While much focus is put on positive sales activities that can net great results, the simple fact is: not every sales meeting is flowers and unicorns. 1019_4238607As Demand Metric’s The Metrics of Bad Sales Interactions: A Sales Experience Benchmark Report shows, 60% of salespeople sometimes experience bad sales meetings. And those have consequences.

First, the Cause of Bad Sales Meetings

In my mind, a “bad” sales meeting is one where the salesperson walks away knowing the sales opportunity is dead in the water. Whatever the cause, that lead ain’t buying. According to the report, the two main causes of sales meetings that went awry were:

  • Failure of the marketing team to perform
  • Product or service quality issues

While it’s easy for Sales to blame Marketing (and vice versa) when things go wrong, the fact is that misalignment of goals between the two can cause serious issues in the sales process. Additionally, when products or services fail to meet customer expectations, the sales team ends up the scapegoat.

Now let’s look at the fallout that a bad sales meeting can cause.

  • The Immediate Opportunity is Lost

As soon as a lead’s face shuts down, a salesperson knows the deal is dead. There is no amount of discounting or flattering that can turn the situation around.

How to Recover: If you know the opportunity is lost, the best you can hope for is to understand what went wrong. Immediately after the sales meeting might not be the appropriate time to broach the subject, but later via email or phone, ask what you could have done to get a “yes,” and use that knowledge in future meetings.

  • Recovery Can Take Time

Not only can a horrible sales meeting shoot down a sales rep’s self esteem, but it can also take time — sometimes weeks or months — to restore solid relations with that prospect. In fact, 64% of those surveyed said it took from a few months to several years to mend relationships. And for some (6%), there was no possibility to recover that relationship.

How to Recover: Make it clear that you want to amend the business relationship and, again, ask what you can do. Sometimes simply having an ear for his frustrations is enough to put a lead back on the right path.

  • The Sales Cycle Lengthens

For those opportunities that are not immediately lost, the time to close the sale stretches out considerably. Even a prospect who was ready to sign on the dotted line may want to reconsider whether this is the best decision, based on the failed business meeting.

How to Recover: Feel out your prospect to determine whether he’s still really considering your pitch as an option or just prolonging a “no.” If it’s the former, do what it takes to stay in the game to help minimize that sales cycle. If it’s the later, it’s far better to fail fast than waste resources chasing a yes that will never come.

  • Future Opportunity is Lost

Sometimes a sale can still come out of a less-than-perfect sales meeting, but future deals are out of the question. That could be because the prospect desperately needs what you’re selling now, but then will have time to shop around for other solutions before you get the chance to pitch again. At any rate, today’s mistakes affect future revenue opportunities.

How to Recover:  Give your prospect time to get over it, and then start rebuilding that relationship before he has time to move on. Also consider assigning a different sales rep, if personality is the issue. At least he’ll feel like he has a fresh start with your company.

While the median close rate for sales is about 21-30%, there’s no reason that number should rise because of a bad sales meeting. Make sure Sales and Marketing are communicating and on the same page goal-wise, and make sure your products and services live up to expectations. Then stay on top of leads to nurture those relationships so that the chance of a sales meeting going off rails is minimal.

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