A small sale – but a great relationship
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A small sale – but a great relationship

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. Beth Bracco, VP of Business Development at Blue Plate Catering in Chicago, tells how she converted a seemingly small opportunity into a major opportunity.

I was working late at the office one evening when the phone rang.

A woman was calling from a hospital in the far suburbs. We’re a catering firm, and she wanted to host an event downtown.

I could tell she was a little overwhelmed. I mentioned some venues and she confessed she wasn’t that familiar with the city. And she didn’t have much budget to work with. I could have sent her prices and information. But here she was, worried enough to be calling vendors well after office hours. I could tell she needed help! So I decided to give her the VIP treatment.

I invited her to come into the city. I’d pick out the venues I thought would work best, and we’d visit them together.

That was a big commitment for a sale this size. It would take me out of the office for an entire day. But I don’t believe in making sales. I believe in making relationships.

She came in the following week. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said. “I brought someone else along.”

The other woman was a volunteer at the hospital, and she’d offered to help out. “Of course I don’t mind,” I said. “The more the merrier.”

As I’d promised, we spent the whole day together. My prospect was enthusiastic. “I can’t believe how much time you’re spending with us,” she said.

And then her companion – who’d been quiet all day – spoke up.

“You should talk to my son,” she said. “He has a big event coming up and he could use your help.”

When she wrote down his name and contact info, I was floored. He worked for a huge national sports organization. His project? A five-day event with more than 5,000 invited guests. “I’ll tell him he should talk to you,” she said.

No slam dunk
Of course, we weren’t going to get the business just because the decision-maker’s mother liked us. But it sure didn’t hurt.

The biggest benefit: She’d alerted us to this opportunity long before any of our competitors knew about it. The prospect was months away from even thinking about vendors. It meant I didn’t have to worry about making the sale yet. I could focus on creating a relationship.

I built rapport with the client and established credibility through informal meetings and communications during the bidding process.

When decision time came, we’d already established trust and confidence. We won the business hands down. It was the largest and most prestigious event we’d ever hosted.

But it wasn’t my greatest sale.

My greatest sale was the one that started it all – the woman working late one night who needed my help. By focusing on her needs, I created a great relationship – and the sales followed.


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