Have You Ever Oversold A Client?

It was a typical weekday morning driving down Mission Blvd. to my first meeting. Then, I received the call.

I was fired.

I was fired and I hadn’t even made a sale yet. The persistence and time I had put into grooming a potential customer went down the drain.

My company and I could not deliver on the expectations we had set. This was the consequence of my persistence getting me the opportunity. Then, I oversold the client, resulting in getting me fired.

Here is my story.

The Oversold Sales Call

My story begins when I was trying to get my first appointment with a food company. Prospecting and due diligence in the account is walking around the warehouse. This to find the name of the correct person to speak with. This was an exhausting task, but worth it in the end. My industry had not graduated to LinkedIn yet.

After speaking to many people, I had the person I needed to begin my sales process. A process of dropping off literature 2-3 times to get on his radar. Then, the calls to schedule an appointment begin. I am a believer in the voicemail.

Traction began when I got a hold of him and the first appointment was scheduled. Speaking with a seasoned gentleman in his 40’s and I was fresh out of college. 22 years old and just finished my sales training program.

I was trying to get my prospect to try my service company for his warehouse. He was not thrilled with his current vendor, which is the perfect situation for a competitive conversion.

The Oversold Value Proposition

So, after I gave my pitch and value proposition, he said “I’ll give you a try when an issue comes up. If all goes well, we’ll discuss a shot at all my facilities.”

Of his facilities, I had two in my territory. Three of my counterparts each had one facility in their territories. I was ecstatic about the potential of this prospect.

The call never came.

Waiting for a Call

With no calls from my new contact, I began to follow up. I started at each week for a short time, then progressed to daily. The call always went to a voicemail, or I got his assistant. He was never in the office.

When is a prospect no longer interested?

With this particular account, and my need to increase sales, never.

Finally, after enough calling, I got the return call. He said “your up. Let’s see what your company can do.”

He explained the issue to me. I made the call a free diagnostic service call. I knew there was a good chance my team was not going to be able to do anything. In this situation, it was another companies equipment and the issue was electrical. This was a recipe for disaster, and I knew it.

Disaster is Coming

Knowing this was a disaster, I continued selling anyways. A mistake. But I figured, what’s the worst that can happen?

I showed up to the site with my service team. It was time to rock and roll.

As I suspected, we could not determine the issue. It took an hour, and the diagnosis my service guy suggested was wrong.

Not his fault. I should have known this would happen. It was not our expertise. It was a long shot.

My service guy left and I got chewed out by the potential customer. He then called his current vendor and they fixed the problem in 15 minutes. Not good. Then again, they installed the equipment. They should know how to fix a problem they potentially created.

I thought I struck out and this was the end for me. But, I received another call. I get a second chance.

My Second Chance

The second call was for a door issue. It needed to be done that day. This is usually the case in the service business. So, I said “we got this” and made my calls.

I drove to the facility and took a look. Then, called my service team to get out to the site. Nobody was in my area. We couldn’t do it that day. I oversold him a second time.

After an hour of calling around, I called my prospect back and told him the news. He already had his current vendor on the way. We lost twice. For two jobs we should have been able to do.

Persistence pays, but I oversold the client. It was that, or I was going to have a tough time competing in my local market. I had to rethink my strategy. Decide if I was going to go back for a third try at his business.

Three Times a Charm

Over the course of the next week, as I was thinking about what to do with the prospect, the phone rings. It is my new buddy at the food company.

He said, “I will give you one more shot at this. I like you and you made a real effort to get my business. It seems that my current vendor doesn’t care that much about my business. So, if there is something better, I would like to try.”

Shocked, I said, “thank you, I would love another shot at your business. What do you have?” As he told me, red flags went up. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to take care of him that day.

I said “I thank you for the opportunities. You have given more than most. Unfortunately, I can’t take care of you.” At that point, I was fired. I had the opportunities, but unfortunately, I couldn’t deliver.

I oversold the client.

What did I learn through this process?

A few things.

  1. Knowing your market and capabilities are a must. Sometimes this comes with experience. Making mistakes. But learning your place in a given market is essential. Sales Professionals cannot be everything to everybody. Companies cannot either.
  2. Overselling and taking risks is sometimes necessary. Though, understanding your limitations will allow you to gain credibility and win a customer.
  3. Persistence pays. The customer respected my persistence for his business. He continued to give me the benefit of the doubt.

I like to think my persistence got me in the door. Unfortunately, my over eagerness for his business is what caused the relationship to fall apart.

Qualifying in the early steps of the sales process are essential. Thus, when the opportunity to close presents itself, it is a no-brainer for the customer.

Good luck and good selling!

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