Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople made a challenging sale despite price objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Dallas Teague Snider of Make Your Best Impression in Birmingham, Alabama tells how she got her buyer’s attention in an unusual way.
I was the assistant director of sales for a hotel, trying to win a significant corporate account. And I was getting nowhere.
I’d tried just about everything to get a meeting with the prospect. He ran the regional office for a national pest-control firm, and used a competing hotel to put up out-of-town visitors. I’d learned that his contract with the other hotel was up for renewal and I knew we could do a better job. But I just couldn’t get his attention.
I called. I dropped by. Sent notes. Called again. Weeks went by and I never heard back.
His assistant told me she was passing along my messages, but I had my doubts. I suspected she had a good relationship with the other hotel and was running interference. Or maybe the prospect just had a lot on his plate and the hotel contract wasn’t a priority.
Time was running out; if I didn’t get to him soon he’d just renew his existing contract with my competitor. So I got the sales team together to brainstorm how we could break through these barriers and get a meeting.
“So what does he care about?” I asked. “Cockroaches,” said one of our reps. She’d called on him in her previous job. “Really. He has a cockroach collection in his office.”
“So let’s send him a cockroach for his collection,” someone joked.
That’s exactly what we did. I found a company that could make custom-molded candy. They were surprised when I ordered an 18-inch-long chocolate cockroach. I sent it to the prospect, along with a note asking for a few minutes of his time. It went by overnight delivery so he’d have to sign for it.
Minutes after it arrived, my phone rang. “Okay, you got my attention,” the prospect laughed. “When do you want to meet?”
People try all kinds of gimmicks to create interest. But this idea wasn’t just a gimmick. It worked because we’d taken the time to understand what was important to this buyer.
Focused on the buyer
When we met with the prospect, we kept the focus on him. Of course we admired his cockroach collection. But we also showed how we could help his business.
For example, we offered guaranteed rates so his company could budget more accurately, and shuttle service to save the expense and inconvenience of cab rides. Most important, we emphasized our personal service. “We work hard to understand each guest’s preferences and make their experience memorable,” I said.
“Sort of like you did with me,” he said. He agreed to a site visit, and couple of weeks later we’d won the account.
This was my greatest sale because we worked hard to learn what the prospect cared about, and used that knowledge to break through barriers and win the sale.
Contact Dallas Teague Snider at firstname.lastname@example.org
photo credit: Anil Jadhav
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