Foot In Mouth Disease – Part 2

In my first post, I discussed what I called the Foot In Mouth Disease. It got me wondering this: Have you ever had one of those moments when you say something that you believe to be absolutely true, but the person you’re talking to insists that you are completely wrong?  And, of course you consider them crazy and wonder why you simply can’t understand why they don’t get it?

What is Going On Here?

Many years ago, in my first job as a new sales rep, I was thrilled to be selling a pharmaceutical product that I truly believed to be best in class for medical imaging.  I was driven to tell everybody how great it was and how their patients’ experience and outcomes would improve by using our product.   As I learned more about my craft, I was able to increase sales by working with each customer to satisfy their particular needs.

I did things like:

  • Including how to make dosage choices that didn’t take them over budget
  • Demonstrating our flexible pack sizes as compared to the competition
  • Showing them how to communicate the benefits to the consumer

I had happy customers and happy bosses.

Trouble Brewing

However, as hospital groups merged, I found myself with one site where I had all the business in one department from an existing customer, but no business at the other end of the corridor where the head of the group had her operations. I quickly became the person representing “the competitive product” in the eyes of the new purchasing agent. My new prospect was going to be a big nemesis for me in trying to get my product line sold. The new sales contact for me was sizing up to be quite the challenge…

This lady was known to be a tough cookie.  She was a well-respected Professor whose time was precious. She also didn’t suffer fools well.  In approaching my new contact for a sales call, I knew that I had to be very well prepared. I needed to be armed with concise and convincing arguments to sell her on my wares. If I was going to win her over from the competition, I had to convince her that my combination of dosages would save her money and that would be reason enough to switch to my offering.

Preparation meets Preparedness

Eventually I felt I was ready, I had anticipated her objections and knew how to answer them – I was going in there……

We talked. I was concise. I answered her questions and presented my cost calculations to prove the benefits of switching to our product.  I thought I did well. That was until she told me that she didn’t believe me.  She thought that I was lying; or ill-informed; or down-right stupid.

She was right, I was wrong.  End of discussion.  Go away.  Ouch!!!

I tried again several more times – I believed I was right, I had the best product, why on earth could I not convince her?

~ What was I missing here?
~ Was she getting sponsored by the other company for some research work?
~ Did she have a family member working for the competition?
~ Had one of our groups somehow offended her in the past?

All the usual thoughts that can go through one’s mind when you’re in sales and trying to figure out why your pitch is just not getting the results you expect.  After all, I knew that my arguments were correct……didn’t I???

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” W.L. Bateman

Finally – before the imprint of the brick wall was permanently etched on my forehead – I sat down to really look at what I was presenting.  I had been given most of the information in my early training and had those messages reinforced by my line manager during field visits.  He had been through the same process: surely the facts must be right???

I took out my calculator.  I checked the dosage and cost calculations that I had prepared.  I rechecked them, and again…….until eventually the light bulb came on.

I was horrified… She was absolutely right.

The way I had interpreted the data meant my arguments had been flawed every time I had tried to persuade her to my point of view.  How on earth could I ever face this woman again???

It took a little while for me to pluck up the courage, but I made an appointment to go and visit, saying that I had something new to tell her. I had to set things straight.

“Professor, I won’t take up much of your time, I’ve come to apologise.  You were right, I was wrong.  Instead of regurgitating the same facts I had been taught and believed to be true, I finally interrogated the detail myself and discovered an error in my calculations.   The information I gave you was wrong and I should have checked it earlier.  Now I understand why you thought I was lying to get the business.  Thank you for having the patience to keep seeing me all this time.”

I never did get my product used in her practice, but one of her colleagues began to use a small quantity for specific examinations and I retained my original business.  More importantly I had learned some valuable lessons.

How easy is it for you to say “Sorry, I was wrong?”

Can you think of a time when your relationships or credibility suffered because you had trouble with the S-word?

Can you think of any area in your life where changing what you’re doing will get a different or better result?

Do members of your team know to measure twice, cut once?

And, in this time of seasonal reflection, remember to be kind to yourself and to others, so the ripples can spread far and wide.

Happy Holidays!

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Joy Griffiths
is Director and Owner of Joyous Solutions Ltd
She helps clients with Executive Coaching and Business Development
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Skype: joy.griffithsjsl | +44 7884 311081

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4 responses to “Foot In Mouth Disease – Part 2

  1. Joy,
    I have found instances like these over the year generates a level of respect between you and your customers. It lets them know you are a big enough person to let them know when you are wrong. They appreciate it when you can acknowledge when the competition has a better product or a brand more sought after by the consumer. Nice post!

  2. Joy, thanks for sharing this great lesson. Customers appreciate when people admit they were wrong. So do employees. Unfortunately, too many leaders see apologizing to workers as a sign of weakness.

    • Thanks George. I’ve found over the years that as my shoulders get broader it’s even easier to apologise when I get it wrong!! Sometimes these are the lessons we take away the most from…but it’s great to keep learning, for sure.

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