Before I start, and to be 100% clear, I don’t condone dishonesty in business in any way. I just thought I’d share with you some of the more outlandish acts I witnessed in my early days in sales that still leave me speechless when I think about them today.
Totally gobsmacked! That’s the only way I can describe how I felt when, 2 months into working in a cold call boiler room I heard a conversation by one of the sales reps to get a mobile number of a CEO:
Sales Rep to PA (in English west country accent): “Morning luv, is George in yet?”
PA: “I’m sorry but no he isn’t. Who is calling please?”
Rep: “It’s Bill the Gardener. I’m here outside his house, and his wife has asked me to cut down the oak tree to the left of the house.”
PA: “Ok. So how can I help you?”
Rep: “Well, it’s just there are 2 trees, one either side, and I don’t know if he means left as you look AT the house, or left if you look AWAY from the house…have you git his number so I can I check? He forgot to leave it.”
PA: “Oh, well, erm…I’m not at liberty to give out his mobile number”
Rep: “Ok, I guess I’ll just cut the one on the left as you look AT the house, I’m sure it will be the right one….
PA: “WAIT! Hold on a minute, you probably should check…the number is..etc”
AND IT HAD WORKED! Fascinated, and shocked at the Cahoona’s of the approach, I asked the Sales rep what had made him go to such an extreme length, to which he replied:
“I’ve spent 3 months trying to get through to that CEO and I got bored of his PA blocking me.”
It was hardly surprising that the rep thought this was acceptable, when he was working for a lady who I once heard say to a large tech company’s VP for Europe:
“Jim, If you’re sales Director can’t find decent leads at our event, with this level of attendee, well that’s a bit like going bobbing for breasts in a barrel and coming out sucking your thumb!!!”
….AND THE VP LAUGHED AND SIGNED THE DEAL OFF! It was at this point, a few months in that I realised, in the world of cold call, selling of event sponsorship, the gloves were well and truly off and the rule book was no where to be seen.
At the time, in the industry, your event delegate list was the one thing you guarded above all else. A number of event companies were going to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on competitors lists. I met someone who worked for a competitor that told me he had been tasked by his boss to steal a waiters’ uniform from an event we holding, and infiltrate our event so that he could photograph a copy of our delegate list. This was bold but not the craziest way I have seen people go about obtaining a list.
The most outlandish way was when I overheard a female colleague calling a competitor company and the conversation went a little like this:
Rep: “Hi, oh please can you help me (insert fake sobbing), I think my husband is having an affair. He’s told me he is going away on a business trip to your event but I know he is going away with that tramp from his office.”
Competitor event manager: “I’m sorry to hear that, but how can I help you madam?”
Rep: “I need to catch him out once and for all but I need proof. Can you tell me if he is on your attendee list, his name is XXXX?”
Competitor event manager: “I’m so sorry to tell you this, but, he isn’t.”
Rep: “(insert big fake cry). Would you send me the list so that I can have it out with him once and for all?”
AND THAT WORKED TOO!
You see, hiding behind a phone, people will try all sorts of ways to get what they need.
On a less dark note, thinking outside the box on how to get a deal signed on a Friday was always the cause of much debate in the boiler room. The amount of £ we used to spend on bottles of Moet for PA’s, if they would put the contract in front of their boss on a Friday afternoon was staggering. To be fair, more often than not, biking over a bottle of bubbly would get the deal done.
I still remember one particular Head of Marketing that was proving exceptionally hard to close. I just couldn’t get hold of him to sign the contract, despite numerous attempts to get him on the phone. So instead. I called his PA, found out what his favourite pizza was, ordered a large Domino’s and asked the driver to meet me outside the client’s office. I met him, put the contract in a cellophane holder along with a postit saying ‘Please sign me & enjoy the pizza’ and stuck it to the inside lid of the box.
2 hours later, the signed contract hit my inbox and I remember thinking, there’s always a way to get the deal done.
I tell you this because after telling this anecdote to a sales guy who worked for me last year, he was running late for a client lunch out of London as he was stuck in traffic. He was never going to make the lunch in time, and so he sent Pizza to the people he was meeting with a note saying he was really sorry. This simple, out of the box thinking did more for his relationship with the client than anything else he had done previously.
So I guess the point is this; DON’T BE DISHONEST BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING A BIT WHACKY OR DIFFERENT EITHER.