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John Windsor

Wow, that's a frighteningly good (?) picture, Jill -- as well as an excellent post.

Mike Caines

Here's my ugly baby story...

I was just developing a relationship with a new client, and I got to meet the President (and owner) finally.

In his office was a giant post of a new service he was "about" to launch (ordering postcards on-line).

I foolishly said "You know, there are lots of places that do this already, and probably for less then you'll be able to do it"

His face turned into stone! I was informed that he's been developing this for 3 years and it's cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ouch! Looks like I not only called his baby ugly, but but said it was stupid too!

My recovery, which thankfully worked, was to tell him "But, even though there are a lot of places doing this, nobody is going afer the niches you are, so it looks like it will be perfect for them".

Ah ha! A smile came back on his face and he said "That's exactly what I thought".

(The sad part is that it never did get off the ground, but at least he thought I was smart-grin)

rickey gold

Great post, Jill! I learned this early on with my first client. The company had called me to do their media program. At our first meeting, one of the decision makers showed me the company brochure. It was awful! Really over-used stock photo on the cover, bubble type, too busy, etc. My comment? "My eight-year-old could do a better chart than this. I can help you with this as well."

I found out later that this manager was responsible for the brochure and was very proud of it. The VP of marketing thought it was pretty funny...fortunately he had a great sense of humor.

I did end up doing a new brochure for them and using both for "before and after" examples. But it could have cost me the account. I'm very careful about what I say today when I look at a potential client's collateral.

Amy Zastrow

Here are a couple Ugly Baby stories with slightly different approaches & outcomes...

I was presenting a workshop and was talking to a gentleman prior to the workshop. He was in sales for a smaller local company. He was saying how he appoached another coach/consultant who was creating an all day educational event to be able to present on his company and what they can do.

I quickly thought through my options and decided to ask "can I give you some feedback?" He said yes. I told him that this approach seemed more like a sales pitch then an educational presentation and that the organizer might be more apt to say yes to his proposal if he used more of an educational approach (like top 10 list to help them succeed in their area of expertise). I could just see the wheels turning in his head. The conversation stopped there as it was almost time to begin my presentation.

The outcome was two-fold:
1) When I got back to the office he sent me an email with details on their services (which we also had talked about taking an educational approach with instead of the hard sell). I don't think he listened.
2) He talked to the executives in his company about me and my presentation and they has asked me to consult with the organization.

Another client asked me for some feedback on a brochure. I had worked with her to improve another marketing piece and she loved what I did. But this time I could tell by her tone she was quite pleased with it already and was seeking more approval than anything. So, instead of pointing out the flaws, I put together some questions to walk through when designing a brochure to help her discover them. (The added bonus is I can use these questions a) with my other clients - past & future, b) in an article c) part of a product.)

Deborah Savadra

Another "ugly baby" story:

When I first started my copywriting practice, I was creating pro bono pieces for non-profits and small businesses I was familiar with to build my portfolio. I ran across a flyer in the local Chamber's quarterly mailout from a business I wasn't familiar with. It screamed "makeover" as far as I was concerned -- cheap inkjet printing, no real sales copy, just a bullet point list of services that was "me, me, me" and didn't even identify who his target market was.

I emailed the guy and offered to do a complimentary rewrite and redesign of the piece in exchange for being able to use it as a "before and after" piece in my portfolio. His response initially was confused -- he tried to pitch me on his services or, alternatively, offered to subcontract me to his clients. I pointed out that I was offering him a FREE service worth a few hundred dollars, and at that point he "got" it -- and said, basically, 'thanks but no thanks, jerk.'

Lesson learned: If they don't volunteer that it's not up to snuff, I pretend it is.


You definitely do have to work out whether the prospect thinks that this is a problem for them or not. Only when they realize that it is costing them revenue will they consider paying money to do anything else. So basically you need to sell two ideas to them:

1. They have an ugly baby
2. You can sell them a better one.

And then you might have a chance at bringing in their business.

Russ Emrick

Ugly Baby Story

I sell medical software to hospitals. A few years ago a competitor won a project for $6 million dollars, leaving me with a $300,000 rump sale. After 6 months the hospital realized my competitor could not do some very necessary things, functions my solution does. (Yes, I had told them, yes, my competitor mislead, ok spun their story).

The hospital called us both in to solve this. After a long meeting we struck up an agreement: I would turn on this functionality for free, believing I would get expansion business in the future. That wasn't good enough for the other vendor. He said to the customer, "You need to know that if there is any work or interfacing required on our part there will be a charge." The man's arrogance made me lose all sense. Instead of letting the hospital respond to what was clearly their problem, I jumped in.

"Let me get this straight," I said, "the hospital has already paid you $6 million dollars for a solution that doesn't work. I've flown completely across the county at my expense and offered to fix the problem for free but you still feel the need to reach into the customer's pocket for more money? Money to solve a problem of your making! That is unbelievable."

Of course he backed down and I thought I scored, thinking the hospital would appreciate my coming to their defense and saving them money. However, later in the inter sanctum of management my champion told me the bad news. "Russ," Jim said, "the President personally made the decision to go with that vendor. Everyone at that meeting agreed or has a major investment in that decision, least of which is that none of us can afford to look like idiots having spent $6 million dollars on a solution that doesn't work. We have to live with that vendor and people for a long time. We didn't appreciate you having a confrontation with our vendor or you creating an adversarial relationship with them. Your comments have ended your relationship with the hospital."

Unknown to me, Jim had gotten a call from the President and Department Director. My competitor had his champions as well. Jim was told that I was never to darken their doorstep again. I never got to speak with Jim again and never was allowed back into the account. Less than two years later both my competitor and I were out. Even worse, they continue to bad mouth me and my company despite the good work and literally millions of dollars we saved them while our software was installed.

Angela Giles Klocke

I realized a few months ago that I called someone's baby ugly when I made my first attempt to "help" a business. Whoops!

Ronnie Roach

My "Ugly Baby" story - this time in the correct post,
I was trying to sell a production tracking system to a boat builder. I met with many of the staff to discover the problems with their current system and get feedback from management. The production manager would never give me the time of day but based on all of the "issues" the staff had with the current system, I felt this would be a slam dunk (first mistake). I put together the presentation team and even brought a supply of aspirin as handouts. When I passed out the aspirin, the production manager asked what it was for. I explained that their current system had so many problems that it caused everyone headaches and my solution could help eliminate the problems. The look on his face was priceless - but not in that warm and fuzzy way. He assured me and my entire sales team, his boss (the owner) and his staff that their current system worked just fine. I had just called his "baby ugly" and he didn't like it much. We tried to recover from this blow but it was obvious we had met our match. Towards the end of the presentation, I went over to the production manager and asked for the aspirin back. I said I might be the one with a headache. It got laughs and lightened the mood but sadly we still did not get the business. Lesson learned - know all the players before making assumptions.

Aaron Marshall

When making cold calls I will sometimes state very plainly that "I am a salesperson from a web development company and I look for sites that could be redesigned and get better placement in search engines and give them a call to see if I can help"

Basically I diplomatically tell them their website sucks and it cant be found.

I have MANY times called someones baby ugly, the trick is letting them fall back on the "the internet is growing so fast its impossible to keep up" excuse.

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