How Starbucks Almost Made Me Screwed Up A Sale (And What You Can Learn From It)

Have you ever been talking with a potential client and, after hanging up the phone, felt like the conversation didn’t go very well?  This happened to me recently and it was a great learning lesson so I thought I’d share the story with you.

I had a potential client miss a scheduled phone call.  I was going to head to Starbucks so I forwarded my work number to my personal cell phone just in case he called back.  While I was sitting in Starbucks enjoying my Iced Passion Tea, the phone rang…

It was him…

I answered…

Maybe I shouldn’t have.

There was a lot of background noise in Starbucks and I was really distracted by it.  I didn’t engage with him like I usually do with potential clients because of the distractions.  As a result, I didn’t ask very many questions to find out about his business plans or project details.

The phone call lasted less than two minutes.  We hung up and I went back to my other work and my Iced Tea.  No Sale.

Later, I was thinking about that phone call and kicking myself for missing an opportunity.  I normally have a very high take rate with new clients and I know what to do to close a deal.  I didn’t do what I know works!  I let distractions get in the way of a job and, as a freelancer, that ain’t good, ya know?

As I dissected the call later, I realized I didn’t follow my own process (you know-  the one I spoke about in my last blog post here: (3 Things My Trainer Did To Sell Me) – Build Rapport, Ask Great Questions, Use Demonstration, Call to Action.

So, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into Building Rapport (what I failed to do at Starbucks) and share some thoughts with you:

Building rapport must begin before you make a sale, but you really build rapport all throughout the call.   Here are some tips:

  1.  Exchange courtesies – Yes, people are really busy and want to get to the point of the call….but not at the risk of not building rapport.  Exchanging courtesies at the beginning puts both of you at ease and will allow for a smooth transition to the next part of the call.
  2. Use your client’s name – We love the sound of our own name!  Use your client’s name when starting to question them about their need for your product or service.  Use it again at the end of the call when you’re wrapping up.  A note about names… GET THEM RIGHT!  Listen carefully when someone pronounces their name.  If you’re on the phone, write it down phonetically if you have to.  If you’re talking face-to-face, don’t be afraid to ask them to pronounce it again for you (while reassuring them you just want to get it right).  I have a simple name (Kevin Hill… how much easier could it be?) but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t really listen and call me something different… like Devon, or Trevor.
  3. Match the client’s pace – Now this can be tricky.  If someone is a really slow talker, it can sound condescending if you slow your speech way down, too.  You don’t need to match their pace exactly but do slow down a little if they talk slower than you.  If they are a fast talker, speed up a little but make sure you are annunciating clearly!
  4. Ask relevant, engaging questions – More on questioning in a later blog post but just remember that asking great questions (and listening for the answers) go a long way to build rapport with clients.
  5. How can you help them?– Once you’ve gathered enough information to determine if your product or service is right for them, move into your presentation.  Relate what you sell or do to their wants and needs.  Remember, this is about them.
  6. Don’t act let down – Once the seller begins to feel they aren’t going to make the sale, it’s really easy to stop listening, stop asking questions, and stop engaging.  It’s our tendency to want to end the conversation and move on.  Customers who don’t buy should get the same enthusiasm from us at the end of the conversation as they did at the beginning.  Even if they don’t buy now, if you leave them with a great impression of you and what you can provide, they might call back instead of calling your competitor when they are ready to buy.  Remember, people buy from the heart, not the head.

I hope you’ll learn from my Screwup at Starbucks.  Building rapport is the beginning of establishing a long-term relationship with clients and is critical to the success of your business.

Keep it up,


“The Professor of High Response”

P.S.  By the way:This story now has a happy ending… As I was finishing this article, my potential client called back and wants me to write copy for him.  So I got lucky this time around.

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