Is there anything worse than sitting through a bad sales meeting? Very few of us look forward to sitting across the table from somebody who’s trying to sell something to us. But sometimes these meetings can be particularly bad. When you find yourself pining for that upcoming root canal appointment at the dentist, it’s pretty bad. That’s almost how our team felt during a recent session.

As distributors, our team often wears both hats—selling products and solutions to help our customers, and being sold to by manufacturers seeking to get us to push their products. Whenever we are being sold to, we try to learn what was valuable to us, and what wasn’t.

Here are some of the low-lights we put in our “what not to do in a sales meeting” book:

  1. “Let’s talk about ME!”

Have you ever been in a meeting where the salesperson began by talking about their products or company, and then proceeded to spend virtually all of the meeting talking about their “stuff”? That’s what our team was subjected to for nearly the entire length of the meeting. There was no disputing their knowledge and expertise on their products, it was impressive, formidable even. The only problem was they didn’t give us a reason to care about it, because they never related all that knowledge to us and our needs.

After the meeting, we all agreed: people talking exclusively about themselves doesn’t work on a date, and it doesn’t work in sales.

  1. Dodgeball

In the few moments when our visitors paused for air, our team asked a few direct, not-so-comfortable questions—the kind of sticky, but not unfriendly, questions that get at the real issues companies face in meeting their clients’ needs and being competitive. Evasive answers, non-answers, and spin are things we expect from politicians. They’re intolerable in people we are doing business with. No matter how many times you use the word “partnership” if you slither away from my real needs and issues, you’ll never make me feel like a partner.

Leave the dodgeball to the politicians, give me straight answers, even if you know I might not like them, at least I’ll trust you then.

  1. Wow, A logo water bottle!

There’s nothing wrong with handing out a little swag–who’s going to argue with an extra pen, coffee mug or water bottle. But don’t treat it like a “prize” you’ve just bestowed on me. We know you didn’t pay for it, we know it’s self-serving, and it’s not going to impact our decision to buy from you. Hand them out as a kindness and we will think of them as kindnesses, nothing more and nothing less.

  1. No Smarter than before

Our team overwhelmingly agreed that after 90 minutes with us, the salespeople didn’t understood us and our needs any better than they did before the meeting. They don’t know why we struggle to sell more of their items, or where they stand against the competition, or what knowledge or support we need to sell more of their products. Our team could have told them all of this and more, if only they had chosen to ask.

Not every sales meeting results in a sale, but every good sales meeting results in an advance of some kind—getting a better understanding of your customer’s needs seems like a pretty good place to start.

Our team didn’t enjoy wasting our time in a fruitless sales meeting. But hopefully we learned something and will be doubly careful not to repeat these mistakes when the shoe is on the other foot.

Have you had a bad sales meeting that made you want to pull your hair out? Tell us about it, leave a comment below. And stay tuned for The Bad Sales Meeting Part 2 where we’ll turn things around and share what we WISH they had done in the meeting.