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What Most Memorable Sales Can Teach Us

As the publisher of Selling Power magazine, I get the opportunity to listen to many great sales stories. Here are two that stand out in my mind, because both stories contain a valuable lesson. Weldon Crawford sent us this nugget:

The Surprisingly Large and Fast Sale

Jan15_1 “My experience as a specialty chemical company salesman taught me that one never knows how far away – or how close – the next big sale is.

Several years ago, I sold approximately $125,000 worth of chemicals to an oil refinery that needed to remove waste sludge from a large oil storage vessel. About a year later, a maintenance manager from the same refinery called asking me to come in and discuss the same chemical cleaning program with his team. Cleaning the tank in question would require about $300,000 in chemicals, so I anticipated another large commission check. Still, I faced months of hard work before I could even think about receiving that commission – or so I thought.

I scheduled an informal meeting for the following week, including only the maintenance manager and his assistant. When I arrived, the receptionist informed me that my informal meeting had been moved to the large conference room. Upon entering the room, I was somewhat astonished to see 15 people sitting around the table, obviously awaiting my arrival. Although I knew everyone from the previous tank-cleaning job, I was quickly reintroduced and invited to begin my presentation.

I started to describe the nature of the tank sludge, its properties, and how the chemical would remove it. After about three minutes, the manager interrupted with, ‘We know all of that. How much chemical is required, and how much will it cost?’

To my response he asked, ‘Can you get it here in 24 hours?’ After a quick phone call to my home office, I assured him that I could but that much site work was required for a job of this size. He informed me that workers were two hours away from completing all of the required site preparation, and he would be ready for the chemical at that time. He then picked up the phone, called purchasing, and had a $320,000 purchase order issued to me for the chemicals. The sale I had originally thought would take months was closed in less than 10 minutes.” What I learned from Weldon’s story: We never know enough about the future to be a pessimist.

Alfredo Osuna shared this interesting story:

Recommend the Competition

“I started to work for the Sherwin-Williams Paint Company as an account representative in its industrial sales department in Caracas, Venezuela. It was my first job in sales.

The sales supervisor sent me out on my first call alone to see the manager of a soft drink company, Mr. G. When I arrived, Mr. G. took me to the bottling plant, which had stopped production because paint chips had been found in some of the bottled soda. I took a bottle as a sample, went back to the manager's office, and made a call to my supervisor. About five minutes later, the plant engineer, who wanted to come out to the bottling plant, called me back. Since his car was not working, he asked that I pick him up. I told the plant manager I would return with the engineer the next morning.

During the plant engineer's visit the next day, he determined that the plant stoppage was entirely due to the faulty paint that my company had supplied. Our company was also liable for damages. We agreed to sandblast the tanks to remove the bad paint and repaint the tanks at no cost to the customer. We further agreed to begin the job within hours. The plant manager agreed. I drove the engineer back to the main office, then returned to the bottling plant to see the manager once more.

I explained to him that I was new in sales and that if he repeated what I was going to tell him that I would most certainly be fired. I told him that we had been having trouble with this type of paint and that the best thing for him to do would be to repaint the tanks with our competitor's product. Our company would still pay for the paint. He looked at me for several minutes without saying anything, then shook my hand and thanked me. I returned to my office and explained that the customer had specifically requested our competitor's paint but would not sue our company for other costs incurred by this unfortunate problem.

Two days later the paint job was completed. A week later our company got a call from the plant manager requesting that I visit him. He wanted to see me to tell me that he was going to paint the entire factory, and he wanted me to take the order then and there. He became a personal friend and one of the leading customers for the Sherwin-Williams Paint Company.”

What I learned from Alfredo’s story: Great salespeople are true customer advocates. Alfredo risked his job and earned his customer’s loyalty. My hat’s off to you!

What’s your most memorable sale?

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Richard J Orlando

Gerhard,

This is going up on my board tomorrow at 7AM! Thanks for sharing.

"We never know enough about the future to be a pessimist."

Similar story that saved my former company in the 80"s from an emabarrassing, major law suit:

As a new VP of the NYC/NJ/MidAtlantic Region, I had a call scheduled with MARS for a computer system we sold several months before I assummed my new role. The software never worked as promised and it cost MARS lots of money due to software errors. I prepared two weeks with lawyers to "aggressively" address the issue to avoid having the system returned and "force" MARS to pay for the system in full. I spoke to my Dad the weekend before the call and he told me, "The H*** with the lawyers, just tell MARS the truth!" On the call, the CFO showed up alone and asked me what our position was regarding the matter? I stated, "We're at 100% fault, what would it take to make you satisfied?" The CFO didn't hestiate and said, "I appreciate your honesty. Just take the equipment out and pay for the return shipping and we'll release your company from any liability." My Dad was right, my CEO told me I saved our company a lot of money and avoided major negative press involving a world-class company. I've been eating MARS candy ever since! Class CFO at an icon American company who taught me a valuable lesson that I taught others when I became a CEO. Thanks for the advice Dad!

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