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We're Not Taking the F*ing Elevator!

What one terrible meeting taught me about sales, and sales leadership.

Location: Miami. Status: Gutted by my sales manager. Mood: Sad, and very out of breath. 

(Five points for the few people who just got that Meek Mill diss track reference).

In this one hilarious moment, I learned a few of my most important lessons as both a sales rep and a sales leader.


It was several weeks into my tenure as a sales rep. As the youngest guy on the team, on my first road trip with my sales manager (who is both a personal and professional role model of mine) I was a kid with something to prove. Chomping at the bit? You betcha.

Wheels down. Airplane mode = off. Phone = lights up.

Email notification: one of the key meetings I was in town for needed to reschedule. Frantic, trying to squeeze meetings on meetings on meetings, I asked if my prospect (a CMO) would meet me at my hotel coffee shop. 

Phone rings; it's my Sales Manager. “Rob, are you kidding me? You don’t ask the CMO of [prospect] to come meet YOU?!” 

I spent the next 30 mintues 1. Frantically rescheduling the CMO meeting for the next day and 2. Using the oh-so-powerful hairdryer to offet the damage to the shirt I had just sweat through.

Clearly, I was in the proper frame of mind for the meeting I had coming up in an hour. 

This meeting would be held at the offices of a well-known **fitness** brand, with a prospect that may or may not have been well prepped for our meeting. We sat down; my sales manager opened his tiny notebook (every good sales manager has an inordinately small notebook) and began taking notes as I launched into the meeting. 

Five minutes in, my prospect interrupts – “Wait, what does your company do again?”

Undeterred, I dug in. I pitched. I interrogated. I cracked open my finest Just F*ing Demo! I leaned forward in my chair to show I was **really** engaged! I used everything I had lined up in the pages on pages of notes I had written in preparation for this meeting. It was a sales battle, and I was going to win. I had something to prove, and prove it I would.

After 90 minutes, as my sales manager quietly listened and took notes, I concluded what was perhaps the worst sales meeting of all time. I strolled out of the office of the **fitness** company, and pressed the elevator to descend from their second floor office. 

Note – I’m in Miami, where people rollerblade “for fun.” I’m from Philly, where escalators are more popular than iPhones.

My manager, thrilled with the fact that I was following my amazing performance in the meeting(sarcasm) with a reasonable attempt at physical fitness (sarcasm), utters through clenched teeth – “Rob…we’re at [**fitness** prospect]…WE’RE NOT TAKING THE F***ING ELEVATOR ONE FLOOR!”

After we hustled down the flight of stairs  and settled into the rental car…your boy still hadn’t grasped the concept of quitting while I was ahead.

“What’d you think?” I asked excitedly.

My manager pulled out his small notebook, looked at his small notes, looked at me and said “you know the saying ‘lean in?’ I wrote down the words… LEAN BACK!” 

When I get nervous sometimes I close-talk.

Prove something I did... I proved that I was in the wrong frame of mind for a successful meeting, and that my manager did me 1000000 favors by simply taking notes and giving me the brutal feedback rather than throwing me a life preserver.

Fast forward to 2016.

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve shadowed some of our reps (who are wayyyy better than I was at that stage) I realized I learned incredibly important lessons on effective selling, and sales leadership, in this one ill-fated meeting.

  1. For the sales leader –Take notes on “exactly” what the rep is saying and doing. Use those notes to coach. DO NOT jump in and try to “save” the meeting (unsless it truly is a critical deal). Don’t be afraid to challenge your rep. As I’ve written about previously, the downstream impact of your constructive criticism far outweighs the benefit of rescuing this one deal.
  1. For the sales rep – mindset is everything. Rather than approaching this meeting calmly, with the intention of understanding whatever it was the prospect was looking to achieve, I showed up frazzled, with a chip on my shoulder, looking to speak more than I listened.

Whether selling alone, or with a manager, whether a first discovery call or closing meeting, the rep needs to feel that they are calm, in control of the meeting and their emotions, and working to help their prospect rather than help themselves.

And for the love of god, never take the elevator down one floor.

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