Pay no attention to that sales trainer!

I worked this week with a terrific group of learners at a training session in Charlotte, NC, and a topic came up for discussion that I have heard before.  I’ll share it with you here and you can add your own opinions and help all of us learn.

A commercial banker is calling on a top prospect, and since he expects to learn a great deal during the call about the company’s strategy, progress, obstacles, future plans and current financial situation, he naturally intends to take notes.  What is best to do among the following three choices?

A)      Simply take out your notepad and begin to take notes.

B)      Say to the customer, “Because the information you are about to provide me will be important and useful, I’m going to make notes on the key issues.”

C)      Ask the customer if he minds if you take notes

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedYou might think that the prospect assumes you will take notes in an important meeting like this, so that choice A is fine.  Or you might think that while choice A is fine, it is polite to let him know what you are doing. Or, you might argue that no prospect would say no anyway, so why not make a polite request.

When this came up during the session, I stated my own preference for choice B, but when others suggested their reasons for choices A or C, I didn’t argue, as they are perfectly reasonable and I think more a matter of style than anything else.

Here’s another one for you.  I participated in an on-line sales forum in which ideas and best practices are kicked around.  Someone posted that he learned from a sales trainer that when you show up at an on-site call, you should never thank the prospect for taking the time to see you, the reason being that your time is valuable too, and that you expect to add value during this call.

Now is this a good idea or a bad idea?  What’s your style? Should you change your behavior because the sales trainer tells you to?

Here’s my take on discussions like this.  When people attend my programs I would like them to consider whether or not my ideas and suggestions to improve their performance will actually fit with their own personal and professional style, and I accept that not all people come to training to be “sheep dipped” in my methodology.  Generally speaking, people take from a sales training program those ideas they believe will help them, and you cannot force them to act differently.

Where I draw the line is a situation in which the CEO or head of the line of business has stated that he or she wants certain processes done in a certain way, such as call preparation and reporting. Those are non-negotiable and part of the client’s sales process.

So the next time the sales trainer tries to tell you “this is the best way to do it” and you don’t think so, stick your hand in the air and say, “let’s talk about that.”  If the sales trainer is any good, your objection should be very welcome.  But if you hear or sense any defensiveness, you have the wrong person running the program.

By the way, what are your own thoughts on the note taking question, and on thanking your prospect for his or her time?  I’d like to hear, as it will help you to…


Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

4 Responses to Pay no attention to that sales trainer!

  1. kara says:

    i find it annoying when people are not taking notes – whether it is a team member during staff meetings or a sales call – one of my first managers told me “don’t come to my meetings without a pen and paper” and i have always remembered that advice. even if you are the one being pitched – you should also be taking notes to remember details or information you need to provide post-meeting. i do think that if someone is going to take notes on an ipad or device, the person should announce what they are doing so it doesn’t look like they decided to play words with friends mid sentence:)

  2. Lisa says:

    1. I ask permission to take notes
    2. I thank the potential client for their time, historically… But it does imply their time is more important than mine…. It could undermine me subconsciously in their mind? I’ll experiment with this one. Interesting.

    Thank you for your time,

  3. Jeanne Rieken says:

    I believe the second option is best. It is always a good idea to explain your process to a client. More importantly, you should be sure to use all the info that you noted to recommend meaningful solutions!

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