This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

As I mentioned last Tuesday, my co-author Charlie Green and I are learning a lot about the sales process from being on the buyer side right now.

We’ve had exploratory phone calls with three firms we’re considering hiring. I learned a lot about my own bad sales habits from Firm #2.

Our first (and only) call with Firm #2 was … how should I put it … hard.

The most painful part was seeing myself in their team lead. Here’s what stood out about her:

  • She talked a lot. A lot. (I do that. Wind me up and off I go.) We had 45 minutes set aside and the call lasted for 53 minutes. Charlie and I probably spoke for a total of five minutes, collectively.
  • She went past the time allotted. (Guilty as charged.) She did it with our permission, pausing before we were scheduled to wrap up to see if we had flexibility. Although we did, I found myself wishing for the call to be over early, not late.
  • Once she got going, she was impossible to interrupt. (I’m like that sometimes.) She simply couldn’t hear us when we tried to inject a question or a comment. She was knowledgeable, passionate, and opinionated (in a good way). It’s just that we couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
  • She dominated the other team members who were on the call with her. (Sigh.) We heard meek voices in the background once or twice, but we had no idea who they were, why they were there, and what they might have contributed, given the chance.

Sadly, Firm #2 had done the most preparation of all the candidates. While we hadn’t asked for a proposal yet—this was just an exploratory call—the team lead invited us to share screens and look at a draft slide deck together. She recapped what we’d already shared via email. She showed us samples of their work, and talked about how they might apply to us. She proved first-hand experience with our target audience. She was technically impressive.

Firm #2 undoubtedly hung up the phone thinking it went pretty well. That’s not delusional. It didn’t exactly go badly. It’s just that Charlie and hung up feeling … exhausted.

I think we were pooped because we didn’t really participate. We were captives for nearly an hour, forced to receive an overwhelming amount of information. Plus there was no sense of personal connection—nothing friendly or even faintly humorous to provide relief, other than what felt like a forced attempt at chit-chat at the very beginning of the call.

From this day forward, I vow to be better in every meeting I lead. If you’re ever in a conversation with me and I fail to live up to my promise, just say, “Firm #2.”

Make It Real

Plan differently for a meeting you’re about to lead. How might you truly engage your client(s)? When will it be better to listen than talk? Where will strategic pauses encourage them to participate with you?

Learn More

TAfieldbookRead about why experts are bad at sales, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or why curiosity trumps knowing in Chapter 2 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).