Sales Fails: "Door-to-door sales -- reptiles included"

Each week, we bring you the most cringe-worthy sales moments from across the web. To submit your sales fail story for consideration, click here. (Don't worry, you'll remain completely anonymous).

“When I was first starting out in sales, a little over ten years ago, I was trained by our company’s sales manager to always agree with the customer, no matter how absurd their position was. This was the mentality back then: no matter what they say, say yes, and then work your way back to closing the deal.

I was an outside sales rep, selling B2B telecom services. One day, during one of my first few weeks going out unsupervised, I was knocking doors at small businesses and came upon a small furniture store. When I went inside, the owner was talking to someone who appeared to be his friend – it wasn’t a customer conversation. I waited politely until he acknowledged me, then started asking questions about his phone and internet services. 

After he answered a few questions, he interrupted my next question and asked if I was from [name of my company at the time]. I said yes, and he said, “Well, did you know you guys completely screwed me over last time we used you?” I didn’t say anything. Then he said, “Oh yeah, and the woman who owns the store next door had an even worse experience,” and then he launched into this long conversation about how we were incredibly unethical and what not.

Since I wasn't really sure what to do (I wanted to walk out but the guy was intent on talking to me), I went back to my training and started agreeing with him. He said something like, “Do you know how predatory your company is?” and I said, “I can see why you might feel that way, sir,” hoping that it would cool him down. 

Instead, he got angrier, and said, “So you can see why I’d think your company was predatory but yet you’re still standing here trying to talk me into buying your services?” And the guy’s friend just started laughing, but the owner was getting more and more heated. Finally, he told me to leave and to note that no one from my company was allowed to ever step foot back there again. 

I’ve since left that company, and no longer use the “agree with them about everything,” approach. Total sales fail.”

Anonymous               Location Withheld       

“I sell life insurance, and normally I’m very good at building rapport. But something happened a few years ago that still makes me cringe every time I think about it. 

I had gotten a referral from one of my clients, which is a pretty big deal since the close rate on referrals is super high. I called the prospect and offered to drop by so we could meet in person to discuss his needs, but he said he was really busy and we scheduled a phone call the following week instead. 

So I call him at the pre-arranged time, and the conversation starts off great. He is friendly and engaging, and answers my questions and even sprinkles in a few jokes here and there, which I didn’t expect given his serious demeanor on our initial call. 

At some point, I start asking questions about his wife and her employment situation, things like that. He tells me that she isn’t currently working, then says something like, “Jeez, I honestly don’t know what the hell she does all day,” and bursts out laughing. I laughed along too, one of those polite laughs, not over-the-top or anything. 

So the conversation continues for a while, and at some point, he starts talking about his plans for the next five to ten years, and he says that he wants to retire. Since the conversation seemed to be going so well, I figured I’d make a joke, so I said, “Well, then you’ll finally be able to find out what your wife does all day long.” 

As soon as I said it, I knew I screwed up. He paused for like five seconds – which felt like five minutes – and then just absolutely laid into me. “Don’t ever talk about my wife,” he shouted, and “That’s the mother of my children,” and “What kind of unprofessional outfit are you with?” He just let me have it, and I just kept apologizing to him. 

I’m not sure if he just didn’t remember his own initial joke, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because he was absolutely livid and the deal was obviously dead. To this day, I never make a joke about anyone from the customer’s side, not even if they do it first.”  

Anonymous               Location Withheld       

The weirdest thing that ever happened to me in sales was when I spent a summer out west selling solar and security door-to-door. I went to these people’s house on a super hot day, and most of the people’s homes had a/c, but when these people opened the door and invited me in, it was swelteringly hot, and there was a super weird smell that was almost dirt-like in the house. 

So the woman, (who is very nice) invites me in and I walk in and and all of the shades are drawn, and she tells me to sit on the couch and that they were definitely thinking about doing solar at some point, but that money was tight and they didn’t know if they could swing it. Her husband (or whoever he was) also came in and I remember that he had a super long ponytail, down to his waist. 

So I’m hanging out on the couch talking to her, and she keeps looking from my face to something that’s above my left shoulder. So after she does this a few times i turn to look and there is this monstrous-looking lizard staring me in the face. The thing looked huge, like at least 3 feet long. And as soon as I see this thing, I let out this absolutely primal scream and hopped off the couch, and started brushing myself off. And the lizard is just looking at me, and the man and woman are both looking at me like I was crazy. 

I quickly apologized, and they started apologizing too, then I caught a glimpse of the kitchen behind the guy’s head and saw that there was another lizard just hanging out on the counter. I excused myself and said I was really sorry but I had to go, and basically ran out the door. They called out to me and said there was nothing to be afraid of but I just couldn’t handle it. As soon as I got outside, I ran to meet up with the rest of my team. That was my only summer doing door-to-door sales.   

Anonymous, 28               Texas      

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