Insights and Resources

Do these 10 things in meetings to annoy your clients.

Do these 10 things in meetings to annoy your clients.

By Keith Dugdale

Having spent more than 25 years working in sales, client relationships and business development, I have seen and heard more than my fair share of things that salespeople and providers do in client meetings and client interactions that truly make me cringe. And as soon as I tell anyone I’m a sales coach, I usually get bombarded with people telling me their worst stories of when someone tried to sell them something in a really, really bad way.

The thing that continues to surprise me is that everyone who sells is also sold to – be it in their personal or professional life. And yet when they’re on the other side of the table, doing the selling or being the service provider, so many people commit the worst possible mistakes, and do some truly cringe worthy stuff.

So I decided to put together my list of the top 10 things I see people do in meetings that really annoy clients and potential clients (in no particular order):

1. The blame game.

When one person from an organisation blames another person from that same organisation for a problem the client is experiencing. You know ‘Oh, that’s our finance team’s fault. We’ve asked them to fix it but we haven’t heard back yet. Lots of customers are complaining about it.’ Clients don’t care whose fault it is, they just want it to be fixed. This just paints you as a dibber dobber who doesn’t genuinely care about the client.

2. Avoiding a difficult topic.

This is when the provider knows things are going really wrong but hopes the client is either stupid or won’t notice because they’re too afraid to raise it. This is 101 in ‘how to make a problem worse’.

3. The pretend friend.

This is the person who starts off meetings with an overly familiar way of addressing the other person (‘Hi Maaaaate!’) and then wastes their time with a long monologue of social chitchat which may be pleasant but wastes their time. Even if this doesn’t annoy the other person, it will put you on the fast track to a social relationship – which has the lowest Return on Investment of any relationship. Mates rates anyone?

4. Bull**** bingo. 

This is the salesperson who pretends to know things they do not. If you want to undermine trust, do this. Unfortunately many salespeople get their personal comfort from their technical knowledge and all the things they know, so the worst thing that can happen to them is being put in a situation where they don’t know the answer.

5. People who don’t listen…and speak over you and each other.

This is either in a conversation, or to more macro messages. The majority of people we’ve worked with in business have high scores on Leading vs Following when it comes to our behavioural tool called the Octagon. What this means is that rather than listening, they’re always just waiting for their turn to speak. This is made even worse when they start talking before you’ve even finished speaking, or if there are two of them they start talking over each other throughout the meeting.

6. Gimme Gimme Gimme

This is the salesperson who is only there because they clearly want something from the client. Generally identified by the use a lot of ‘I, Me, Us, Our’ language, the use of generic sales presentations, or the handing over of generic sales brochures and capability statements at any point during the meeting (yes, even at the end. Note item 10).

7. Taking the marshmallow.

Ever been in a sales meeting when the sales person, at the first possible opportunity (and sometimes an extremely contrived opportunity), jumps at the chance to talk about how their product or service can help before finding out how important the issue actually is to the client…and whether they even want help fixing it? We call this taking the marshmallow. There are a lot of salespeople who live on diets of 99% marshmallows.

8. The interrogation.

Many salespeople often start with one great question, wait for a response, and and then attack the client with long list of detailed questions. This is particularly common amongst technical people who like to talk about their technical ‘stuff’. If the client is big picture this is a sure fire way to quickly disengage them, or at the very least make them feel like they’re on the other side of an interrogation.

 9. The script.

This sales person has recently attended a sales training program and has their script of questions that are guaranteed to lead them to a sale. Clients can tell this is happening when the next question bears no relation whatsoever to their answer to the previous question (this one is closely related to number 5: people who don’t listen).

 10. The pushy follow up email

This is the salesperson who does all of the right things in the meeting, but then gets scared about not ‘closing the deal’ so sends a follow up email that’s nothing more than a pushy sales pitch. Clients love receiving these…so they can delete them. But often not before they send them to me with a note saying ‘check out this bad sales pitch!’

What would you add to this list?


Founder of The Business of Trust I Co-author of Smarter Selling I International Speaker and Business Coach.

If you like what Keith has to say then come and hear him speak at our Lunch & Learn Event in Sydney on the 27th of April. Read more about the event and the Early Bird offer here.

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