Peer-to-Peer Blog: The Hard Close That Went BOOM!

By Andrew Pryfogle, Founder, President and CEO, Terrapin Solutions

I had a carrier rep (well call him Joe) join me on an end-user sales call recently. Having a third party join me on a customer call is always a risk, but Joe had generously offered to take the customer to lunch after the meeting and he was a good guy, well-intentioned, seemingly smart. The customer had an impending event; its AT&T contract had expired and the company was being charged ridiculously high full-tariff rates. This was definitely a customer motivated to make a decision quickly.

So I started the meeting in typical fashion with a bit of small talk, simple agenda. We really want to understand your business lots of questions for you. I understand you have a pressing contract issue with AT&T. Were prepared to move quickly to help you, but we want to make sure we have the right fit for you, etc.” I took a consultative approach that has won us tons of business for years.

But then I made a mistake. Joe jumped in with an enthusiastic pitch about his company, and I let him. He grabbed control of the meeting, and I let him. A sales pro I highly respect once told me, Ive never lost a deal for something I did right. Its always because of something I did wrong.” Yup.

The meeting quickly turned into an uncomfortable, high-pressure sales game. Joe took out a sales form and began completing it by hand. Hosted VoIP is not something you can typically sell with a one-page, hand-written form. Mr. Customer, you need to sign this today. Your pricing with AT&T has gone way up and you dont have a choice. Sign this today and well rush our install through.”

The customer absolutely understood the urgency of making a decision, but had just started his conversation about what the right technology fit was. Joe completely miscalculated whether the customer was ready to close. And, it backfired. The customer was turned off by the close, started questioning the motives, challenged the pricing and became adversarial  all predictable responses to an ill-timed hard-close attempt.

To add insult to injury, when it was clear the customer had dug in and was not going to sign the contract during that meeting, Joe actually politely ended the meeting and said hed follow up the next day, but then said that lunch wasnt going to work with his schedule. I was stunned and embarrassed. Just 45 minutes ago, Joe had offered to take the customer to lunch; now he had retracted. Did he really expect this to be effective with the customer? Was the customer going to suddenly have a change of heart because of his fear of losing out on a free lunch? Bad move, Joe.

Walking out of the meeting, I pulled the customer to the side and apologized. I told him I would call him, so we could speak frankly about what happened. Later that day, the customer described how offended and turned off he was by this aggressive sales approach. Fortunately, we were able to convince him that this is not Terrapins way of doing things, and that were much more interested in the right technology and pricing solution for him, the customer.

For Terrapin, this story ends well. For Joe, not so much. Joe and his company lost this deal because of a bad decision to go for a hard close when the customer wasnt ready. Ironically, hard closes rarely work, even when the customer IS ready. In fact, if you follow a consultative process and do the hard work along the way, the close becomes a non-event. If your close ever feels as dramatic as this story turned out, go back through your sales process and find out where things went sideways.

And, if you have a habit of behaving the way Joe did, cut it out. Youre giving the rest of us sales pros a bad name. Unless of course youre selling against us, then go for it. In fact, close harder.

Good selling.

Andrew Pryfogle is the founder, president and CEO of Terrapin Solutions, a master agency headquartered in San Franciscos East Bay. Pryfogle started Terrapin to address the growing demand for cloud services such as hosted VoIP, cloud computing and cloud infrastructure. Pryfogle has been in the telecommunications industry for 22 years and has held senior sales leadership positions with carriers such as AT&T, MCI and WorldCom. Most notably, in 2001 Pryfogle helped start GoBeam Communications, a pioneer in hosted IP telephony that was sold in 2004 to Covad Communications where Pryfogle spent three years running the channel. Pryfogle left Covad in 2008 to lead SaaS provider PanTerra Networks national sales efforts before leaving to start Terrapin Solutions.

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