(Editor’s note: Jim Nichols is a Senior Partner at Catalyst:SF. He submitted this column to VentureBeat.)
Saying the wrong thing can totally screw up a pitch. And sometimes even the best salesman find something utterly moronic coming out of his or her mouth. Trust me, I’ve heard plenty.
I asked a wide number of buyers and sellers about the stupidest things they’ve heard in meetings. Here are the top 14 (I’ve deleted the names to protect the guilty). Heard something as stupid – or worse? Sound off in the comments below.
1. From a Seller: “We flew to a client, and the head of the department came to the lobby to tell us that our key contact died during the night. And my boss said, ‘Well, who’s her replacement? We flew up here and expect to present to someone.”
2. From a Seller: “I fell asleep. While the client was talking. They had to poke me to rouse me.”
3. From a Buyer: “I was working for Dr. Pepper. A vendor catered lunch at headquarters. With Coke products.”
4. From a Seller: “A seller said, ‘What’s your title? We usually present to someone higher up than you.”
5. From a Buyer: “I always make a point to say hello when vendors visited my team. One day, I did my drive by hello, and when I left the room the rep said, “Your boss is smokin’. Is she single?”
6. From a Buyer: “Spelling my name wrong on slide one. It’s Smith.”
7. From a Buyer: “We had a salesman that visited monthly and told me stories of his drunken escapades. After six months, I told him I’m Mormon and didn’t care for it. So he apologized, and then joked ‘So, how many wives you got?’”
8. From a Seller: “How many times do people have to see it in sitcoms before they stop saying ‘when is your baby due?’ to an obese woman.”
9. From a Buyer: “Our consumers are predominantly Latino – as am I and some of my team. A couple years ago an ingredient supplier came in and referred to all Hispanics as Mexicans, and called our language Mexican. Throughout the meeting, we looked at each other thinking, ‘Did he really say that? There! He did it again!’ We still joke about it. And we don’t work with them anymore.”
10. From a Seller: “Our rep resigned while presenting. Just stopped and said, ‘I don’t really think I want to be in this business.’ Picked up her bag, and left.”
11. From a Buyer: The salesperson hadn’t even handed me the proposal and said he’d give 25 percent less than the quote because they had a rough quarter. Like, ‘here are the fish in the barrel, and here is your shotgun.’”
12. From a Buyer: “The all male ad agency team telling my female marketing team that they understood tampons better than us.”
13. From a Buyer: “People have certain stereotypes of Southerners. Once a rep said, ‘When I hear your accent, I start deducting IQ points.’”
Hopefully you got a chuckle from those. But I’ve saved the best for last. Not because it’s funny, but rather because of how often it happens:
From Everyone: “The rep comes, does their pitch, and doesn’t have next steps. We all file out with no progress and no deal.”
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