Sales Horror Stories and How to Prevent Them

By Carrie Greenaway on April 19, 2017

The Problem

SalesHorrorIf you’ve ever met a salesperson whose personality didn’t fit with yours, you know how annoying the wrong approach to sales can be.

Whether this person was looking to close the deal too soon, couldn’t answer your questions, or simply kept following you around when you said you didn’t need any help, the problem was always the same. This person was trying to sell without taking the customer’s personality into account.


The Solution

Over the course of this two part blog, we’ll share a couple of sales horror stories and then break down what went wrong. You’ll see how the salesperson could have used their knowledge about personality styles to avoid disaster.

The Story of the Too D Salesperson and the I Customer:

“I was looking to reserve a venue for my wedding, and I called this place to ask questions about how much it would cost. The guy who answered the phone put me on hold immediately, and kept me on the line while he barked at someone in the room. Strike one.

When he got back on the line, I started to tell him a little bit about how I wanted the wedding to look, so I could get a feel for if they were the place for us. We were looking to have one of the most important days of our lives at this place, so I wanted to know if they were our style. He just says “uhhuh” in a rushed tone as I’m starting to talk, and then interrupts me to ask how many people we are having.

I gave him a range, not a firm headcount. (I didn’t have a firm headcount because of course no one had RSVP’d to a wedding that doesn’t have a date yet.) He basically interrupts me again to tell me that his venue is the best one in town for that size- that I won’t find a better venue. He told me that since “you don’t know what you need” (because I don’t have a firm guest count ?!) “ you should just book this venue because it is the best.” Strike two.

He then spits a bunch of numbers at me, rapid fire. “It’ll be $5000 if you want to have 25 guests stay at the hotel, $2000 more if it is more than that, but you seem like a nice girl, so I’ll just charge you $1500. What is your email address? I’ll send you a contract.” Strike three.

Why was this strike three?  He is telling me he will cut me a deal because I seem like a nice person, which I usually am, but he would have no way of knowing this since he hasn’t let me talk for even a second. Phony. Also, I never agreed to anything, why is he trying to get me to sign a contract already? Needless to say, I didn’t book this venue.”

What went wrong?


Didn’t Identify the Customer’s Personality

Lots of things went wrong in this story. The first thing a salesperson should do when they are speaking to a client is try to figure out who they are.  What brought them to you? What do they want, and why? How can you communicate with them effectively? The DISC personality system serves as a shorthand for this process. (By the way, we have an entire course on how to do this.)

Using your knowledge of personality styles to identify the client/customer gives you the key to speaking their language.

This customer has an I style personality- she wanted to have a relationship with this salesperson. She wanted to tell him about their wedding, and then have the venue’s representative promise her that they could make it happen. As an I, she probably wanted to ask a few questions, nothing too specific, and get a feel for if this place was a good fit. This salesperson was the opposite of what she was looking for. His totally transparent, condescending, and pushy approach was completely impersonal and insincere.  She has a people oriented personality, so she will not appreciate that.

Didn’t Listen

The customer was put on hold immediately (which is always bad etiquette) and then forced to hear the salesperson yelling at a co-worker.

The I style personality is people oriented, and a peacemaker. Forcing them to listen to a conflict that they cannot fix is going to stress them out, which is not conducive to spending money. It is more likely to get them to want to hang up the phone.  

Also, the salesperson missed a great opportunity by interrupting her. The customer was going to volunteer information about herself and what she wants. But the salesperson just told her what he thought she wanted to hear- that his place was the best.

If he had given her a chance, she would have basically told him how to sell to her: Tell her the story of how this venue meshes with her vision, and let her know that he and his team will be there to support her. Send her links to pictures so she can get a feel for the place, and envision the moment for herself. Tell her his team will take care of everything so she can focus on making this event unique.

This salesperson was so concerned with making a sale that they lost track of what sales is really about- relationships.

Didn’t Speak Her Language

Talking down to a customer by telling them directly that they “don’t know what (they) need” is just rude. But if this D style salesperson had been talking to a D style client, this might have been acceptable. The D style client might be reassured by hearing someone confidently proclaiming that this purchase was the best decision they could make. That’s what the D wants to know. But the I doesn’t care if the salesperson thinks it’s the best, they want to feel like it is right for them.

When the salesperson started throwing out a bunch of numbers, they risked losing the I style customer. Even if this salesperson hadn’t lost her up until now, they would have then. The I wants a second to process these numbers, and isn’t looking to collect and analyze numbers. They are looking for something that feels right, and that can’t be found by crunching digits. Sure, she wants this information eventually. But he shouldn’t have started with it.

Threw Too Many Details at Her

Now if this salesperson was talking to a C style customer, this would be good to lead with. Give them the data right off the bat, and let them analyze, research, and compare this data with other places. The C style isn’t looking for a relationship; they just want the data so they can make an informed decision for themselves.

Didn’t Exhibit Knowledge of Personality Styles

This salesperson didn’t make this sale. But they could have if they knew more about personality styles, and matched their sales style to the style of their customer.

Of course, the question you are probably asking yourself is “how do I know what personality style my customer has?” And what exactly do I do once I have this information? We can help.

Check out our sales style profile.

About the Author: Carrie Greenaway

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