Back to Insights

How NOT to do a joint sales pitch

I was a few months into my job as a sales consultant when I got my first big break.  The opportunity was to pitch to a large firm of consulting actuaries. My MD was a wonderful extrovert Swede who had decided I was worth supporting and offered to “help you win this one”.

“Meet me for breakfast at the Park Lane Hilton and I will drive us to the meeting.”

I met him in Park Lane and we had a good breakfast!  We finished off our preparation. I would start and finish the meeting as the relationship manager.  I would also put forward our proposition. Lars would come in to stress the firm’s commitment to the relationship and emphasise his role as executive sponsor.  He would be involved in the initial workshop but I would lead on the rollout with him available in the background.

We climbed into his red Bentley with the pale leather seats to drive across London to the City (you may ask “why not take a taxi?” but that was Lars for you!).

We stopped at some lights.  Lars looked at me thoughtfully:  “My friend I have been thinking. We really need to win this.  I think it is better if I do the presentation.” I thought before replying, picturing myself returning home with my possessions in a black plastic sack and explaining to my wife how I had just destroyed my career.  But, having thought I stuck to my guns and said “but Lars, we agreed you don’t want to be drawn into this account; you want me to manage the relationship and if you do the presentation they’ll expect you be in the lead throughout. We need to stick to the plan – you do the strategic, corporate bit and I’ll do the operational bit.” Silence – a nervous silence. Eventually: “Ok my friend”.

Next set of lights “I have been thinking some more my friend”. The same plan from him, the same response from me and another “Ok my friend”.

As we approached Bishopsgate he stopped, looked at me and told me he really wanted to do the presentation. Again I stuck to my guns and this time he finished with:  “OK my friend you do the presentation…just make sure we win the f***ing business!”

Of course we did.  I wouldn’t be telling the story if we hadn’t!  But I determined there and then that I’d never subject my own sales team to joint sales visits like that.  If you are accompanying your salespeople on client visits do think long and hard about what your role is and how you and the salesperson should be co-operating!