Demonstrating customer value while sleeping on the job


During an international sales tour in 2006, I did something in a customer sales meeting that I had not ever done before.

I fell asleep in my chair. During a sales presentation.

The company’s VP Of International Sales and I had been on 2-week long tour, taking in various countries across Asia, then moving across to the Middle East and now I found myself in Islamabad sleeping across the table from a buyer who could potentially sign off a large deal that quarter.

Earlier in the week, we had received a call from a sales partner in Pakistan asking us to come and visit this customer, they had an urgent requirement that he thought we could meet. Looking at our schedule it didn’t look like it was possible for us to add another stop to our itinerary. We explained this to our partner, who went back and told the customer. We got another call half an hour later, the customer really wanted us to come to Pakistan.

We arrived in the meeting looking bad, we had not spent more than 24 hours in any one country for a week so both I and my colleague were both very tired. We had landed overnight in Dubai airport and then caught a connecting flight to Islamabad before heading straight to the customer’s office.

As this was a new customer to us, after we had listened to the customer explain his requirements, my boss had started to present an overview of our company and product portfolio to the customer. A little way into this I fell asleep. And I snore. Loudly.

After being woken up I managed to drowsily follow the rest of his presentation.

Once the corporate introductions were finished I launched into my pitch for our product. I was in full flow presenting our value proposition to the customer and describing how it met each of his requirements when I was interrupted by my boss, our VP, snoring loudly.

I woke him and continued on with the meeting.

Somewhat surprisingly, we won this piece of business.

What secured this deal for us?

Demonstrating commitment and value to the customer.

From the customer perspective, we had shown a clear commitment to them. At the time Islamabad was rife with anti-western demonstrations, the US war on terror was in full swing. We had debated whether we should get on the plane at Dubai when we saw footage of demonstrations on the streets but had gone ahead with our plan to meet the customer.

Yes, we had fallen asleep in a customer meeting, but we had travelled through the night and visited them without taking a break, putting ourselves out, extending our trip and re-arranging some other planned meetings.

I had given assurances that I personally would visit other offices in Karachi and Lahore to provide technical expertise in making sure the equipment integrated properly with the customer’s systems and provided advice on best practices to put in place in their operations regardless of whether they used our product or a competitive product.

And this was entirely outside of the value delivered by the product.

Customers expect sales people to demonstrate and deliver value earlier and earlier in the sales cycle. The days where a customer would have to order and receive a product in order to realise value from their supplier no longer exist.

Demonstrating industry knowledge to a customer, highlighting trends in their industry that will present as issues for them later and describing how to address these before they affect the customers business, these are all ways in which sales teams can provide value to their customers and move their relationship away from a sales relationship towards a trusted partner relationship.

This is something we address in Sales Pitch Pro as well. During opportunity qualification, a sales person has pain points and industry trends related to the customers business highlighted to them during a sales meeting. This allows the sales person to leverage the knowledge gained from your entire team and bring it to focus on the customer sitting across the table from them. Demonstrating customer value was never this easy.

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