Storytelling is a key attribute we incorporate into our sales training programs in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.  Great Salespeople tell great stories to communicate their message.  The impact is much more dramatic and memorable because the story adds context to why the message is important.  Here’s one that I experienced many years ago, yet still feel the twinge of embarrassment.  While all Professional Salespeople know not to take any business for granted, one of my biggest Key Accounts taught me a lesson that I’ll never forget.

Gavin was one of my best clients – a pleasure to work with, straightforward and professional. Though he was demanding, he was easy to please because he made clear exactly what he needed in order to continue purchasing my products and services as an Advertising Account Manager (a fancy name for Professional Media Salesperson).

The start of our relationship

Before I knew Gavin, I prospected him and managed to gain an appointment. After doing a thorough needs analysis, I knew what he needed to justify starting a buying relationship with me. He was open, sincere and had high expectations.

The creative strategy

I did my homework, pooled the resources at my disposal and created an advertising strategy that even I was impressed with – no small task given the high expectations I had of myself. It was important to me that my clients signed contracts based on results, not just because they liked my personality.

The engagement

I had several meetings with Gavin to explain my strategy long before I ever delivered a proposal. I’ve always maintained that your proposal should never contain anything unexpected. It should just be a confirmation of everything discussed and already agreed to. From the client’s perspective, it makes the contract incredibly tough not to sign! I took Gavin for lunch a few times, always paid the bill against his desire, and made sure he felt appreciated and engaged. I even threw him a few perks that came my way. It was hard not to like him.

The marriage

After all the details of my strategy had been confirmed and nothing appeared to be unresolved, I presented a proposal to Gavin for a 13-week advertising campaign. He absolutely loved it. In fact, he said it was the best marketing and advertising strategy he’d ever seen. I could tell he was proud of me, almost like a father recognizing his son for his hard work and diligence. He signed the deal without any negotiating whatsoever.

The honeymoon

Gavin signed on for 13 weeks and the campaign performed far beyond anyone’s expectations. Gavin claimed he could tell when a radio commercial aired on my station because his phone lines would light up with potential customers wanting more information. In fact, he asked to know in advance when the commercials would air so he could properly staff his phones!

The happy relationship

At the end of the 13-week strategy, Gavin quickly signed on for a full 52-week term. He was now one of my five biggest accounts, coming out of nowhere literally four months prior. Once again, he signed the contract with no negotiating. Though I was shocked, I did my best to hide my surprise. Gavin claimed that the idea I’d brought him was the best thing that ever happened to his company. Wow. I’d thought a high pay cheque was my biggest inspiration in professional sales. Hearing a client say that, though, provided a form of payment that money couldn’t match. I was making a real difference in this company’s revenues!

The three-month check-up

I would call Gavin every three months. There really wasn’t much need to, as he paid his bills with great discipline. “Hey Gavin!” I’d say. “It’s Dave calling. How’s everything going? Is the campaign still performing well?”  Then I’d hear something like this:

“You bet Dave. Like clockwork. Best thing we ever did. How are you doing by the way?”

Everything with Gavin had been humming along smoothly.  I had switched my proactive efforts to other clients who were great prospects.  I mean really, what was Gavin going to do? Cancel the best thing his company ever did?

The renewal

Eventually the 52-week advertising campaign with Gavin was coming up for renewal. I thought I’d take him for lunch like old times. My week was busy with new appointments and other projects on the go, so I thought, “You know, I’ll take him for lunch after the deal is signed.”

I called him. “Gavin, you might be aware that our strategy is coming for your renewal shortly. I assume everything’s still working well for you?” “It certainly is Dave, come on by and let’s get it signed before I start spending my budget elsewhere!”

“Man, this is the easiest key account renewal I’ve had in my career,” I thought.

The signing

I presented Gavin with the proposal and he asked me for my pen. As I passed it to him, I said, “Gavin, I’m just happy that I could be involved in creating this strategy. It gives me such satisfaction to see the results from our work together.” He replied, “Me too Dave. You know how I feel about it. I’ve told you many times over.”

The shock of my career

Gavin signed the proposal and didn’t ask for a discount. Instead, he gave me one of the biggest lessons of my career. He crossed out “52 weeks” and wrote “13 weeks” in its place. He initialed the change, turned the proposal back to me and asked me to do the same.

My reaction

I was dumbfounded. What was I missing? Why in the world would he do this? The campaign had always exceeded expectations and was one of the reasons for the company’s huge growth in sales. I looked up at him. “Sorry Gavin, am I missing something?” The look on my face must have been priceless from someone who makes it a policy to always be prepared for curve balls.

Gavin’s next words

“Well Dave,” he said, “your campaign strategy has always been successful – from the start to this very day. You worked hard putting it together and deserve every penny of the commission. I’m agreeing to 13 weeks because maybe I might see you a little more often around here. I think you’ll call me and take me for lunch, and maybe let me pay the bill. That’s all.” Then he smiled and looked at me with that sorry-but-I-felt-I-had-to-do-that face.

My embarrassment

The warm rush of blood red to my face was like nothing I’ve ever felt. I was horrified at what I had allowed to happen. I had focused on the results and not on the person. I’d pursued him, done my due diligence, confirmed the business and moved onto the next client, all the while thinking, “What’s he going to do – CANCEL?”

The Dave that he knew before the sale was not the same Dave he experienced after the sale. After far too many apologies, I told him that he’d just taught me a lesson that I would remember – and share with others – for decades. I thanked him for teaching me something that I would never forget.

The take-away – never take a client for granted

I know you get it.  Yet, we can easily forget it as we work with many clients in our sales funnel.  Never take any of your clients for granted. Give them the same service after the sale as you did courting them to get the sale.  Tell them that you appreciate their business.  Show up occasionally without a proposal, a new product offering or some other agenda.

Bring their staff some coffee and treats occasionally.  Only calling your clients when you want to sell them something is dialing for dollars.  Partner with your clients.  Think like them.  Forward them great articles and blog posts that relate to their business category or personal interests. All great relationships can grow stronger.

The best form of value-add you can provide your clients comes from outside your direct buying relationship. It shows that you care beyond your personal agenda of making a sale.


This is just one of the real sales situations detailed in our book  SHUT UP!  Stop Talking and Start Making Money available on Amazon. If you prefer online sales training, check out the free trial of our course  The Sales Skills Incubator.  You don’t need to enter your credit card to take the free trial.  I’d love to see your comments on this post.  If you liked it, please feel free to share on your favorite social media platform.

Thanks!PROSALESGUY Dave Warawa

Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY