INTERVIEW

Rick Halbrooks, Vice President, McLeod Software

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Rick was a referral for an interview, as a straight-talking software sales guru, who combined Southwestern principles with complex, enterprise sale theory. I was not remotely disappointed. What I got was a comprehensive guide to hiring top salespeople and the differences between the various stages of Rick’s career.

It’s a forensic insight into how a market-leading company ensures it’s salesforce is fit for purpose, and a key interview for anyone who wants to build a technology company which wins 93% of their competitive pitches. I hope you enjoy.

You can read Rick’s full biography here

Jamie: Rick, what have you found most fulfilling about your career thus far?

Rick: In any type of business, income is important, and that has been a great incentive in the sales business that I’ve been in for over 40 years now. It’s also been very fulfilling to gain confidence in problem-solving; both as a salesperson and as a team builder, a sales manager, a vice president of sales, whatever. I also enjoy travel, it’s one of my great hobbies, and being in sales has afforded me the ability to do that- both for business and also for reward trips.

Jamie: What’s the best thing about being in sales?

Rick:

Building confidence for life, because there are always issues you have to deal with and problems you have to solve. And it’s taught me, when there’s a challenge, to remain calm and work through it,

and that the solution is not always evident, but you’ve got to go through a lot of steps to resolve things and not get frustrated.

Jamie: Is that something you see as unique or special to sales?

Rick: Not necessarily. I imagine that it would be the same in a lot of different fields and not just in sales, particularly in software sales where there are very high stakes involved. We’re talking about a very big-ticket item. We only sell software to larger trucking companies that have 25 trucks and sometimes a huge fleet of up to 10,000 to 15,000 trucks. So, you’re talking about six, seven or eight-figure deals. It’s one of the highest levels of sales because you’re selling big-ticket items. Not unlike I guess, selling houses, yachts or planes, but this is B2B sales all the way.

Jamie: You mentioned the enjoyment level, what is it about selling big-ticket sales that you enjoy more?

Rick: Well, certainly the rewards are greater when you’re selling bigger ticket items. You have to have a more complicated sale, a more high-level sale and so you need to hire only the very best salespeople who are involved in this industry. We’re not hiring entry-level salespeople like I did when I was in the photocopier business for years, where we were hiring kids coming straight out of college or people who were wanting to get their foot in the door in the sales field.

We are hiring folks who have had tremendously successful sales careers already, who want to go to the next level where they can sell larger ticket items, more complicated sales where they get paid more money. Its more fulfilling when you can go home and say, “I closed a million-and-a-half-dollar deal today,” as compared to, “I closed a $7,000 deal today.”

Jamie: Do you believe that you need to have had that experience selling small-ticket items to be able to build towards the bigger tickets?

Rick: Yes, it’s kind of an evolution thing. I sold books to door during summers in college, those were $60, $70 a book. Then I sold advertising for several years, radio commercials for $50, $60 a spot, then I sold office equipment – copiers and fax machines for 18 years and built teams there. Next, I worked for several years in the financing business and did equipment leasing for banks. We would finance municipalities and vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances for hospitals. We would finance machinery, and trucks, fleets of automobiles; some of those were big-ticket items, but it was more about the financing, not the actual product that you were selling.

From that, I moved into the software business where you’re selling to the end-user, and you’re actually selling the product that we develop ourselves, and no one else can sell it. What we’re selling is not somebody else’s software, but the software that our developers write. It’s proprietary, and it can’t be bought through any resellers or, fortunately, on Amazon. It’s direct sales all the way, which is what I’ve grown up in. So, it’s a perfect evolution of my sales career to be working now with McLeod Software.

Jamie: Why did you go into sales originally?

Rick: I think it was because I felt like it was an area that would help me become more self- confident and help me become more outgoing. Frankly, when I was in school and just like any other high school, you have your different groups of people, you have your athletes, you have your druggies or smoker guys that hang around outside smoking all the time, you have your band folks and music folks. Then you have your intellectuals, and I was sort of an intellectual/sports guy, but I think more than anything else, I was pretty introverted. I wasn’t a real outgoing, assertive person.  I knew that if I wanted to grow, I had to do things that weren’t that comfortable for me. One of my best friend’s brother, an older brother, had been selling books for several summers; he convinced me to go out and sell books with him one summer. By the way, that was Tom McLeod, who I work for now. He’s one of my partners in this business. So, I think the main thing was to try to learn some new skills that I didn’t have at that point. I knew I was weak in those areas of being outgoing and being extroverted.

Jamie: And what skills do you believe that someone should exhibit naturally for a career in sales?

Rick: I did a little research on that, on different things that I’ve written down over the years because that’s really the bottom line of what I do now; team building. I have 40 salespeople working for me now, and I have six sales managers, and my job basically is to help build the team.

I think that’s probably the most important sale you’ll ever make. When you become a manager, and you sell people on coming to work for your team, just like sports teams, it really gets down to recruiting. If you have five-star players, you have a much better chance of winning a national championship than if you’ve got one-star players on your team. My job is to seek out and find the people who are the five-star winners to put on my team, to have the very best sales team I can have. I have to say, a disclaimer – all this is said with the backdrop that these are generalities, because you have to make decisions on individuals and not generalities

– Some of the best salespeople I ever hired were people who I met selling retail or people who I met while checking into a fitness centre. I’m always recruiting and finding good people. I’ve even interviewed people who I met that were waiting on tables, and I thought, “Wow, this person would make a good salesperson.”

Some of those people became some of our better salespeople, and they didn’t have sales experience at the time, the kind of sales experience that you would expect to find nowadays. Back then, when I was selling office equipment, you really could train people who had absolutely no sales experience to do that. I break it down into three areas.

I think there are three things that you have to look at: you have to look at skills, you have to look at traits, and you have to look at attitudes. If I had to say which of those is the most important, I would probably say attitudes. However, because I’m hiring very high-level salespeople now, that changes depending on what product you’re selling. I would say for entry-level sales, I think the first things you have o look for are certain traits and skills. For example, I think it’s a trait that you had good jobs to build you up before this and that you’d had good tenure in the jobs. We get some of these young people that come in now that are 30 years old, and they’ve had seven jobs since they graduated from college. I don’t feel great about somebody who’s had a different job every year. I don’t know if it’s because they can’t hold on to a job, or they don’t have the focus to stay with somebody, but I’m not going to invest tens of thousands of dollars training and working with somebody who can’t stay someplace more than a year.

I’d say that it’s a trait if somebody’s willing to travel, and sales folks have to travel a lot, 50 to 70% of the time they’re travelling because no one’s going to buy $250,000 to a million dollars’ worth of software without seeing you in person. It can’t be done over the phone. Now somebody who has got a product they’re selling that’s a smaller ticket item, then they can sell it on the phone, that’s a different situation. That’s why I’m saying it’s really situational.

Proven sales skills, a winning track record, that’s key to us. As far as skills, math skills, written skills – you’ve got to be able to do the math in your head if you want to negotiate in the business that I’m in, because I’m selling to trucking company owners, and I’m selling to freight brokers. These are people who buy lots of stuff, and they negotiate every penny. You have got to be able to do the math fast, you have got to have good professional written skills.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for traits, then I think you’re looking for things like a professional appearance, I think that’s a trait that somebody should have. You have got to be likeable. I don’t think likability is really a skill, I think that it’s a trait and I think you have to look at traits like that because people do buy from people they like, and I want somebody to make a good first impression; that are likeable people. If I wouldn’t want to buy from them, I don’t think any of my prospects would want to buy from them.

I think it’s a trait to be in good health. If somebody has serious health issues, they shouldn’t be working for me, because they’re going to have to travel a lot. It’s a gruelling thing to travel nowadays. With all this TSA stuff they’re doing in the US now, flight cancellations, and weather issues. There are a lot of times you have to be a pretty good road warrior to figure out what you’re going to do for the night when you’re stuck in an airport that’s snowed in and all the flights are cancelled. I think it’s a trait for somebody to be honest and have integrity. I think it’s a trait to be assertive. Those are all things we are looking for.

On the other hand, some of the most important things I’m looking for are attitudes. Because I believe you need to hire attitudes. I want to hire people who expect to win because I believe that people usually react to you the way you expect them to. I look for people who expect to win. Competitive people; I think competitiveness is an attitude.

I think people need to be problem solvers. I mentioned that already because you’re going to run into problems and objections, and you’ve got to figure out, “How am I going to solve those things?” Because nowadays, you have got to make three or four sales and in every sale you make, you’ve got to sell the prospect. But first of all, you’ve got to sell yourself. You have to be able to sell yourself first that what you’re trying to sell the prospect is the right thing, and that it’s the best decision for them. You can’t usually sell someone else on something you don’t believe yourself in because selling is basically transference of belief.

You’ve got to believe that you’re doing something good for somebody and to have that service-minded attitude, they taught us in basic sales training at Southwestern. I think you’ve got to be able to pass it on to somebody else; you have to sell yourself, you have to sell the prospect, and then you have to come back and sell to the company. A lot of times internally, we need to deliberate on whether this particular customer is the right fit for us, and if this is going to be a successful project. A lot of the work in the software business is making sure the company is on board with your plan and how you’re going to get it done.

Then finally, you’ve got to sometimes sell the financial people, financing the deal. And I know that from having to present the many credit committees and banks, that some folks can’t pay you cash for $450,000′ worth of software, they’re going to want to finance it.

So, I have to come back, and I have to sell the financial people for financing this deal. That’s four sales you have to make, and only one of those is to the prospect. So, I’ve got to find people who can do that. And it certainly requires people to be confident. It requires people to have a positive attitude, the service-minded attitude we talked about before. Those are all attitudes. I’ve got to find people who are self-starters. Because at our level, we’re not going to babysit salespeople. We do have field coaches who go out and work with the salespeople in the field. I go out with salespeople regularly to close deals and make presentations, and all of our managers have to be selling sales managers. Nobody is an administrative sales manager here. So, we’ve got to find people who feel like they’re taking ownership as an entrepreneur of their territories or their assigned accounts, whichever the case may be.

Obviously, there of things we look for and I spend the majority of my time now recruiting, and interviewing and hiring prospective salespeople, even though I don’t have any openings; all of our positions are filled. But our company is growing very fast, and we’re expanding very quickly, we’re creating our own new product lines. And so, there’s always space for somebody to have an opening to fill and I’ve got to have people ready to go when I have those openings. Recruiting is just like selling. You can’t just have one prospect, you got to have lots of prospects. You’ve got to have a backlog of deals that you’re working in a pipeline, and you have to have a pipeline of recruits in the same way. I tell people all the time, what I learned when I was recruiting for book sales, and that is, “I’m always recruiting. I’m not always hiring.” You have got to find the right people.

Jamie: Which of those, if you boil it down, would you need to have to begin with to go out and get the other skills?

Rick: Well, when I was hiring, for copier sales what I was looking for there, was first – traits. I wanted to ensure that people had the business acumen – the professional appearance, the good health, likability, they were honest, and they were assertive. These traits were the very first and most basic line, and if they had those things, chances are if I was impressed with the way they presented themselves, I would hire them. I wasn’t looking so much at the skills yet but whether we felt like we could teach them. Those were more of the sales skills like being entrepreneurial and helping them, for instance, creating a sense of urgency. Nowadays, if they can’t create a sense of urgency, I’m not going to hire them, not in the work we’re doing. But back in the copier business, you can sell them a little bit or a lot of something, and I could sell them my $2,000 fax machine. And that’s not that hard to do, even if you can’t create a sense of urgency, but in the software business where you’re selling a million-dollar deal, it’s all or nothing; they’re not going to do a trial order. They’re not going to buy a little bit of it now and a little bit later. It’s like swapping out the engine of their aeroplane while they’re in mid-flight.

Our software is the central nervous system of a company. It’s the software that runs everything in their company. It does the order entry, the operations, all the metrics that they are keeping up with, it does payroll, it does their settlements and even their P&Ls, and everything else hooks into our software. All the peripherals – the fuel cards, the GPS positioning devices in the trucks, and the vehicle maintenance software, it all hooks into our product. Our software takes all that information and collaborates it all into one screen. It puts everything into one place, so it’s easily accessible, and they can make quick decisions and good decisions. It’s not something to take lightly. It’s a big, big deal. I have people create a sense of urgency once I’ve created the need for the software, and that’s not the hard part – the hard part is getting people to get moving and do something, just like in other businesses. We don’t tend to lose many deals to competitors, but we lose deals to people not doing anything. If we confuse them, or we don’t do a good job on the ROI showing people how it pays for itself, or if we don’t create a sense of urgency to go ahead and get moving on the process.

Jamie: Would you recommend that any salesperson try and develop the skills, traits, and the attitude to become a large ticket software salesman?

Rick: Sure. If they don’t have it, they’re not going to get hired by a good company or be on a winning sales team. I don’t think. I think it’s like anything else. You can be a so-so player and make it onto a team, but it won’t be a championship team. It’ll be a so-so team.

Jamie: Within your organization, are the salespeople treated and compensated well versus their peers who aren’t in sales?

Rick: I can tell you here, our salespeople are envied. In fact, a lot of folks apply for our positions in sales from other places in our company, because I believe that deep down, most everybody wants to be in sales; most want to have some autonomy and control their own destiny. I think it might be the best thing about being in sales; being able to control your own destiny, and having clearly defined objectives, very objective goals, to clearly define the kind of an ongoing scorecard, that kind of thing. You know what your numbers are and what you’ve got to do to get to those numbers.

A lot of folks don’t know that in their jobs. Somebody who’s a programmer – they know that their goal is to get finished with a certain program but is the time clearly defined how you know whether it’s a great job or a good job? I don’t know how you do all those things, which is why I’m in sales. I like the idea of having clearly defined objective goals.

Certainly, our top 60% of salespeople are the highest paid people in the company. Our folks are all six-figure earners. That’s anywhere from low six figures to high six figures, and even the inside salespeople are low six-figure folks. It’s a great position to be in. And they can make twice as much next year as they made this year by selling twice as many products and services. There’s literally no cap as to how much money they can make; in most jobs there are caps. But in sales at a good company, you don’t have caps. Your income is not capped. If you sell four times as much, chances are you’ll make at least four times as much. Our folks actually make more than that. They may make five times as much if they sell four times as much as last year. We believe in overpaying the overachievers and underpaying the underachievers.

Jamie: What is inside sales like for McLeod?

Rick: Yes, well, we have inside salespeople in two different areas. We have an existing accounts organization, and we have a new business organization. The existing account folks take care of our thousand customers. And they have outside people who go out and visit the folks in person, check on how they’re doing; if they’re using the software right, if they feel like they’re trained properly, and then they do presentations, they do demos of the new product. They’re upgrading our customers when they’re out there. Then we have the inside folks for the existing accounts, and they sell the add-on products. They sell modules and interfaces to our customers whenever we come out with a new module. We came out with our new CRM tool. We have our own integrated CRM for trucking companies and for brokers, s, they don’t have to go with Salesforce or NetSuite. It’s actually native to our software, so it’s using the same database as the software is. When somebody calls in on the phone, it automatically pulls up their customer screen for that CSR, whoever their support person is. It pulls up their account. They can look right at it while they’re answering the phone.

It’s great for customer service. And when we have a new CRM package like that, our inside salespeople, they sell it over the phones because it’s only $10,000. It’s not something we’re going to send somebody out to in-person to sell a $10,000 product. If it’s not something for $75,000 or $100,000, you can’t afford to send a salesperson out there and pay for all the airlines, tickets, and all the hotel rooms, that sort of thing.

A new business, the inside salespeople, are business development folks. They’re on the phones people- we’ve got a great database that we have built over the years. And they’re calling folks that they know to have competitors’ products and see how things are going. Are they ready to take a look at our new product? And they put our new business people in the right place at the right time. So, they’re developing leads for the outside sales folks.

Jamie: And will those inside salespeople often be younger?

Rick: One of them has been with us for 25 years, so, not necessarily. But a lot of times that is more-or-less the entry-level into our sales organization. It is for those folks or somebody who doesn’t want to travel, for example. We’ve got moms with young kids. They can’t travel, or it’d be pretty difficult for them to travel. We have guys who don’t like flying on aeroplanes. We have people who’d rather be staying in town and work from the office.

Jamie: How is the sales training in the software industry, generally?

Rick: Sadly, for sales in general, there’s not enough. I can tell you as far as our company, our folks are highly trained. They have to have basic sales skills already. We’re not going to teach people the steps of the sale. They should know that already. We’re not teaching them how to close, although we’ll tell them what works in our industry. We hire people who already have some sales experience, and then we put them through something called ‘immersion training’ that takes about a month. Our immersion training class spends about a week working on the industry, talking about the transportation industry, because we’re in a very narrow vertical market. People expect us to be experts because that’s the only industry we serve. So, our folks have gotten to understand all the terminology, understand the difference between a flatbed and a tanker truck, you’ve got to understand the difference between private fleets and for-hire fleets. You’ve got to understand the difference between truckload and less than truckload, freight and that sort of thing. This is what we teach for about a week of immersion training.

Then we talk about the company, our company, McLeod Software and our company philosophy, our history, our background, our culture, which is very important to us. Tom is just an incredible leader. And he has lots of goals and standards for our people, and he wants to ensure that every single person, right from the receptionist to the vice presidents and owners of the company, are on the same board, and aligned with his philosophies. We spend about a week working on that. Then they spend about a week on the software itself, whether they’re selling software or not. This is just the basics of the software because once they get to their department, we’re going to go through even more specifics.

For instance, if they’re a programmer, they’re going to have to know a lot more about it, they’ll spend several months working on understanding the language the software is written in and understanding how we go about our programming regimes and what our programs are, et cetera. If they’re a support person, they’re going to work with other support people for a couple of months to really understand the software to be able to help the customers out. If they’re trainers, then we have a lot of folks that train on our software implementers. They go on-site and do the training for several weeks. They’ve got to know the software inside and out. They’re going to go through some extensive product training.

Our trainees have them dispatch trucks using our software, after dispatching trucks using sticky notes and Excel spreadsheets and notepads like some of our prospects do. They use Excel spreadsheets and QuickBooks, sticky notes, notepads, and whiteboards in our offices to dispatch trucks. We want them to experience what it’s like not to have our software and then have them do the same thing using our software.

That takes about two weeks. Then they turn them over to their departments for additional training. For sales, a lot of that is going to be shadowing other salespeople, working with other salespeople in the field, not to mention a lot of training on the software through video training, which usually takes another month or two. That’s generally about a three-month training process for sales, and none of that’s basic sales training. Of course, the training at McLeod never stops. We discuss sales training at each weekly sales meeting and go into even greater detail at our annual meetings. Field training and coaching goes on every day. New products are introduced nearly monthly at a technology company, and our reps have to know all about them. If you don’t like to be a constant learner, don’t go into technology sales! At Mcleod Software, we believe that “when you’re green, you grow….and when you’re ripe, you rot.”

Jamie: So, it’s pretty thorough, and it needs to be because of the complexity of the product?

Rick: Let’s look at it this way, I tell prospects this, I tell customers this, I tell my salespeople this – software is a very difficult thing to buy, it’s a very difficult thing to sell. And it’s all because there’s a lot of expectations and there’s a lot of assumptions made, that may or may not be true. So, you really have to have a very thorough job as a salesperson to ensure that it’s a pleasant experience for the customers. Because changing out the engine of your aeroplane in mid-flight is not for the faint of heart.

Jamie: What advice would you give to aspiring salespeople who might want to get into the software industry either immediately or eventually?

Rick: I would say ensure that they’re pretty technically sound. I’m not saying they’ve got to know how to be a programmer or else they’d probably be a programmer. Most salespeople don’t have the patience to be a programmer.

I would say that the first thing you want to do is work your way up selling other products. Much like I did, start off with a lower ticket item or something you can sell little of or sell trial orders, and then work your way up to larger ticket items until you get the point where you’re prepared to sell to a very narrow vertical market and be an expert.

I didn’t have to be an expert on anything except my product when I was selling copiers. I was more than more successful than most at selling copiers because I was also an expert on the competition. It’s a very competitive business. We were competing against Xerox and IBM.

Jamie: If you were starting a new sales career, what would you do differently?

Rick: I don’t think I would’ve done a thing differently. I think it worked out perfectly. I think it couldn’t have been any better, than to sell books door-to-door for two years, to learn how to be persistent, learn how to love ‘no’s, learn how to handle rejection, and learn to think on my feet. That’s what selling books door-to-door teaches you –how to think on your feet. That has served me well. I also think having graduated with a math major, it helps me out a lot with my being able to handle math in my head and negotiate very confidently and without delay.

Jamie: Could you tell me about a time when you failed to make a sale, but you really learned something valuable?

Rick:

Somebody once told me one time that in every sales situation, a sale is made. And I thought, “What in the world? I had a lot of sales where I didn’t get a sale? What are you talking about?” Well, they say either you sell the prospect on doing business with you, or they sell you on why they’re not going to do business with you.

I’ve had several situations when I was younger when I was selling office equipment, where I’d go in, and I would show somebody a copier, and they’d say “Yeah, yeah, everything looks great. It’s so much better than what we have.” Then we get to the close, and they would say, “Well, you know, everything looks real good. I think we’re going to probably buy it from you. But I don’t like to make quick decisions. Why don’t you get back to me by the end of the month?” And I would think, “Well, you know, this guy is really professional. He’s a lawyer. He’s not going to lie to me. I think I’ll get this order, and I’ve got plenty of others I’m working with. I’ll just give him a call back at the end of the month.”

When I did call him back at the end of the month, I couldn’t get him on the phone for two or three days. Then I’d finally get him on the phone, he’d already bought something else because the other salesperson went in there and did a better job – either did a better job of selling them on their product being a better solution to their issues, or they created a sense of urgency and got the deal done. They said, “What’s it going to take to get it done today?” And got creative and made the deal happen, and I didn’t do that.

Frankly, one of those times, I had already had my numbers made for the month by 200%. And I just figured, “Well, I’m going to need some deals next month. I’ll just sandbag this thing the next month.” I’ll tell you, I had the number one salesperson in the world working for me here in Birmingham when I was in the copier business for a company called Danka, which was a huge copier company. When I started working with them, we had 80 offices in the United States. We’d go out and buy mom-and-pop copier dealerships up and convert them over to our way of doing things. When I left them eight years later, we had 850 offices in 80 countries. It was huge.

Well, the number one salesperson in the world for them worked for me in Birmingham, Alabama. And she taught me something very valuable – she never ever thought about sandbagging anything. No matter how big a month she was having, she was still pushing up to the very last day to get every order in, she can possibly get in.

And she could have easily sandbagged it to the next month because she had 500% of quota with three days left, and she could just take it easy and said, “I’ve already got my numbers, and I’ll start over for next month. I’ll save that one.” She didn’t do that. She always blew it out and got everything she could in. And you know what? The next month, she always found some more.

If you sandbag 20% of your business every month, your sales for the year are going to be down 20%. I mean, the bottom line is you’re only hurting yourself. We deal with that a lot in the software sales business as well. But the folks that are making the most money, they’re not sandbagging. They’re getting everything they get in when they get in because you’ll never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I mean, I’ve had at least two or three deals where somebody said, “Yeah, this looks really good. We’ll sign it. Get back to you on Monday.” And over the weekend the guy dies. In the trucking business, they had a driver who had a terrible wreck and killed three or four people. And now, all of a sudden that deal’s off. Instead of saying, “Well, look, this guy’s going to buy from me, why do I need to risk this by giving them another thousand dollars off to go in and do it today?” Or, “Why not go ahead and just get the full price and not give them any discount to go ahead and do it today?” It’s always best to get it done today. That’s what she taught me. That’s something else I love about sales: you learn something new every day!

I teach all my salespeople the same thing. Get it done today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow or next week. If you do, more bad things could happen than good things. The only good thing that can happen is that they do what they say they’re going to do on Monday. But think of all the bad things that can happen.

Worst is a guy could die. Another is that they could have a horrible- in the trucking business, they can have a horrible wreck, or they could have the drivers go on strike. We had one where the company went on strike over the weekend, which put off a deal for six months. There are all kinds of things that can happen. They can lose a big customer of their own. So, you got to get moving on with things when you can get it done. That’s the lesson. I learned that the hard way two or three times.

Jamie: Is there a specific success story of making a sale that really shows all of the skills and the traits and the attitudes you developed over your career?

Rick: Well, there’s several. I’ll give you one that I think is pretty basic. We don’t win every sale, but we win about 93% of the time we’re up against a competitor. But a lot of deals just don’t happen because they want to put off their decision, or they want to stay with what they’ve got—the old inertia thing, where they just want to status quo things. But we’ve lost a deal when I first got into the business. And instead of trying to go in and say, “Oh, I think you made a terrible mistake. Should we re-evaluate this and that?” 

I said, “Look, I understand completely. But I’d like to keep things open for you. If things don’t work out the way you think they will, I want you to give me a call because we really think our products are the best one for you. But I understand that you made a decision to go with somebody else. And we’re in this for the long term. We don’t have to have your business today or this year, but long term, we want you to be a McLeod customer.”

 followed up with a guy on a monthly basis for the next three months. Sure enough, they did run into a problem with the other company that had promised them stuff that they didn’t have. In the software business, that’s really common, that a lot of people go out and they sell smoke-and-mirrors. Our company is just the opposite. I think we may be overly conservative sometimes on what we sell. But it only takes one of those to learn your lesson that you make sure that they completely understand what you’re offering. But in this case, they didn’t have what they said they had. And so, the prospect said, “Look, we’re not going any further with these other guys. We’re ready to go ahead and go with your company.”

Sticking with a lost deal, losing with some dignity and professionalism and leaving things open and then following up – which is hard to do when you lose something – to want to have to call them back again after you’ve already lost. But that’s an important thing to do in any business, I think.

I’ve also had some pretty funny objections from people, where we were selling copiers and somebody would say, “Oh, we love the copier. It makes great copies. It’s quiet, it runs a lot faster than what we have. We like your price. But the copier just clashes with our walls and stuff. Our color scheme in here just clashes with it.”

And I said, “If I can resolve that problem, can we go ahead and get your order?” They said, “Well, it depends on how you plan on resolving this.” And I said, “Well, I’ve got two options. One is that I can repaint your walls or two is that I can repaint the copier. Which would you prefer me to do?” And they said, “Well, I don’t really want these walls repainted.”

I said, “Well, fine. I’ll have the copier repainted to match yours. And we’ll deliver it next week. Sign here.”

We just took the panels off, and we spray painted them to match the colour in their office. It cost me about $20 for three cans of spray paint.

[END]

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