Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Exxon Account

A friend of mine whose accomplishments and opinion I highly value used to tell the following parable. It's lesson in business, specifically a lesson in sales concerning "are you sure you're talking to the right guy?"

In the below dialog, a very senior sales management type engages a rep who was trying to land the gigantic Exxon account. It was a big enough story that the Sr VP knew about it and he bumped into the rep getting coffee.

SrVP: Hey!!...Jones!!...How the hell are ya, Jones?
Smith: It's 'Smith' sir, I'm great..thanks for asking.
SrVP: Sorry about that, Smith..anyway..great job in getting some traction in Exxon.
Smith: Thanks...
SrVP: So how's that going??...where are we with those guys?
Smith (nervously): Umm..ah..not where we had hoped. It appears to be dead.
SrVP: Sorry to hear that, Smith. Anything I can do? I know some people at Exxon.
Smith: Gee...I don't know. Thanks for offering. It doesn't look good.
SrVP: I hear ya...that's too bad. Who you talking to over there?
Smith: I got "a guy" over there..he's the one who told me it's dead.
SrVP: O'kay. Who's "your guy"? I still might be able to help.
Smith: "Eddie"...My guy is Eddie. Do you know Eddie?
SrVP: Hmmm...I don't. What's he do over there?
Smith: You know...Eddie..Corner of Main St and Pleasant. At the filling station.
SrVP: The filling station? What is this??...Mayberry RFD??? The guy who pumps gas??
Smith: Yeah,,well..ummm..he wasn't my "in" at Exxon...but he knows things.
SrVP: Who's your supervisor, Smith?

Please allow for the creative license....but we all get it. And we've all been guilty before of thinking we knew who was really pulling the strings when we didn't.
Usually it's our own fault but not always. People in buying organizations will fib or even flat-out lie to us about their role and responsibilities. Happens all the time.

If their job title isn't "Cxx" or Senior VP, never assume ANYONE has full decision-making power including the instances where they tell you they do. (Note: Even Chief Financial Officers often need CEO approval for the big stuff. Same with SrVP's).Be courteous, be super tactful, use all of your people skills but get to the truth about who has the juice to get the deal done.

And if you don't know, don't tell your bosses bosses boss that you do.

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