How To Turn Around A Bad Day

Sometimes sales success means you must turn around a bad day.

In fact, in selling, you’ll have more bad days than good ones.  Being able to turn around a bad day is a valuable skill.

A couple of years ago I planned a trip to Chicago for a convention. This involved travel of over 1,500 miles from my Miami home, four days in hotels and significant reorganization of client telephone consultations previously scheduled.

I lined up a great speaking gig in front of over 400 prospective clients and I was really excited about it.

While in Chicago, I also set up four additional meetings, three with people who were prospective clients and one with a guy I believed could be an excellent referral source.

My “big meeting” was at a convention on Thursday and the other meetings were scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the convention.

I arrived at the hotel Monday, got a good night’s sleep, and woke up raring to go for my first meeting Tuesday morning.

When I arrived at the office for my first meeting, I was shocked to learn the prospective client had not written down our meeting in her appointment book. (She was using a physical planner she carried with her. She apparently did not trust her staff to schedule her appointments.)  She was not in the office and nobody knew where she was.  Meeting cancelled.

My second meeting went differently.  It was a lunch scheduled for a business owner who had purchased copies of my book for his staff.  He invited me to meet him at a steakhouse. When I arrived, I was escorted to a private room where I found the entrepreneur and his entire team, twenty people, welcoming me with a warm round of applause.

We had a great lunch.  The food was fantastic.  I delivered a brilliant presentation and took questions.  There were promises of future business bandied about like a beach ball at a Grateful Dead concert.

As I grabbed my briefcase and prepared to leave, the maître d’ grabbed my arm and “reminded” me the bill had not been paid.

Since I was the last person to leave the room, after having answered all the questions of the attendees, and my “host” left immediately after I finished speaking, I just assumed he had covered the tab.  Not so.

The following day, brought similar disappointment. One of my two remaining meetings cancelled, (apparently a common cold can debilitate someone to the point they don’t want to keep a commitment) and the other was with a mid-level executive at a big firm who had no ability to influence the sales budget.

When it came time for my speech I was in a bad state of mind.  I was financially in the hole on this trip (the speaking gig offered no fee but paid for one night’s lodging and coach airfare).  The lunch where I “picked up the tab” cost more than all my other expenses, and I had yet to meet with a good, qualified, prospective client.

As I began my speech, the audience could sense my mood.  My opening story fell flat. Buckets of flop sweat began pouring from my brow as if someone had tapped my forehead and turned on a spigot.

At ten minutes into the speech, the meeting planner walked on to the stage with a towel.

At that point, I said to the audience:  “People say the number two fear in life, right after the fear of death, is fear of public speaking…”

Before I could finish the sentence, a guy in the audience yelled out:  “It looks like you’re going to combine those fears today because you’re killing us.”

All of a sudden the walls of that ballroom were closing in on me.  My heart felt like it was going to burst though my chest.  My face turned red. I was lightheaded.

A little voice in my head said: “Hey, schmuck, you’re blowing it. Step it up.”

As the laughter in the room died down I threw the towel off to the side of the stage, removed my jacket, rolled up my shirt sleeves and said: “Okay. Let’s get to work.”

I scrapped the prepared remarks. I spent the next 45 minutes taking questions from the audience and working off their responses to my answers.  The audio visual technicians were struggling to get microphones to people in the audience fast enough for them to ask me the next pressing question.  I had a dialogue with the room and when my time was up, I was mobbed by people who wanted more information.  The clamor was so great, the meeting planner asked if I would take more questions that night during the dinner.  I happily agreed.

That trip was my most profitable business development activity of the year. All because of the realization of my personal baggage influencing my professional performance.

The lesson for all of us from this story:  Recognize when you’re “blowing it” and refocus your effort to turn the situation around.

Even if you don’t achieve the happy ending (as I did in this story) you’ll feel better about yourself for having given your best effort toward everything you do.

By the way, I also learned several other powerful lessons on that trip. I always confirm meetings in advance and I always receive a consultation fee. It’s amazing how a few hundred dollars can get a person with Typhoid Fever to hop out of bed and attend a meeting.  I also always make it clear in advance, if I travel to meet a client, lunch is on him.

You will have bad days – particularly when it comes to sales.  The important thing to remember is: You always have the opportunity to recover.  You can always make something positive out of the worst situation.

Sometimes your best sales opportunities will come from turning around a bad day.