by Jacques Werth
In my second sales job, at the age of 24, I was about to get our company’s first order from IBM, when I received an answering machine message from our president saying that he was going with me to IBM to help me close the sale.
I called the top salesperson in our company and told him about it. He said, “You probably won’t get the order if he goes with you, and he will blame you for not getting it.”
I said, “I don’t understand.”
“You’re dealing with the assistant manager and a small group of design engineers in a department of IBM that has over three hundred people. You’ve been working on the project for over two months and they feel good about doing business with you. You trust and respect each other. If our president goes with you, it will imply that he doesn’t trust or respect you.
“He is neither an engineer nor a salesperson. He’s ‘The President’ of a small company that isn’t even as big as their department at IBM. He’ll probably dominate the conversation and do his best to impress them about our company’s great capabilities. Suppose you owned our company. Would you let him go out on a sales call?”
“No, but what can I do?” I asked.
“Don’t respond to his message. Contact your customer at IBM and say, ‘I need your help.’ Then, tell him about the situation.”
I did as he advised and, at the suggestion of their assistant manager, I immediately drove up to the Poughkeepsie, NY campus of IBM and checked into a hotel. The next morning I left IBM with the purchase order in my briefcase. Then, I returned our president’s call.