Recently, a company asked me to meet with them to see if I could help their business. They had reached $25 million in revenue. But, in recent years, they had dropped initially back to $22 million, and then down to $19 million in their most recent year. Their director of business development had attended one of my sessions a few months back, and after some initial discussions, he felt that Upside-Down Selling could put his team and company back on track. In our discussions, he shared that their CEO, Chris, would play a key role in this strategy moving forward.
As we met, I asked Chris questions about their business, how they had grown, and what took place that led to their decline. Chris explained that during their growth, their success was directly attributed to sound leadership, exceptional sales skills, strategic relationships, and the company’s innovative approach. However, in their decline, Chris felt that their decline was solely due to the economy, and “just the way thing are for everyone.” I asked Chris if every company in their sector was declining, and Chris said that they were, except for a few who had gotten lucky landing some new business.
I asked Chris if it was possible that the companies who were thriving had adapted to the changes in the economy, and if they were perhaps making it easier for prospects to understand where they added value. Chris responded by saying “Nothing we do is going to change things until the economy turns around.” Chris then looked at me and said “How much does it cost for you to come in?” I said to Chris “The good news is that it won’t cost you anything. The bad news is that I’m afraid that I can’t help you.” It was clear to me that Chris had beliefs that were holding back the business, and those beliefs would make generating positive results for them nearly impossible. I choose not to engage with clients if I am not confident I can deliver results. So, I wished them good luck in their endeavors, apologized that I could not help them, and concluded the meeting.
There are three valuable lessons:
- You get to decide: It is not solely up to your prospect to select you as a vendor. You have a voice in deciding if you should work together. We have all had toxic clients – the ones that make our life miserable, cost us money, and make our employees or coworkers not want to come to work. As difficult as it might be when you are struggling, avoid the toxic clients at all costs;
- Take your job of qualifying the client seriously. Your job in sales is not to sell to everyone, but to determine which clients are the best fit, and find a win-win way to do business together. Recognize that not everyone needs what you are selling. The sooner you find the truth about which ones are a waste of time, the more time you will be able to spend with the good ones;
- Control Your Destiny: Notice that Chris felt that all success was due to brilliance, but all failure was due to factors outside of their control. Hogwash! The sooner you take control of your own destiny instead of being a victim, the sooner you will attain success. If it makes you feel better, you can then attribute your success to a general improvement of something outside of your control (though I’d encourage you to take credit for it). But, when you realize that you control your destiny, you can attain greater success.
If you have a specific challenge you are facing, please share it with me and I’ll do my best to address it in an upcoming article, or privately based on your request.