As a rising junior in high school, my daughter is now at the point in her academic career when studying for the college entry exams is necessary. She took sample tests at a college prep program and we then met with Jim, a representative from the company, who was to review her scores and formulate a plan for helping my daughter be test-ready in a few months.
Well, that is not exactly what happened.
During the hour-long follow-up meeting, I was reminded of the many things that one should never do when trying to sell a service (or product). It doesn’t matter what setting you are in – business, academic or social – these are things you should never do:
1. Do not make comments that are sexual in nature or have a sexual undertone.
When the service being sold requires you to be sitting with a minor alone in a room – or with anyone and anywhere for that matter – you are to never talk like this.It is uncomfortable, inappropriate, wrong and in some instances, illegal.
Jim did not break any laws but when he shared his thoughts about each of our appearances, he was unquestionably inappropriate.So was him telling my daughter about colleges that have “hot guys” and other schools where she might find a husband – because certain schools have “good stock.”
2. Do not oversell yourself or brag about your accomplishments.
Find the right balance when letting potential clients know that you are skilled, experienced and can deliver value.Do not undersell yourself, but do not oversell either. Do not start a meeting by bragging about your many success stories, especially those that are unrelated to the meeting’s purpose.
Jim’s personal oversell was huge while the company’s services were completely undersold.I not only listened to him gloat about his past unrelated work experiences, he also let me know how many children he has, the town he lives in and that he can afford an expensive home and luxury car.The least he could have done was spend some time overselling the value my daughter would be getting if she worked with him and this company.Somehow he left that part out.
3. Ask questions and listen to the answers.
If you want to get to know your potential client, it is a good idea to ask questions and listen to the responses.And by listen, I mean listen to the complete answer.Do not interrupt and bring the focus back to you by changing the topic away from the very subject you brought up with your question.
When asked about academic and career interests, my daughter partially answered.She stopped talking when Jim hijacked the conversation and shifted it back to himself and his many success stories.That was a great tactic…for getting a potential customer to tune you out and shut down.And that is just what my daughter did.
4. Know what you want from the meeting and don’t assume it will happen.
If the goal is to close the sale, I suggest that you focus on the pitch and do your best to make sure that the customer has everything he or she needs in order to make an informed decision.Be persuasive, sure, but don’t assume the deal will be closed at the end of the meeting.Listen, ask questions, give answers, provide valuable information and connect with the customer.Do that and you will likely be discussing next-steps, which, by the way, might include closing the deal.
In my situation, it seemed that Jim expected for us to walk out of the meeting with my credit card charged and test-prep sessions scheduled.He also assumed that it was OK to ask my daughter for her cell phone number.He was ready to enter it into his phone but stopped when I interjected and said that she would not be giving it to him.No cell numbers were exchanged, no credit cards were swiped and no sessions were scheduled.
5. Don’t judge and don’t assume.
Remember that appearances do not directly correlate with wealth (or lack thereof).And being wealthy does not mean that people will automatically spend their money with your business.Deliver a clear message about the value being offered and then, maybe then, people will choose to purchase the product or service being offered.
During this meeting, it was clear to me that Jim prejudged my financial situation and assumed how I would be willing to spend my money(this extended outside the parameters of the fees for test prep services).I quickly began questioning his authenticity for wanting to help my daughter and wondered if he was more motivated by the amount of money I would be spending if I agreed to the proposed plan.That leads me to the next point.
6. Don’t change the rules.
When discussing how your business works – what you offer and how the service or product will be delivered – it is frowned upon to change the procedure and methodology at the time that the service plan is being delivered.It is unprofessional and deceitful.
I initially spoke with a different representative from this company several times, therefore, I was aware of the fee structure and program procedures.Imagine my surprise when Jim changed everything around and tried to sell me a different and more expensive plan.I was confused and became further skeptical of his motives, also wondering if this was related to the assumptions and judgments (I thought) he had made about me.
Following the meeting, I called my initial contact person and shared with him each of these six points.He understood my upset and agreed with my complaints.He apologized several times and kindly asked if my daughter and I would be willing to meet with him for a “do-over” of the follow-up meeting.I agreed.He also offered a few hours of complimentary tutoring, an appreciated gesture that offered value beyond that of the monetary savings.
This call reminded me of the final point I want to make.
7. $*^% happens and sometimes a second chance is a worthwhile chance to give.
I believe that no person or business is perfect – it’s just not realistic to think that way.Each experience is unique and what you choose to do in any given situation should be decided on a case-by-case basis.Sometimes it will be better to walk away and not subject yourself to an encounter again.Other times the situation may warrant going back and checking it out for a second time.
For me, I do not trust Jim and would never allow my daughter to be alone in a room with him so there is no reason to consider giving him a second chance. But as far as giving the college prep company a second chance, I am happy to do that.The meeting may be a bust, I know, but my hunch is that it will not be.Either way, I stand by my decision for giving this company a second chance.
I’m curious, what would you do if you were in my shoes?