Some years ago, I recognized how stressful the selling life can be. I started to collect sales horror stories. My thinking was that there was a cathartic effect in laughing at others’ mistakes. But the bonus moments in each of these tales was the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of these poor souls, and hopefully avoid making a similar blunder yourself.
600+ hilarious selling blunders later a best-selling book – Sales Autopsy – was born. Many of these funny experiences came from running a “confession session” in national sales conferences. I sneak this session into any other program, because it offers a nice break from other, more serious content. The value? You can learn what to adopt as well as what to avoid from your peers who have failed miserably in front of buyers. This very unique experience can identify key selling practices and close the gap between you and greatness with lessons from these “thank God it didn’t happen to me” stories.
I’ve had tons of amazing stories; a rep who mistook a buyer’s wife for football commentator John Madden (BIG ouch!); 2 reps who had slurpies on a hot summer day before a call and couldn’t wipe off the green and red mouths and tongues by time they had their appointment; a rookie rep who memorized her pitch and on her first solo call, kept calling the buyer “Mr. Prospect.” And my own magnificent moment? I’m working an exhibit booth at a major industry conference. Last night of the event, big dinner, I accidently set a buffet table on fire. It was really quite beautiful. And the wait staff rushed over with their pitchers of ice water to douse the flames. This story was immortalized by the Discovery Channel on a short-lived show about most embarrassing moments. I later had an artist take some of the more visually funny stories and create The Sales Comic Book (there is nothing like it on this planet, possibly any planet).
Here’s how you run a Confession Session at your event:
Start by sharing a humorous mistake you’ve made, or one you “heard about” (if you’re worried about managing your image).
Next ask your salespeople to share, at their table, the dumbest thing they’ve ever done on a call. Tell them they don’t have to share it with anyone else, only at the table. Give them about 15 minutes. Enjoy the laughter and the energy that will begin to flow through the room. It’s pretty cool.
Now get up and say, “I lied. Someone at your table had a story that absolutely must be heard. Point to them right now.”
Get a staff member or two with mics (depending on size of the group), to hand to your story-tellers. Don’t forget the value that comes with the laughter. Ask them what they learned from that mistake.
I also give out prizes; food, t-shirts, tips booklets, sales comics and more.
I highly encourage you to inject a Confession Session into your next major company event. It could be one of the truly great ideas you could contribute to a meeting.
Copyright Dan Seidman All rights reserved.