Search
  • Brett Zalaski

My 3 Favorite Sales


Earlier this week I discussed my biggest sales fails...and what I learned from them. Today we're going to explore some of my favorite sales stories...and why they stayed with me for so long.


We spend a lot of time learning from and correcting mistakes. What we don't do enough of is thinking about our successes. What can we learn from them that we can aim to replicate from a process standpoint? Prospecting? Handling objections? Creating urgency? And what enduring POSITIVE lessons can we take from them? Persistence? Client-first approach? Poise?


Here are three of my favorite sales...and what I learned from them:

  1. Director of Advertising, Molson Coors (at CEB): When I started my job at CEB, I was super bad at sales. I know everyone who starts at sales starts from a low point, but I was bad in comparison to literally everyone in our office. While I struggled with pretty much everything, I was particularly crappy with my product knowledge and my ability to handle objections...two things that are, unfortunately, tied pretty tightly together. After struggling at them and just hoping I'd get better for a few months, I finally broke down and meticulously read the research and practiced my objections. I started to gain confidence and get better on the phones, but it all crested with the phone call mentioned above. I had been calling and emailing her for about 2 months (not uncommon at CEB). When she finally picked up the phone, she was ready for me. She had looked up CEB, read the emails I had sent, and asked some other people about us. 'How are you different from the AMA?' 'What would could a beverage company learn from a CPG company?' 'What's the process if I have a question that you all haven't answered?' And on...and on...and on. And I answered every last one of them. My training came together in a moment I will never forget...and I got the meeting. My marketer closed the meeting on the spot...and she gave me a TON of credit for answering most of her questions before he even got their. What did I learn? I learned how product knowledge gives you confidence. I learned that training absolutely makes you a better salesperson. And I fell in love with sales on that one phone call.

  2. Chief Marketing Officer, Wal-Mart (at CEB): At CEB you get a plaque for your first sale out on the road. It's pretty sweet that mine says Wal-Mart. When I got my territory at CEB, I aimed for Wal-Mart right away...and stunned a few people when I secured that meeting with their new CMO. I could tell my managers were panicking when they realized that I would be tackling such a big company so early in my career. Instead of asking another salesperson to go with me, I asked for a member of our research team. This also made my managers take pause. Researchers were often invited to second meetings...not first ones. I walked into Wal-Mart's offices in Bentonville, Arkansas, introduced myself, introduced the researcher, gave our opening spiel, and then almost literally stepped aside and let our researcher and their CMO talk for an hour. I knew I still didn't really know what I was doing...so I knew our researcher would be a way better conversation. It worked. Wal-Mart signed the contract on the spot. My enduring takeaway was that those who sell with too much pride, die with too few sales. Using the resources you have to close business makes you a BETTER salesperson...not a worse one.

  3. Wealth Management Company, Columbus, OH (at Columbus Crew): This sale, alongside one of my sales reps, took 18 months start to finish. I met them at a fitness expo. Turns out they had been sponsors who dropped their relationship with the Crew. It took some time to build trust. Then we started to create an event around our Pride Night. Then the person we built that trust with was let go. Then we built trust with the new Columbus head. He was more interested in a suite for his team than Pride Night. We then found out, no matter what, we would have to get the green light from their Cleveland office...the CMO. So we went to Cleveland...twice. Finally, the CMO came to Columbus. After touring the stadium, we got a phone call the next day saying they were in for a half-season suite. I said that, while I'd do that, I thought, for everything they were looking for, the full season suite was the better option for them. He said let me think about it. On our follow-up the next day, he said 'We're in!' I learned a lot from this sale. I learned the importance of smart persistence. We could have given up many times along the way, but we continued to close on next steps...so while the time spent on it is not a best practice, we were doing the right thing by continuing to pursue it. I also learned that having an opinion and a voice is appreciated by my clients. While I can be client first in my approach, it can come with a strong opinion about what's best for that client...and that client will appreciate that, not get pissed at me. I'm the expert.

This little series was super fun for me to write. Looking back on my career, while absolutely challenging at times, was a good reminder of the passion I have for my profession (sales), and the gratitude I have for the industry I'm in (sports business). I've been able to do a lot of cool things in this lifetime, but I earned every one of them by always working hard and working hard to make myself better...and the easiest way to do the latter was to make sure you learn from every misstep...but also every great success. It is one of life's great blessings to write this website...and I'm so grateful for everyone who takes the time to read it (especially when they are about me)!