It’s a place to show off how much you care about helping your client (or potential client) solve their most pressing problems.
Lesson #3: Tell you referral not to deviate from the plan. And if they think of a new idea during the meeting, ask them to run it by you first in the form of a directed question.
For example, your referral can say, “Hey JP. I have an idea. What do you think about…?” They can say it right in front of the client, but direct it toward you.
That will give you the opportunity to respond before the client has a chance to say, “We’ve already talked about that and decided it won’t work.”
Your referral needs to remember that you already have a history with your client and lots of things have already been discussed.
And for crying out loud! If you or your client shoots an idea down, your referral needs to drop it immediately and move on!
Lesson #4: Call your client later that day to discuss the meeting and gauge their interest in working with your referral.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to read the situation and know the answer before you call, but you want your client to know that it’s their decision to work with your referral or not.
Lesson #5: Don’t write a newsletter about your bad referral experience unless you care more about helping people than hurting people’s feelings.
I hope that if our referral reads this, she’ll take it to heart and learn from it. Unfortunately, most people get defensive and blame everyone but themselves, but I can’t do anything about that.
Bringing in referrals to meet your clients can be a Win-Win-Win, but be sure you interview thoroughly and agree on the plan ahead of time or you could have a Lose-Lose-Lose on your hands.
Live and learn…
Tell us what you think.