As you finish your third soy chai, double shot, espresso machiatto latte, you look over your account plan, your presentation, probing guide and signed off pricing for your meeting with a client.

‘All sorted’ you whisper to yourself, filled with the pride of preparation.

You’ve allowed enough time to get through the horrendous traffic, pre-booked a car park and even allocated ten minutes to sign into that stupid iPad security system that doesn’t yet have your new client’s name registered.

You begin the meeting well until 10 minutes in, the client throws a curve ball.

‘I’m no longer looking after that area of the business’

‘I’ve now been told we have to go to tender’

‘This now won’t happen this financial year’

‘Actually, my new boss, Stacy has a good relationship with one of your competitors, so I don’t know where it goes from here’

‘I know we said we’d go ahead in June, but we now want you to do a full proof of concept and visit sixteen sites in rural Australia on a Malvern Star bicycle wearing only your underpants and a flowerpot on your head’

We are now in a game of being thrown.

In my research, role plays and pitch consulting, only 30-40% of sales people ask ‘Why’

The majority, thrown off track start mumbling like Sylvester Stallone with a mouthful of pastrami almost pleading for guidance for the next step.

‘Could you please introduce me to Stacy/Procurement/The Weird Proof of Concept guy’


‘Ok, that’s a shame…well let me know when you’re ready then’


‘As soon as I leave here I’ll be getting a new pair of Bonds, pumping up the bicycle and going straight to the flowerpot shop’

The key question is what do you want to do?

If the answer is acquiesce, go ahead and you can stop reading this and get your fourth coffee for the day.

Here are some options as to what you can do.

  1. Always ask ‘Why’. Put it back on the client. Let them fully explain why circumstances have changed. After they’ve told you, you may want to ask ‘Why’ again until you clearly understand all the politics, financials and timing issues.
  2. Don’t ask permission to do what you need to do. If you need to now get to Stacy, just do it or do it in conjunction with your manager.
  3. If it’s financials, and you’ve just spent 6 months proving your case to be told it’s shut down, connect with the CFO, share your evidence and ask why.
  4. Don’t just run around the country for free in the hope of ‘staying in the game’. Look at rebateable fees for consulting or getting a commitment up front based on the proof of concept working.
  5. Discuss with procurement the advantages and disadvantages of going to tender. Believe it or not there are some professional procurement people out there who are open to solving supply chain issues whilst retaining competitive tension without going to tender.

We are prone to being thrown. We get anxious when we don’t get a text back in 0.3 nanoseconds or if we haven’t heard from a client.

‘They said they’d get back to us on Wednesday, OMG…it’s now Thursday…they must not want us any more’

We get thrown when our inner control freak, freaks out.

Yet the unexpected, the transitory, the delayed, the uncertain is the norm.

You can’t control it.

What you can control is your reaction…and in this Game of Throwns you should not be exposed to nudity and your deal should not be killed.

Elliot Epstein is a leading Sales Expert, Pitch Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Corporate Trainer who gets sales results rapidly. He has coached and trained high profile corporates globally in presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching. He has spoken at over 1500 conferences and workshops for leading companies such as HP, SEEK, Avaya, Hitachi , Computershare, Lend Lease and Asciano.

He is internationally renowned for ensuring sessions are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.

Elliot is based in Melbourne where Winter is Coming.