Welcome back to our B2B Sales and Marketing Experts series. For the month of December, on Wednesdays, we will be sharing the experiences of thought leaders in the sales and marketing industry and lessons they’ve learned throughout their career. Have you had a similar experience or a lesson of your own? Share in the comments below!

Jim KeenanDon’t mention pregnancy until you know the facts – Jim Keenan, A Sales Guy

Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonizer. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and let’s nothing or no one go unnoticed.

I was sitting there staring at her. I had just walked her through the value of becoming a member of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. It was my first job selling and I was doing quite well. I was consistently the top rep, but I was still quite green. Much of my success came from just sheer drive and aggression.

I could tell she wasn’t convinced, yet she was pondering it. Her facial expressions giving her away. She wasn’t sure. Not knowing what else to do, and what more to say about the benefits of the Chamber. I decided to take the “relationship route.” I asked her how long she had been at the company and if she liked it. I asked her where she was from and what she thought of Denver. She was kind, sweet, and engaging. I was making progress. She was digging me. I was getting her to like me — progress. As we got up to end the sales conversation, I notice the cutest baby bump. Excited for her and thinking I’ll close the relationship “deal” right now, I ask her when she’s due and if she was excited.

She finishes standing up, looks at me and says, “I’m not pregnant!”

The lesson — don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless you already know she is AND trying to build rapport on superfluous shit is a waste of time. Don’t try and be everyone’s friend. Focus on their business. The relationship only matters to the extent it can help the prospect run their business or be successful.

Relationship selling is a waste.

John BarrowsDon’t take referrals for granted – John Barrows, John Barrows Sales Training & Selling Techniques

John Barrows is a sales trainer who provides customized sales training and consulting services for clients like Salesforce.com, Box, Linkedin and many others, with a focus on driving results with proven techniques and reinforcement tools that impact adoption and behavior change. Connect with him on Twitter.

I just had one of the worst meetings with a prospect I’ve had in a long time…

Wow, was that bad. I just had an in-person meeting with the CEO of a prospect that went so poorly it lasted less than 15 minutes. A good friend of mine joined this company as VP of Sales and wanted to bring me in to train the team on prospecting skills. It was a small and diverse team with some field reps who had been in sales for 20+ years and some newbies. The VP had been through the training before so he knew exactly what it was about and believes in it 100%. He’s actually one of my biggest advocates. Needless to say, the CEO, who had never invested in outside training before but believed in investing in the team, wanted to meet with me to review what I was going to go through with the team.

I prepped for the meeting as usual – did my homework, looked on LinkedIn, reviewed their website, came up with some specific questions, set my goals, etc. The one thing I didn’t do was send a “shared agenda” before the meeting and ask him what he wanted to make sure we covered during the meeting. If I had done that I may have saved myself the headache of what just happened.

I started the meeting as I usually do, reviewing what I knew about them and then asking something specific about him, their business and where he wanted to take things. He immediately hit me back with “I could talk about that for an hour and we don’t have that much time. I was under the impression you were going to show me what you were going to go over with the team so why don’t you just tell me what you got.” It was very abrupt and direct and usually the response I expect when someone asks a stupid question like “tell me about your business.” I thought my question was a little better than that but I guess not. The meeting went downhill from there since it now had somewhat of a negative tone to it. I tried to get it back on track but nothing worked. He kept interrupting me and picking apart what I was saying even though a lot of what he threw at me was the information I was trying to gain from my initial questions that he didn’t want to answer. Needless to say, the meeting lasted less than 15 minutes and we walked away agreeing to disagree.

So what’s the take-away from this? First, regardless of how strong the referral you have into a prospective client, make sure you don’t take anything for granted. I may have been a little too comfortable walking into this meeting based on my relationship with the VP. Second, ALWAYS ensure you align expectations before you walk into a meeting on what you are there to talk about. Again, if I had sent a shared agenda to this guy and asked what he wanted to review during the meeting I probably would have known walking in that all he wanted to do was see what I had and I could have either addressed it sooner or changed my approach.

All in all, I was actually fairly happy about the whole experience. It had been a long time since I got punched in the face during a meeting with a prospect and this woke me up a bit. It reminded me that you always need to bring your ‘A’ game, you can’t miss steps and you need to and must focus on getting better every day in sales.