Have you ever been sales-jacked? Agreeing to a meeting with someone under the guise of work, and then been ‘sold’ on their newest, latest and greatest?
Within the first couple of years I was in business for myself, I met a person at an open networking event. We ‘hit it off’ and found ourselves laughing and sharing information and resources. As part of her follow up process, she made a friendly call to me and asked me to lunch so she could learn more about my business and wanted to discuss how we might be able to work together on an idea she had.
Being eager to say yes to any new business opportunity, I worked around my schedule, juggled my day’s responsibilities, made childcare plans and did everything I needed to do to make room for the business meeting.
When the lunch meeting day came, I was early – and received a call at the time the meeting was scheduled to start – saying she’d be right there. About 25 minutes later, she arrived – with excuses about traffic. (Realize, I live in the Pocono mountains in a small town that has one… count it, one stoplight. Traffic is really NOT an excuse very often…)
Well – she’s late, and I’m famished – and after the niceties and ordering, I’m all ready to hear about this great idea she has about working together. And so, I ask: “What did you have in mind? I can’t wait to hear about your idea.”
And then it comes – out of left field… I didn’t even expect it… – The questions:
- How would it be if your health were improved?
- What could you do if you could rely on your heightened vitality?
- Are you living your best life?
I, of course, am across the table, eyebrows furrowed and screwy… trying it figure out what in heck she’s talking about… and then IT appears!
Out comes the full color, coffee-table book sized brochure for the “latest-and-greatest-buy-all-the-products-you-use-in-your-house-from-me” along with the “this-business-has-changed-my-life” sales pitch.
Now, if you know me, you know I’m a good time. I enjoy parties and socializing, and truth be told… I am the one at all the moms-get-together-to-drink-wine-and-buy-stuff parties that is always singled out and asked to join the salesperson’s team… But I have to say – I expect it at those events. And generally, I’m let off the hook with a simple – ‘I own my own business’ reply – and we’re good to go – as long as my check book’s open.
But in this particular case, I didn’t even see it coming. And I am embarrassed to say – that this was the unlucky fourth person to hijack me with an ‘invitation to lunch’ with such a proposal. (Yes… I’m a slow learner…)
So – she got it – the full-blown frustration… I let her have it, told her I had rescheduled my day to make room for this meeting and I thought her tactics were unethical. Even with her insistance that I take her pile of full-color brochures and that she really wanted me to check it out, I pushed them back to her. And then, I literally stood up at the table, and told her that the meeting was officially over. I handed her some money for lunch and asked her to please not contact me in the future. I walked away – and she sat there looking as if she had been left by her prom date… But, I had freed myself from the ‘nice girl’ chains, once and for all, and I learned some really important lessons of self-employment.
So – although she bore the brunt of the frustration I had already experienced from the others, here are my suggestions to help you avoid the ‘Sales-wolves in sheep’s clothing’ in case they show up with an invitation to lunch.
Don’t meet acquaintances for lunch – or breakfast, or a meal. Meet in between times for coffee instead. Why? It’s less expensive, you avoid the meal-time rush – and it’s easier to set up a 30 minute window and set expectations vs. burning a hole in the middle of your day. Now, if you want to hang with your friends, or REAL business colleagues – go for it, but coffee is so much easier to wiggle out of if you get hijacked.
- Be clear about the goals of the meeting – If you ask really specific questions about the purposes and goals of the invitation, and what she has in mind – you’ll be able to sniff out a mixed message from the get-go. Then it will be up to you to determine if you want to proceed. If you can’t get a less than 5 word answer to “What do you have in mind?” I say – you’re a prospect in this person’s eyes and you are ripe for being hijacked and pitched into their make-money-with-my-amazing-life-changing-products scheme. A legitimate joint venture offer will come with a five (or so) word answer like: I want to do a teleseminar with you, or I’m hosting an event, or I’d like you to speak for my group…
- Set time boundaries – When you make an appointment – be sure to only schedule 30 minutes… and tell the person that they have to fit within your window because you have a client call.
- Listen to your gut – When all else fails, if you have a sneaky suspicion about the person – you’re probably right, and you’re better off saying no.
- Say no – Yes, you can actually say no when someone asks for time on your schedule.
- Create your own meeting criterion – You can design your own criterion and come up with your own policy that helps you qualify your time. Will this make me money? Is this an opportunity to get in front of my ideal client? Will it cost me? Are they paying? (ha ha ha) Whatever your ‘criterion’ are is fine – just have them worked out so you have some really juicy comebacks!
- Connect on line first – If you’re being asked for lunch – ask them first for their on line profile and then do a quick on line search – just to check them out. It’s so simple to find information on a person today that you should be able to see from her social profiles and recent activity if she’s got something up her sleeve.
[Tweet “7 Ways To Avoid Getting Sales-jacked #business”]
If it’s one thing I hate more than tele-callers interrupting dinner, it’s this sneaky sales-jacking process. I hope these tips serve you and you can learn from my ‘nice-girl’ mistakes to avoid wasting time in the future.