“I lost my rep on the South Side of Chicago,” the medical products sales manager told me on the phone. He asked me to meet him at a tradeshow to discuss using my search skills to fill the position. My search fee would be about $12,000. I was really glad to meet at a tradeshow, since I could walk around and try to get more business from other companies exhibiting there.The manager wasn’t at the booth, but three of his reps weretwo women, and a guy about twenty-four years old. “I’m here to meet John,” I told them. They asked what I did and I made one of the dumbest mistakes of my career. “Oh, I’m a medical sales recruiter, and John wants me to help find a rep for the Chicago South territory.” Dead silence, shocked looks, and suddenly the guy burst into tears, ran about twenty feet away, and started bawling.”That’s his territory,” one of the women said. “He had no idea he was being replaced, or he didn’t until now.” I felt my heart plunge to the bottom of my belly. The manager had said the territory was open and the rep was gone. I tried to apologize to the guy, explaining my lack of information about him. He was cool, but he left the show, and wasn’t at the booth a few minutes later when the manager arrived.The manager was furious! Of course it was all my fault. He wanted me to find the replacementfor free. I left there completely disgusted with myself and without a signed contract. When that manager later called my office to ask my boss to make me work for free, my boss told him where to go. Then I had to explain the whole story to my boss. I learned that all those sales books and tapes that tell you to promote yourself every chance you get are sometimes wrong.Postmortem: What a horrible experience for the young salesman and for me. Why do we always feel like we need to be talking? I suggest you keep your mouth shut until you’re in front of the decision-maker. If you want to make small talk, fine. But why try to resell yourself to everyone you meet? Your appointment with the decision-maker is already secured. If others ask who you are, simply say that you’re an industry service provider who’s been asked to sit down with your boss. Then get on another topic. Don’t be a dinosaur, an old-fashioned salesperson who feels the need to talk much too much.