This week, I witnessed failure. In life and in business, success goes to those who try, fail and learn. But, the most important thing successful people do when they fail is after they have learned lessons they get up, dust off and do it again.

I look at people and I see leaders and followers. You need the two and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever. And, sometimes our roles change, we are the leaders and sometimes we are the followers. However, when you are an entrepreneur, in sales or looking to get ahead somehow, it is important to “show up” and lead. What’s even more important than that is to take a genuine interest in the people you are trying to engage. Anything less, quite frankly, is a waste of time.

It all started with a meeting. I was looking for a supplier and I was excited to have the opportunity to meet with this company for what would have been a six-figure account for them. I suppose I should have been clued in when the meeting took place at their offices as opposed to our place. A basic principal of sales, and life, is to know your customer. If you want to build a relationship, you want to know everything about the other party, and that includes their environment.

When my team and I walked into their offices, we were met by the Development Manager. We were walked into a conference room and not offered so much as a glass of water. Duly noted, I thought.

And then, she opened the meeting by asking, “So, what do you guys do?” I could not really believe that in this day and age of hyper-competition someone would not have taken the time to do their homework – forget the fact that there would be no presentation from her about what they could offer to us and how they could help solve our business challenges.

Politely and professionally, I moved forward for a few minutes talking about our company, but as the moments passed, I realized it was a complete waste of my time. Between the “wows”, I felt the disinterest, which probably is the bottom line reason as to why this person had not done her homework. For some reason I will never know, our company with its money was not sufficiently important to warrant her attention.

So, after fifteen minutes, I called an end to the meeting by saying, “Why don’t you and your company do your homework and learn who we are, what we do and why it might be a fit to do business together.  And, next time, you can come to our office.”

Although she provided excuses as to why she was not prepared – none was relevant. I do understand that things get in the way, but as they say, life is not a spectator sport – neither is business. And, if you are in sales or business development, it’s pretty hard to find a reason, if you are good at what you do, to not be interested in potential client business. If you want to succeed and have people respect you, you need to show up to the game and earn it.

Every single person is selling all of the time – not just the people in the sales profession. A child can be found selling his parents on letting her stay up a little longer before having to go to bed. A couple can be negotiating and selling each other on the attributes of a car or house they want to buy. A direct report is selling his boss on why he needs an additional line item added to the budget for a new project. All of us are selling all of the time in every facet of our lives.

And so, it is very important for us to remember that we always need to learn about our customer or the person we are talking to in order to see if what we are proposing is really aligned to what they are looking to do or buy. We have to be able to put our best foot forward as best we can so the other party knows that we value their time, their presence and what they want and need. Sure, we may be having an “off-day”, and that could have been what happened to the representative at the company we visited, but not trying to even be in the game despite it, probably cost her company a very nice account. That said, I hope she recognized the failure, learned and moved on.