Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Brynne Tillman, president of Business Development University in Ambler, PA, tells how a single small sale changed the direction of her sales career for the better.
I couldn’t imagine a better place to start my sales career than at a company with great products, a great brand and a service businesses couldn’t live without.
I’d landed a job at just such a company: Dun & Bradstreet.
The only problem: It wasn’t a sales job. I was literally an order taker. Customers would call up to order reports. I’d take their information and send the reports.
Chatting up customers
Still, I couldn’t resist chatting to these buyers about their business. I wasn’t really trying to sell them anything; I was simply curious.
One day, a customer asked for a basic credit report on a large national chain of department stores. “It’s just a formality,” she said. The chain had just placed a huge order with her small company. It promised to be transformative sale for her business, she told me.
As I pulled up the report she’d asked for, I took a quick look at another, more detailed report that we offered. It showed that the chain’s vendors usually had to wait at least 120 days to get paid. That might be a pretty important piece of information for this customer, I concluded.
I couldn’t tell my customer what was in the report, since she hadn’t bought it. But I said, “We have another report you might find useful: It shows how quickly this company pays its vendors. It’s another $50.”
“Sure, I’ll take it,” the buyer said.
Did I do something wrong?
Six weeks later, I saw the head of our division come into our call center, enter my boss’s office and shut the door. He had a piece of paper. They kept looking at it, then through the office window at me.
Finally, my boss called me in. “Brynne, did you have a customer who asked for a report on a large department store chain?”
“Yes,” I said, cautiously.
“And did you suggest she buy an additional report?”
“Who told you to do that?”
“Nobody,” I admitted.
“Take a look at this letter,” my boss said.
Saved the business
The letter began: “Dear Dun & Bradstreet: You saved my business….”
The buyer went on to explain that if she hadn’t known her big new account paid so slowly, her cash flow – and her company – would have been destroyed. But armed with the information in that report, she’d arranged financing to carry her through. And now her business was doing just fine.
“We want you to train other customer-service reps to do what you did,” the division head said. He put me in charge of a training program on solution selling for two call centers. With that, my career took off – because of a $50 upsell.
Here’s what I learned from my Greatest Sale: It’s not about the size of the sale. It’s about the impact on the customer. When you put your customer’s interests first, sales and success will follow.
Contact Brynne Tillman at www.businessdevelopmentuniversity.com
Subscribe to the Sales Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox