The Worst Sales Call of 2013


Share on LinkedIn

In 2013 our consultants attended 463 live sales calls. We always compare notes with each other, singling out especially successful or poor appointments. In October, we participated in the worst sales call of the year. Why was this call the winner of this dubious honor? The appointment was bad. But it was our pre-call interview with the sales rep that clinched it. All identifying details have been changed to protect the client. Here’s the story:

We met “Robert” in the lobby of a Courtyard Marriott in the Bay Area. We’d been hired by the client to implement true Social Prospecting. Social Prospecting gets sales reps net new sales appointments inside their dream prospects. The client told us Robert was a “social seller.” So we asked to ride with him on some sales calls.

Download the SBI Social Prospecting Implementation Comparison Guide here. Learn the differences between simple software training and true social prospecting adoption.

Social Prospecting Implementation Comparison Guide

Over bad coffee Robert told us he’d embraced LinkedIn. “I have almost 1200 connections” he said. Indeed, he had reached out to us earlier with a generic request to connect. He told us (with some pride!) that he’d received an “Invitation Restriction.” An Invitation Restriction occurs when too many LinkedIn users indicate they don’t know you. “For a while I couldn’t connect with anyone without knowing their e-mail address. That slowed me down a little” Robert said.

We asked Robert for his approach. “First I made my profile look great by listing all my strengths” he said. “Then I connected with everyone else who works here. Then I connected with all my current customers. Then I learned to search. I used a search to identify IT Directors and started connecting with them” (Robert sells enterprise software).

“Now when I prospect, I look at the connections of my connections. I send notes asking for introductions.” We asked if this was working. “Sometimes” Robert said. “But usually I don’t hear back. People are busy. Also I send a lot of information about my products to all my connections.”

So Robert was successfully using LinkedIn to annoy potential customers. OK. After all this, the appointment was almost anti-climactic. Yes, Robert had successfully used LinkedIn to connect with the prospect. And the appointment itself went well – the prospect was a nice guy. That is, until the end.

“I think we had a good first appointment today” concluded Robert. “I’ll return with the information we discussed. And thanks for accepting my LinkedIn invitation. Would you mind introducing me to some of your LinkedIn connections?”

“Why would I do that?” asked the prospect. “You haven’t even shown me a proposal yet. I certainly haven’t bought your software. All I asked for was more information.”

Robert moved to recover. “Well I can understand that. But we really hit it off today. Would you consider recommending me to others?”

The prospect’s demeanor changed. “You’re way over your skis here, son” he said. “We have a good first appointment and suddenly you want me to introduce you? To who, specifically? And why? If I’m introducing you, then I am attaching my name to yours. That ain’t happening. Certainly not at this point. Then you ask for a recommendation? Why am I recommending you? What does that even look like?”

The final straw? Robert didn’t even understand the prospect’s last question was rhetorical. “Well I can make it easy. I can write a letter and email it to you. Then you just post it on my profile.”

Our consultant wanted to disappear into the floor.

Worst Sales Call Award resized 600

How did this rep get it so wrong? Ironically, the worst sales call this year was the result of good intentions. The CSO was an early believer in using LinkedIn for prospecting. First he bought LinkedIn “Sales Plus” licenses for 130 sales reps. The annual investment was about $62,000; the 3 year investment was $187,000. For training, LinkedIn provided live and recorded webinars. They also provided tip sheets, eLearning modules, and on demand learning videos. This was software training – nothing more. It focused on usage of the LinkedIn software. It did not focus on the creation of net new opportunities.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, about a year ago the CSO hired “experts.” They came from a company claiming to be “the leading social selling consulting firm.” This 3 month project actually caused sales to decline because it distracted everybody. These “experts” used the entire 2013 SKO meeting to “train” the sales force. Weekly follow up webinars offered LinkedIn “tips.” Webinar participation was mandatory. Appointments actually decreased.

This CSO, with the support of his CEO, then hired SBI. The objective of this 1 year engagement is to move away from “social selling training.” The company will gain first-mover advantage by creating a real social sales force. This is a lot more than a simple training effort. A social sales force combines process, people, and technology and is a transformational project.

The best part? No more awkward sales calls, annoyed prospects, and embarrassed consultants. Download the SBI Social Prospecting Implementation Comparison Guide here. Learn the differences between simple software training and true social prospecting adoption.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Synek
Mark Synek serves as a Principal at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a sales and marketing consultancy focused exclusively on helping B2B companies make the number. Mark is an industry thought leader, with deep experience as an executive. He has served in multiple positions as both a sales and operations leader, with a track record of outstanding performance in both capacities.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here