23DiscoverySales Is a Language of Questions

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge.

—Daniel J. Boorstin

Dead on arrival. I'd driven four hours for the sales meeting and been shut down in the first 15 minutes. “We're happy with the vendor we're working with now, but if you want to sharpen your pencil and give us your best prices, we'll take that into consideration.” Chuck, the decision maker, put a quick end to our conversation.

It was a huge account—so big that signing it would punch my ticket to the annual President's Club trip to Maui. In my territory, you got only two or three shots a year at deals this big because there just weren't that many of them. That's why every one of my competitors was courting Chuck's deal, too.

The biggest obstacle to closing this deal, though, was not the circling sharks; it was the incumbent vendor, a local company that had been serving the account for more than 20 years. There was no way they were letting anyone steal this highly profitable diamond from them, and thus far they had been successful at fending off competitors and getting a renewal at each contract period.

In my industry, customers signed exclusive contracts, typically for five years. Losing a deal meant being locked out for years at a time. This meant that I had one shot at the deal; there would be no second chance. The clock was ticking.

Chuck was the Vice President of HR at a massive bakery nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians ...

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