Low Self-Criticism and Catastrophical Sales Calls

December 28, 2016 Tarmo Tamm
In autumn 2013, Sellit temporarily carried out the duties of sales manager at a company that was developing document management software. We helped them write sales scripts: we put the texts together and tested them with our team. Everything worked.

Then we helped them in finding and interviewing salespeople. Right from the beginning, we decided to throw the candidates into the water and let them make some real calls. One of the interviewees was named Lilian (name changed). Although she left us a strange first impression at the interview, we decided to give her a chance.

We had a well-functioning sales script that started as follows: “Hello. Am I speaking to Tim? I am calling to you with regard to ASD LLC. If I understand correctly, you are involved in the field of XZY.” After that, we asked for permission to ask a few questions, which in turn were followed by some guiding questions, a brief list of the benefits of the product and making an appointment. Everything was very well thought through and previous testing proved that the script was fulfilling its purpose.

We gave Lilian a list of non-profit organisations and gave her one hour to learn the text and make some calls. Lilian started to make calls right away, and among others, she also called the Estonian Asphalt Pavement Association. I can say that on one hand, this call was one of the most embarrasing moments of my entire history as a sales manager but on the other hand, it was probably the funniest sales pitch I have ever heard.

Here is a small extract from the dialogue.

Lilian: “Hellooo! My name is Lilian and I am calling you from ******* LLC in relation to the organization called…. ummm….. Estonian Asphalt Pavement Association. And… As I understand, you are involved in the field of…. ummm…. computers, right?”
The client: “Well, we are actually not dealing with computers that much.” (The client was confused but still remained very polite.)
Lilian: “But umm… you do have people there working for you, and someone working with computers?”
The client: “There is exactly one person working in the Estonian Asphalt Pavement Association”.
Lilian: “Oh, only one person… But maybe you have some business partners, someone you can maybe recommend us?”
The client: “And why should we recommend them to you?” (Still confused, yet very calm and polite.)

This was followed by Lilian’s leap to a random part of the script and the most horrific and incorrect reading of the text I have ever heard in my life.

The client: “Wait a second, but who are you? What are you involved in and why should I recommend you?” (The client was still being polite and nice, but it was clear he was holding back laughter.)
Lilian: “Oh, no-no-no! I was just thinking that maybe umm, well, as we are dealing with computer programs, then umm… I mean that… eehm… you know, our company is working with a… computer program, and we have been very successful… and… and… and… well… we are now calling companies, and… we are looking for new customers, so we had this question for you”.
The client: “Uh huh”.
Lilian: “But I don’t know if you have time or… umm… would you like to… would you like to keep talking?”
The client: “Well, I don’t need any computer programs at the moment and I don’t think I’m the right person to give you any contacts as we are not dealing with computers”. (Still being polite and nice, but obviously holding back laughter.)
Lilian: “OK. Well, have a nice day!” (disappointed)
The client: “Goodbye!”

How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5?

I have to mention that I managed to listen to the entire call only later from a recording. After the one-hour trial, I talked to the girl and we summed up the experience.

Me: “So, how did it go?”
Lilian: “Well, otherwise it went well, but many people don’t need this program”.
Me: “How would you rate your performance on a scale of 1 to 5?”
Lilian: “Well… I think it was a 5”.
Me: “A 5?”
Lilian: “Well… maybe a 5−”.
Me: “A 5−?”
Lilian: “No, I think it was a 5. I made some pretty good calls”.

What conclusions have I come in the past few years?

The most successful salespeople are usually self-critical and hard on themselves. They also tend to be the most open-minded and show a willingness to learn.

At the same time, there are many unsuccessful people who are low-skilled and at the same time possess low self-criticism and high self-esteem.

Tarmo Tamm

Selliti tegevjuht ja asutaja. "Must vöö müügis" raamatu ja koolitussarja autor.