A Lesson Learned the Hard Way at Lunch

When I was very young, naïve, and new to selling, I relentlessly called a big prospect in my territory. She refused my meeting requests dozens of times. I had no idea then that a sales call requires a value proposition, some value the contact will gladly trade their time to obtain. So I did what I thought might work, and I invited this prospect to lunch.

I picked the prospect up in my car, and she requested that I take her to an Asian restaurant in Century City. When we sat down, she ordered two appetizers, one for now, and one that she could take with her for later. It was a little weird, but I said nothing. Then she ordered two entries, one for now, and one she could take with her at the conclusion of our lunch “meeting.”

There was no lunch “meeting.” There was only lunch. Every time I tried to ask her about her business, she changed the subject. The more I attempted to engage with her, the more awkward it was to talk at all. We were both silent, and one of us was in way over his head.

After the lunch plates had been cleared, my prospective client ordered two desserts. She looked at me and asked me if it was alright, knowing there was no way I could object having already waived my rights. You know by now that my prospect ate one of the desserts and had the second put in the already large bag of food she was taking with her.

I was always upset by the fact that this prospect took advantage of me. I was 23 years old and had no experience to know what to do in such a situation. I had no language available to me. I suffered through it.

It took me years to absorb the lesson she taught me. I had no value proposition, and I believed that I could buy her time and attention for the price of lunch. Because I thought so little of her, she thought the same of me. From that point forward, I started taking prospects lunch only after I had a discovery meeting and I always made it a working lunch.

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