Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

The Newton Klotz Story (An amazing sales story & what you can learn)

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Nov 05, 2012

I'm delighted to introduce you to business partner Adam Zais, VP Business Development at professional video hosting and analytics company Wistia, who related this story in a recent conversation and I asked him to write it down.

Actually Adam wrote this one down and quite a few more in a collection of sales stories and what we can learn from them....and we plan to publish them in a book next year.

Introducing Newton Klotz, Electrolux Salesman

One day my Dad calls the local Electrolux store to ask about buying a new hose for his vacuum. The sales guy, Newton Klotz, says, “Sure. I’ve got one of those in my car. About $15. I’ll drive it over...be there in about 15 minutes.” This totally delights my Dad so he says, “Sure, come on over.” 

Conversations, not Presentations

The Klotzmobile shows up at the house as promised. It’s a well-used Oldsmobile Vistacruiser station wagon jammed full of all sorts of parts and new & used vacuums. He rings the doorbell and greets my Dad with the part he wanted to fix the vacuum, but he also has a brand new, top-of-the-line Electrolux as well.

My Dad invites him in and thus begins the amazing stuff I promised you at the beginning. Old Newton is no fool. He knows that my Dad just wanted the new hose...a $15 sale. Not bad, in that selling the new hose is giving the customer exactly what he wants. Good on the karma scale, but not much commission. That only comes with the sale of new vacuums. But instead of launching into a hard sales pitch, our intrepid sales pro starts in on a line of conversation around how the hose wore out, which led to a discussion of lifestyle, kids, home-ownership, sports, you name it. Anything and everything EXCEPT vacuums.

Demonstration and Use of Props

After Newton has established a great deal of rapport with my Dad, he determines it's time to ask permission to do a demonstration.
Newton innocently asks my Dad if he wants to see something really cool and amazing. Sure says Dad. Newton throws a pocketful of dirt on the rug at my Dad’s feet. Holy shit! 

No worries says Newton and he proceeds to vacuum it up with the aforementioned brand-spanking-new, top-of-the-line unit. Dad is suitably (and predictably) impressed. To make a longer story a bit shorter, old Newton departs after my Dad has bought not one, but two new vacuums! One for upstairs and one for downstairs. Oh, and Newton threw in the new hose “just in case”. Total? Over 900 bucks!!!
  • Did Newton pressure my Dad into buying? No.
  • Did Newton manipulate my Dad into buying? Nope.
  • Did Newton wear my Dad down until he bought just to get him out of the house? Not in the slightest.

Lessons Learned

  1. Rapport opens the door to sales conversations.
  2. Seek to understand before opening your mouth about product.
  3. Seek permission to introduce the product and to demonstrate it.
  4. Newton had great interpersonal skills, learned and honed through experience and practice, not by memorizing "closing lines".
  5. Through their conversation, Newton discovered (is learned a better word?) that my Dad really did want two new vacuums. Mind you, I did NOT say that my Dad needed two new vacuums, let alone one. He WANTED them. 
  6. If all Newton did was sell the replacement part, he never would have learned this and made the larger sale. 
  7. If all Newton did was to do the high-pressure sales thing....same result. 
  8. Simply by having a conversation, not a “sales” conversation and not according to some pre-defined “line-of-questioning” put forth by some Sales Process mind you, did all this become possible. 

Connect Emotionally - Learn to Tell Stories
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Topics: sales, qualification, discovery, rapport

The Bonfire of the Challenger Salesman - my worst sales call

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Oct 30, 2012

I still cringe when I think about it. One of the worst experiences in a 30-year career and it was entirely my fault. Only in sales are you able to make a bad call and move on to the next one, with almost no repercussion – hopefully having learned a lesson.

Background

MicroStrategy in the late 1990's and early 2000's was successful in selling Business Intelligence software into the retail vertical and had secured a number of high profile retail customers. I had been successful in data warehousing sales at premium supermarket operators on the US West Coat at Safeway and American Stores and had worked with partner NCR in the retail market for the past year.

Flush with the success of engineering the biggest deal in MicroStrategy history, an OEM deal to NCR and recent success in the supermarket business at Safeway, we visited the CIO of a rack and stack supermarket operator.  
The meeting goal was to introduce MicroStrategy and share how our retail clients were using data warehousing and analytics in their supermarket business using MicroStrategy analytics in partnership with IBM to better manage their inventory, avoid stock-outs and improve margin.

After the greeting formalities, I opened the sales call with an introduction to the recent work we had done in data warehousing at high-end retail customers and the investments they had made and the results they were seeing. I could see the buyer getting uncomfortable in his chair before I had finished my introduction.

He then launched into an angry tirade about how they were a pennies on the dollar retailer and they had no interest in doing what Safeway or anyone else were doing. Their customers wanted to buy groceries at the lowest cost. They had no interest in category management or householding or market-basket analysis. Their business model was to buy low and sell low….at which point he got up and walked out of the meeting….the meeting had lasted less than 5 minutes.

What Happened?

  • My selling style has always been assertive and it has at times been deliberately provocative, which is why The Challenger Sale caught my attention.
  • In this call on a retailer at the opposite end of the market to my former clients, Safeway and American Stores, I came across as arrogant and condescending in my brilliant and challenging opening.
  • The Challenger Sale is great in theory. In practice you need empathy and sensitivity or it can blow up in your face, just like it did for me.

Lessons learned

  1. Before you open your mouth about product or launch into your Challenger idea, you had better have established rapport to the point the buyer is ready to listen to your message. 
  2. Know your customers business… it was clear that I had not done sufficient homework on the customer….they were technology laggards and data warehousing was still in the early adopter phase. IBM invited us into the meeting, but it was a meeting we should never have attended.
  3. Empathy is a natural human trait, but for some, it is undeveloped or suppressed due to circumstance and environment and has to learned in a voyage of self-discovery. My wife told me I had no empathy and this call triggered a journey of self discovery, starting with a series of sessions with a psycho-therapist.
  4. Communication and rapport skills are assumed to be innate for anyone in sales; in reality, most salespeople grossly overestimate their ability to connect at an emotional level and truly listen. 
  5. NLP Practitioner training would be a good start for anyone in sales or presales struggling with empathy, sensitivity or connecting emotionally with others and it will serve them well outside their business life. 
I have integrated important communication and language concepts from NLP as well as sales survival skills in an adaptive elearning course for anyone wanting to communicate more effectively and connect emotionally with buyers.
Click here for a free trial.
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Topics: challenger sale, sales, soft skills, rapport, empathy

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