True Story: Following Your Customer's Marching Orders

Posted on December 20th 2013

True Story: Following Your Customer's Marching Orders

Find out how strategically planning for a sales meeting helped Heather land her company's largest contract. 

sales planning

Heather*, CEO of a small training company, couldn’t believe her luck. Through a referral, she’d secured a meeting with a senior Pentagon leader to talk about her new management development program.

Waiting nervously in the lobby, she felt a bit out of place in her trendy outfit and edgy hairdo. When her name was called, she jumped up. Standing by the door to the hallowed halls was the General, who warmly greeted her. Several feet behind him stood his two aides de camp.

“Card,” the General barked. One stepped forward, handed him his business card and promptly resumed his original position. He handed it to Heather. Reciprocating, she fumbled in her purse till she found one, and then gave it to him.

“I have a meeting room reserved,” the General said. “Follow me.” As they passed into the secure zone, the two aides-de-camp fell into step behind them, but at a discrete distance that allowed for a private conversation.

Walking down white corridor after white corridor, Heather struggled to keep up to his pace as she tottered along in her high heels. Carrying her overfilled briefcase and big purse made it even more challenging. The aides-de-camp carried everything the General needed.

Despite feeling a bit out of her league, Heather gave a compelling presentation. The General was interested. But the conversation came to a screeching halt when they both realized her company couldn’t scale fast enough to handle the Pentagon’s needs.

Regrouping & Rethinking

Undefeated, Heather and her leadership team spent months rethinking and restructuring their service offering so they were capable of training huge numbers of personnel in ridiculously short time periods. When she was confident that they were ready for prime time, she re-contacted the General and got on his calendar.

Knowing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Heather was not going to blow it. She and her team immersed themselves in understanding their buyer’s objectives, issues and challenges. They crafted a strategic plan for their initial meeting, put together an agenda and then practiced.

Heather also studied military protocol—and practiced it with her colleagues. She knew they’d have a better chance of getting the business if the General and his staff felt comfortable with her team. 

How She Got the Business

It was the day of the big meeting. Sitting in the lobby, a toned-down Heather was dressed in a proper business suit and good walking pumps; her colleagues were similarly attired.

When the General arrived, Heather and her team went to meet them. After a exchanging a few pleasantries, they began the long walk down the endless hallways. Heather’s colleagues, who were carrying her briefcase and purse, followed discretely behind.

Upon reaching the meeting room, Heather was introduced to additional staff members. “Card,” she said. Her colleague stepped forward and handed it to her.

The General took his position at the table. His aides-de-camp positioned themselves at seats behind him. Heather sat opposite the General; her colleagues sat behind her. After a short, but very productive discussion, the General decided it was worth moving to the next step.

At that meeting, Heather implemented a brilliant strategy and flawlessly executed it. But, it takes more than one good conversation to get the business. Heather’s team knew that -- planned for each one just like the first.

The net result? Within fairly short order, they closed their first deal with the Pentagon. It was the largest contract they’d ever landed. Since that time, it’s migrated into a highly profitable, multi-year project. And, upon discovering other unmet needs, Heather’s company created (and sold) several other new services offerings.

Here’s the Deal

Most sellers I know barely plan for their upcoming meetings. They operate on cruise control, totally oblivious to what’s even possible if they’d engage in the opportunity.

Selling is a thinking-intensive profession today. It requires you to engage your brain, to invest time learning, to strategize and create.

Yes, it takes longer to do that. But the other option is to make an endless number of wasted calls, contacts and conversations that lead to know where.

Which will you choose?

*Based on a true story. Names and details have been changed to protect identities of the actual people involved.

JillKonrath

Jill Konrath

Jill Konrath is an internationally recognized author and B2B sales strategist. She's a popular speaker at sales meetings, conferences and kick-off events where she shares fresh sales strategies that actually work in today's business environment. SNAP Selling, her newest book, soared to #1 Amazon sales book within hours of its release. Her 1st book, Selling to Big Companies, was named a “must read” by Fortune Magazine and has been an Amazon’s Top 20 Sales Books since 2006.

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