Learning From Defeat: Sales Lessons From The Pros

Lexi Tucker
Posted on April 25, 2018
Kelly Alderete, the affiliate manager of The Driver Provider in Phoenix, Ariz., talked about one of the big mistakes she learned from while dealing with a big corporation (LCT file photos)

Kelly Alderete, the affiliate manager of The Driver Provider in Phoenix, Ariz., talked about one of the big mistakes she learned from while dealing with a big corporation (LCT file photos)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — If you can’t stand a challenge, being a sales person isn’t the job for you. It’s not easy to have people constantly hang up on you or slam the door in your face when you’re trying to help them with your product.

The International LCT Show session “Lightning Round: How To Gear Up And Sell Like Hell,” presented on March 14 by Mike Barreto of Eagle Chauffeured Services in Brookhaven, Pa.; Kelly Alderete of The Driver Provider in Phoenix, Ariz.; and Mike Campbell of Grace Limousine in Manchester, N.H., provided some insight into how to not lose hope while honing your skills.

We All Make Mistakes
The three presenters started off the session by talking about some of their sales failures, and what they learned from them.

Alderete recently worked with a large corporation. She went to their groups department and told them her whole spiel. Everything seemed to have gone well. “Things were great, I left, and I figured I would hear from them. But my follow-up was a little bit too slow. I thought I had the account. They were very happy when we left. And then two weeks later, they let me know they used someone else. So it was quite a blow. Everyone was pretty taken aback. Following up is imperative.”  

Barreto talked about the time he joined a local Business Travel Association (BTA), and spoke with someone he really wanted to provide his service to. He bugged her for a year until she finally folded and set up a meeting. He then took her to a nice restaurant for lunch.

“Right away she says, ‘Hold on. I'm going to tell you point blank: You need to work on how you communicate with people like me. I know I'm a direct buyer. I control market share for you to be successful. But your hard sale? I don't know you because all you've done is harass me. All you've done was call and email me nonstop. You're a nice guy. I like you. But I'm going to teach you something. How I do business is by friendship. We could hang out together and talk. We can have a relationship, because my confidence in my vendor is built off of the relationship. And if that relationship is just based off of what you can do for me and that you have great service, I don't want to deal with you.’”

At the time it was a failure, but 12 years later, he now has the account.
Campbell told his tale about his experience with Southern New Hampshire University, one of the biggest employers in the state of New Hampshire. They have a lot of campuses around the state, and need about $2 million of shuttle service a year. Grace Limousine made it to the final three after submitting its RFP. After doing the final presentation, he got a call from a woman at the university who said, "Everybody loved your presentation. You were, by far, our favorite. But you're also the most expensive."

After being asked if he could drop the price by $10 an hour, he agreed but nothing was set in stone.

He called his fiancée, who works at the university, and told her he had secured the contract. She then told all her co-workers. He went to his friends and 20 Group and did the same thing. The next week the call to confirm he had won the bid never came. The week after, he finally got an e-mail telling him they went with another vendor.

“I've had people come up to me on a weekly basis asking me how the new shuttle contract is going, and I've had to tell them I'm an idiot and we didn't actually get it. The lesson there is, obviously, not to count your chickens before they hatch and wait until there's a signature on the line,” he said.

Mike Campbell, owner of of Grace Limousine in Manchester, N.H., explained the five elements to the upfront contract.

Mike Campbell, owner of of Grace Limousine in Manchester, N.H., explained the five elements to the upfront contract.

The Upfront Contract
The second part of the session focused on what’s called “the upfront contract.” The theory behind it is when you go into a meeting or have a phone call with someone, you set up mutual expectations on the front end.

“Instead of walking into a meeting and just vomiting information all over the person you've been trying to get for three months to meet with you, or instead of having them take control of the meeting and just give you a list of demands, or even worse, tell you everything is wonderful with the company they already use, you have a quick conversation on the front end and set up expectations,” Campbell said.

There are five elements to the upfront contract: Agreeing on the purpose of the meeting, the time, your agenda, their agenda, and the outcome. The discussion should go something like this:

Salesperson: When we talked on the phone last week, you mentioned you have about 30 minutes today?  
Client: Yes.  
Salesperson: All right. Is that still the case?  
Client: Yup, absolutely.  
Salesperson: All right. When we get to the end of 30 minutes, what would a good meeting look like to you? What do you want to accomplish today?  
 Client: I would like to find out more about your company. I'm hoping you can wow me and explain to me why you're different. As you know, I meet with vendors regularly, and giving you 30 minutes of my time means it’s kind of crucial we get all the information out on the table today.  
Salesperson: Okay. You said you hoped I could wow you? What's that going to take for you?  
Client: Well, we currently have a provider for transportation. Obviously, I wouldn't meet with you if I didn't have a need, and I would like to know what's out there. I know we're happy with them. I've heard good things about you, and I want to know more.  
Salesperson: All right, good. So I want to ask you a few questions, learn more about your business, and see if we might be a fit. I hope at some point in that, you'll be able to ask me some questions about what we do. When we get to the end of that meeting, if it looks like we might be able to work together, will you tell me that?  Client: Yeah, absolutely.  
Salesperson: Okay. And at the same time, if we get to the end of the meeting and you don't feel like we're a fit, will you tell me that, too? It's not going to hurt my feelings.  
Client: Yeah, I can definitely do that.  
Salesperson: All right. And if we end up somewhere in the middle and we have to go to another level and bring somebody else in, will we be able to set another meeting with them?  
Client: Yeah, if necessary.  
Salesperson: Okay. Let's get started.

Wait until ever detail is finalized and signed off, advised Mike Barreto, owner of Eagle Chauffeured Services in Brookhaven, Pa.

Wait until ever detail is finalized and signed off, advised Mike Barreto, owner of Eagle Chauffeured Services in Brookhaven, Pa.

Quick Sales Tips
During the final part of the presentation, Alderete, Barreto, and Campbell all shared with the audience some easy-to-implement tips:
• When visiting an existing or potential client, always bring a bag of branded swag.  
• Your price is your price. It needs to be fair and competitive, but be proud of your price, and sell what your higher price offers in value, professionalism, etc.
• Personalize your follow-up communication with your prospect.  
• Host an event in your office or a local restaurant.
• Know your client's professional lingo (are they a doctor, lawyer, or other profession that uses particular terms of art? Learn them so you don’t look ignorant).
• Identify prospects on LinkedIn, and then find their Instagram profiles to learn a little bit more about what they are like as a person.
• If you have access to local real estate sales, it costs almost nothing to send a handwritten welcome card with a discount for first-time clients to the new, high-end homeowner.
• Focus on the experience you provide your customer, and let them decide if they want that experience.
• If you are winning every bid, you are probably too cheap and won't be in business long.

Related Topics: building your clientele, How To, ILCT 2018, ILCT 2018 education, industry education, Michael Campbell, Mike Barreto, Sales & Marketing

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anthony

     | about 3 years ago

    Before you jump into trying to get any bus contract, you must understand the real bottom line and really ask yourself "does my company provide a real corporate service" Otherwise you will simply disrupt the real companies trying to get a new contract. Here is a great example of how someone went after a disney/amaheim contract and really messed things up. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.ocregister.com/2016/10/17/300-bus-driver-jobs-could-be-cut-nov-30-in-anaheim-after-contract-squabble/amp/

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