Ever been disappointed by poor performance in a sales call, only to find out it was a good thing you’d lost the sale?

I had been working for weeks to close a rather large, important sale that would have been what seemed a great proejct for us, and missed it by a whisker.

Afraid to Make Sales Calls

Although I was disappointed at the time and chewing myself out for “pulling punches” and a lackluster sales call,   a couple of weeks later I was relieved that we had not been awarded the job.

A key partner we would have been dependent on for this particular project was having a health issue that required back surgery.  This might have impacted his ability to deliver on the project. It certainly would have made the project more stressful than I had realized.

Of course, there was no way I could have known that at the time . . .

Or perhaps I could have!

Intuition or “Mystical Hooey?”

Sandler attitude triangleIn last week’s Networking workshop we talked about the Sandler Sales model and the fact that the “attitude” triangle is at the top.

Of course, you could say that this is all just squishy psychology which is not important to the nuts and bolts of a sales transaction, but as Lynn Milteer mentions in her latest book,

“Your subconscious mind is picking upon millions of signals in every moment.” What we call ‘intuition’ is often simply your mind processing these microsignals and matching patterns faster than we can articulate in our usual, rational, linear thought process.

Obnoxious Horseplay

John has talked about how a group of pilots and flight team members getting ready for an exercise are likely to start “pushing each other around,” physically or verbally.  While this might just look like boyish horseplay or off-color obnoxiousness, it serves a really important purpose.


Flight crews might “test one another’s reflexes” with obnoxious goofing off before a mission. This is one way to build reassurance among the team before a mission. You should do this before an important sales call!

Since they are about to engage in something potentially dangerous, they spend some time finding out how each one is feeling and responding.  If someone had bad eggs for breakfast, just broke up with a girlfriend, or is coming down with a cold, he might not feel affected, but his performance might not be one hundred percent. And a less-than-perfect performance might impact the success of the mission or even the safety of the team!

The team can figure that out BEFORE they get in the air, where they depend on one another’s reactions.

They might not even realize they are performing an assessment and reacting on their findings.

In the same way, I may have picked up on our partner’s lack of energy in previous conversations and conveyed it subconsciously to our prospect.

I remember thinking after the sales call, “why didn’t I get a commitment on this item, or been more enthusiastic about that point?”

Sales Call ChecklistAfter finding out about our partner’s back surgery, I mentally went back over the sales presentation, and was not quite so critical of my own performance.

I should have done what pilots do!

The Fear-Busting Pre-Sales Call Checklist

I don’t have to be obnoxious and start pushing my team and suppliers around,  but I do have to be perceptive. Here’s a list I use before an important sales call or presentation.  While I created it to prevent problems, it has the added benefit helping me convey absolute confidence and enthusiasm, which has vastly improved our close rate.

Feel free to “swipe & deploy” it for your own use. Note that most of these questions are best answered in person, which is why it can be such an advantage to spend in the same room with your team, suppliers and clients. If that isn’t possible for financial or logistical reasons, then videoconferencing is the next best thing, with LOTs of phone and written communication as well.

  • Do I really want this project?
  • Do I really like this client enough to work hard for his success?
  • Am I comfortable standing behind and marketing this product or service?
  • Is my team up to speed about the particulars and 100% onboard?
  • Do the numbers make sense?
  • Who else are we dependent on to deliver results on this project? Have we talked very recently and very specifically about the particulars?
  • What are the known unknowns?  Do we have a process for finding or getting what we need?
  • Does anything about this make me uneasy? (Even if I can’t “put my finger on it?”)

Depending on our answers to these questions, we might postpone or even cancel a sales call. No point in wasting our time or a client’s time on a sale we won’t win; or even worse, on a project we DO win that causes problems!}..