Have you ever been on a sales call and thought to yourself, “Wow! That was awkward!”? Or “Seriously, did that just happen?!?” and wondered how you were going to redeem your professionalism?
Certainly we have all been there. Every day on the road is a new day full of surprises: Some good, some bad and some that are just plain awkward. After all, we are all human and well, $%!# happens! These are some of my most awkward and embarrassing moments on the road.
- Intruder! Intruder! I’m Calling the Police!
Since I call on mobile doctors, almost half of my sales calls take place at their home office which is usually in a rural area. One time, I had arrived at this doctors’ house before he arrived. I knocked on the door and there was no answer. So went back into my car and proceeded to call him on his cell to see if he was going arrive soon but he did not answer. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, his wife was in the house and was in a complete panic. She did not know I was coming and instead thought that I was some intruder who had been harassing her over the phone for the past few days. She couldn’t see me in my car because I have tinted windows, so she assumed it was this “bad man”. She frantically called her husband to say that she was calling the police because that “bad man” was at the house. Fortunately, she got ahold of him before she called the police and he told her that it was just little old me, the Travelling Saleswoman who he was supposed to be meeting at the house. He arrived shortly thereafter and informed me as to what was going on. I met with him and his wife while she calmed down. That sure made it hard to switch gears and focus on “selling”!
- Mixed Signals: The Handshake or The Kiss?
I had just finished a meeting with a client at a restaurant. We walked outside into the parking lot and just as we were going to part our ways, I put my hand out for a handshake. He went in for the handshake AND in for a face-plant of a kiss! Yikes! I withdrew my head back so far that I lost my balance and because I was wearing heels on the icy pavement, I slipped backwards and fell flat on my ass. I quickly got up and said goodbye and he scurried back to his vehicle. How embarrassing! Needless to say, I never met with him again. In my meetings that followed, I was asked about how I got my beautiful wool coat covered in salt and slush. I said I just slipped on the ice going back to my car. It wasn’t a total lie.
- Can You Drive Me To The Optometrist?
It was a 3 hour drive to my first appointment of the day. I was wearing contact lenses and my eyes were starting to feel very dry. I had 5 minutes to spare so I stopped by a pharmacy and picked up some Visine (for red eyes), put the drops in and promptly hit the road again. As I was driving, I noticed that my vision was slowly deteriorating. Everything was getting really, really blurry. I was getting quite worried but I knew that I was really close to the clinic so I continued on. When I arrived at the clinic and met with my client, I could barely see. I explained my situation to him and he told me (as if it was common knowledge) that Visine for red eyes is contraindicated with contact lenses because it can cause the lenses to melt on the cornea! I felt so embarrassed for not knowing that, especially because I have a background in pharmacology. DUH!!! So I sucked up my pride and asked if someone could give me a ride to the nearest optometrist and fortunately he did. Needless to say I didn’t do any “selling” on that call!
- The Jockey Swarm
It was my first meeting with a veterinarian at a racetrack where I hadn’t been before. I didn’t know exactly where the office was located in the backstretch, so I made sure to show up 10 minutes early. In the backstretch, there must have been at least 50 jockeys. I was immediately approached by several of them offering to help me find my way. They led me all over the place saying things like “Oh, I think it’s right around the corner..” and “I think he’s over here”. They trotted me around like I was a horse getting ready to hit the track and we were going in circles. I clearly stuck out like a sore thumb and felt as though I was walking through a boy’s locker room. Several of them came up to me asking “Are you the drug rep? Do you have samples???” to which I quickly replied, “No, I’m here to see the vet. Where is the vets office?”. After almost 15 minutes, one jockey FINALLY led me to the office which was literally steps away from where I had entered the main building. DUH for me not noticing that!!! At this point I was late for my meeting and had to explain that all of these jockeys led me astray. I was a tad flustered by the time we actually sat down to do business!
- The Leg Wrestling Match Challenge
I was sitting in the waiting room of a clinic for an appointment with my client. The waiting room was quite busy and one of the doctor’s clients approached me and asked me who I was there to see. I told her I had an appointment with Dr. D at 4pm. She threw her hands up into the air and said “Well, that’s too bad for you! I’ve been here all day and I am supposed to see Dr. D at 4pm!”, to which I replied, “This is Dr. D’s clinic, so she gets to decide who she sees first.”. The lady didn’t like this answer so she says to me. “Screw that! How about we have a leg wrestling match and the winner gets to see her first?”. I didn’t want to say anything too inappropriate. After all, I am a professional saleswoman right? But I couldn’t resist saying, “I’ve never had a leg wrestling match before, but lady, I’ve got really long legs so get prepared to lose!”. At that point the doctor came out into the waiting room and said she would like to meet with me first. I sure dodged that bullet! There definitely is a first time for everything!
- Countdown to Vomit Valley
At a restaurant in YYC, I caught the Norwalk Virus. By the time I arrived in Vancouver, I was getting quite ill. Fortunately the worst of it happened over the weekend so I didn’t have to cancel any of my appointments due to illness. However when Monday came around I was still able to function in 1 hour bouts. It was like clockwork- precisely every hour almost on the dot, I would get sick. So I sucked it up and made it to all of my sales calls but forewarned my clients with, “Hi, I have the Norwalk virus so I won’t shake your hand. I also only have exactly 30 minutes for our meeting because I will fall ill again and need to use the facilities in precisely 1 hour, so let’s get down to business!” Such a lovely intro I know. But I figured, I’d rather be honest and still be able to do my job. My clients understood and it didn’t impact my business at all. It just felt awkward to have to introduce myself along with the status of my gastrointestinal tract. Classy!
- The Match.com Déjà Vu
At one point I was regularly surfing Match.com. For any of you who have ever used dating sites, you probably know that after a while you see the same faces over and over again. So one day, I walk into a clinic where I had a meeting and I see a guy there who I’d seen several times on Match.com but who I never messaged. He had obviously recognized me as well since we both looked at each other and went “gulp”, as in “Oh God, please don’t say you saw me on Match.com!”. The doctor I was meeting with saw us exchange this awkward look in silence and asked bluntly, “Do you guys know each other?” to which we both quickly replied, “No, no”. At least my meeting wasn’t with him and he wasn’t a decision maker. That would have been even more awkward!
- You’re Not My Rep, You’re the Service Tech
I had sold this clinic a piece of medical equipment. Unfortunately, this device had so many problems and my company was unable to offer them a loaner or a repair service so I had no choice but to try and troubleshoot and fix it myself! As I mentioned previously, I have a pharmacology background, not one in engineering! However, using a little common sense, my little pink purse which held my tools and a voltmeter, I was able to fix it. I have to admit I was sweating profusely the entire time hoping I wasn’t going to break it! But I didn’t. I was quite proud of myself. The only lousy thing about it was whenever I had scheduled a sales call with the doctor, all of the staff just assumed I was the technical service rep and they took me away from the doctor to ask for help with the device! I tried time and time again to explain that I was actually the sales rep but all of that was to no avail. I mean I always wore a suit- What tech service person shows up in a suit???? But to them, I was always, the service tech.*sigh*
Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my most awkward sales calls. Fortunately I only have 8 in my 10 years on the road. That’s not too shabby in my books.
I would love to hear from other sales reps about your awkward and embarrassing experiences on the road.
In the meantime, happy sales my friends and try to keep your cool, whatever happens.