Success Mindset

SALES INSANITY: Don’t Let This Happen to You

This real-life story shared below is adapted from Sales Insanity, a new book written by a fellow sales expert who has chosen to hide behind a Cannon Thomas pseudonym. Read on for a taste of this great new book.

SALES INSANITY: Don’t Let This Happen to You

Insanity.pngI sell big projects to big companies, which means I don’t have an endless number of doors to knock on. Only so many organizations can buy my services. Each opportunity is precious.

If there were ever a selling environment where the mandate should be to work smarter not harder, this would be it. If there were ever an environment in which planning each customer interaction is critical to success, then this is it.

And I’m the professional sales consultant. I know what I should do. However, it would seem that I’m no more immune to temporary insanity than anyone else. Here’s my story.

A Fast Plane to Nowhere

Last year, I was pursuing a piece of consulting work with a large industrial supply company. I’d worked briefly with the company before and knew the two primary buyers well.

As soon as they recognized the need for a new sales program, they called me. Subsequently I worked with them to design an approach that would get them where they needed to go.

I’d done a good job and thought I was in position to win the project.

The prospect eventually narrowed the field to one other company and me. Thus began the final steps in a fairly intense dance. As their deadline approached, phones were ringing, documents were flying, heads were nodding, and then … silence.

A complete, ahem, vacuum of communication. The unexpected silence was very unnerving.

A New Hope

Their deadline passed without a sound. Then suddenly, about a week later, they called me while I was on an anniversary vacation with my wife.

They were 75% certain who they were going to choose, but had just a few more questions they wanted to run by me.

Not wanting to lose this deal for lack of effort, I proposed that we meet in their offices that Monday morning to review my final proposal and to work through any remaining details.

Of course, since I was on vacation, there were all kinds of elaborate logistics to be planned. The only way to meet them on Monday morning was to take a 6:00 a.m. flight from an airport about 90 minutes from my house.

Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive home with my wife until late Sunday afternoon. I speedily packed a suitcase, hugged the kids, kissed my wife, and headed to the airport for my early-morning flight. Then I was off to the do-or-die meeting with my biggest and most promising prospect at the time.

I was pleasantly surprised Monday morning when my travel plans went perfectly. My plane was on time, and the cab zipped me to the prospect’s headquarters with more than 30 minutes to spare. I signed in with reception, grabbed a visitor’s badge, and took up residence in a nearby conference room.

Whew. I had made it.

Everything was going to be okay. Or was it?

Remarkably, it wasn’t until I actually walked into the meeting that I realized how wrong things really were. For all of my immense effort and expense to get to this meeting, I hadn’t taken the time to plan for the sales call. Not even a second.

  • Did I have an agenda? No (even though I'd requested the meeting).
  • A proposal to review with them? No.
  • Questions to ask? Nope.
  • Anticipated objections to handle? Nada.

I had nothing more than myself, a suitcase, and a blank stare on my face. I truly felt insane.

If Only...

If only I’d cobbled together a framework for the meeting while riding in the cab from the airport. But I was talking on the phone, sending e-mails, and responding to what seemed like other more urgent matters.

If only I'd asked the receptionist to print my proposal or even an agenda while standing at her desk. But I didn’t … I was too busy speaking to another prospect by phone.

I’d like to report that the meeting went well despite my lack of preparation, but it didn’t. I got what I deserved. I asked a series of useless questions that did little more than recount our previous conversations. They asked completely unexpected questions, that in hindsight I could have anticipated.

The meeting ended awkwardly with neither side seeming to understand precisely why we had chosen to meet face-to-face in the first place. A total disaster.

I’ll never know whether I was 75% or 25% of the way to winning that deal before I ruined it with my negligent sales hygiene. All I know is that my bank account is significantly lighter than if I’d won that project.

I choose to believe that I lost solely because of that slapdash meeting, just to keep me motivated to never let it happen again. Though I’m sure that it will. Alas, that is the nature of sales insanity.

Here's what you can learn from this experience.

Salespeople operate at an abnormally frenetic pace. Even if it’s not in their blood, it’s in their environment. Daily call re-ports. Weekly conference calls. Monthly quotas. It’s all there to make the sales force work harder.

But selling is no longer about being the fastest runner—it’s about running the smartest race. If you’re running too fast, you will overshoot your target. Slow down. Slow. Down.

Sales isn’t the same as it used to be. Persuasion has been re-placed with collaboration. Speed has been replaced with agility. Strength has been replaced with strategy.

Salespeople who win today are thinkers. They’re deliberate. They don’t try to emulate their last successful sales call—they try to predict what will make the next one a success.Most of the salespeople I‘ve met are smart enough to win any deal, but far fewer actually do it with any consistency. Those who do, think.

The value of planning can’t be overstated, but it’s admittedly tedious. Not many people enjoy doing it, but most agree that it leads to better outcomes. Whether they’re planning to make a sales call or to attain some other objective, the best salespeople plan.

The effort that it takes is far outweighed by the confidence and capability it instills in them. Knowing what to do is very powerful. So slow down, think, and plan.

Sales Insanity-1.png


Cannon Thomas shares 20 True Stories of Epic Sales Blunders—and then gives you advice on how to avoid them.

We've all done some pretty stupid things in our careers. The key is to learn from our mistakes—and, better yet, to prevent them from happening in the first place. 

Get it on Amazon now:

After a successful career in the sales world, writing five books, and speaking internationally, Jill is now tackling an even bigger challenge. She's focused on bringing the "millions in the middle" together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our country and the world. Jill truly believes so much more is possible if we can work together.