Crazy Old Ladies


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Back in the field today!  Trying to wrap things up before I move to another market.  And honestly, I thought of so many fabulous and wonderful things to share with everyone while I was out that it is terribly disappointing to say that I cannot remember any of it.      

I do have a story that validates my 70 Rule, however…specifically the risks one takes when he breaks it.  (cf. Earlier post about the Rule of 70.  I haven’t yet figured out how to link back to my posts.  That will be a solid project for me in the future, however.)      

Picture a shop that sells little household appliances and some gift items, what Hallmark would look like if they also sold vacuums.  An odd idea, but not necessarily a bad one.  Don’t want a vacuum?  How about some candy for the kids instead?  Hard candy.  Just about everything in the shop was a bit faded and dated, but neat and clean and even looked somewhat prosperous.      

Now who do you think would be running a little outdated shop like that?  Of course!  A sweet little old lady…and there she was, sitting behind the counter likely finishing a little cake and tea.      

People live a long time these days, so I’m reluctant to guess her age, but I’ll place here solidly in the 80s.  She likely worked a rivet gun in Seattle during the war and I was quick to find out that she had not lost any of her edge.      

I introduced myself and just as quickly offered up myself for sacrifice.  My guard was taken down.  All smiles and sweetness.  I expected I might be offered a piece of candy or maybe a brownie.  I even thought I might hear “young man” from this dear old lady. Instead I awakened an alley cat of a temper.      

“What you want?  What you selling?”      

I literally froze for … 1, 2, 3…several seconds.       

“What you want??” She snapped again.      

“Hello, ma’am…I was wondering if you might want to buy some advertising…”      

Oh, god!  How bad can it get?  The absolute worst possible lead you can offer a prospect!  And I was entirely toothless, lame, and nowhere near ready for this fight.  Not at all.  I was done before I got started.      

Rule 1 in my trade is simple:  Don’t start a sales call with a yes or no question.  Ever.  And god help you if your yes/no is “do you want to buy…”  That is the absolute worst of all.  Shame upon you when you make that mistake.  You have embarrassed the profession and all the generations of departed salesmen before you resting quietly in their eternal sleep will like set off an earthquake when they start rolling in the grave!  You just don’t do that.  Ever.      

I pointed out in an earlier post that No is a salesman’s friend, but we don’t like No so much that we want to bring it out before we even know our prospect’s name.  How do you handle a No right out the shoot…especially when you mess up…do you just give up and ask “Why not?”  Maybe.      

Sometimes asking “Why” is not giving up.  Sometimes it is a genuinely good response.  It isn’t a question that will be answered by a yes or a no.  The problem with that strategy is it relinquishes control of the call unless you are asking why about specific details.  You want to know the real reason why, not the canned feel good reason why.  You could spend all day talking about irrelevant objections if you just ask why.  Ideally, therefore, the second question you’re asking on a sales call is not “Why?”.      

Being on the defensive is rarely a good time for feeble “why” questions either.  Regain control.  If you really slip up, it is best to ignore and try starting again.  Pretend you’re a politician and move on as if it had never happened.       

“Has business been good this summer?  I’ll bet this is when people start coming in to buy vacuums, huh?”  That is a better question (and, if needed, a good recovery).  You have given the business owner something to think about and more importantly something to talk about.  You don’t need to know anything about vacuums, just presume it is a great time to buy a vacuum.  Most times they will look at you like your nuts.  “A great time to buy a vacuum?  Are you nuts?  Have you read about the economy?  Why, we ran a promotion the other day…”      

That kind of questions gets things rolling.  Now you have something to talk about, so listen carefully.  You are fact finding and should be putting together a plan while you listen.  Letting the business owner talk is nothing but opportunity for the salesman.  You find the best fit for that client’s business.  It’s simple.  It works.  But you will have a rough time getting to that simple step if you start a call with:  “Hey, wanna buy some ads?”  The answer will be no.      

So back to the sweet old lady.  She hopped off her stool, grabbed a cane, and went back to her counter.  When she turned back around she tossed an old phone book at me.  “Get out!  Get out and don’t come back!”  She tossed another phone book, which hit the counter and the other book, knocking both to the floor.  “Take these things out of here and get out!”       

Fortunately I needed a phone book.  They are fantastic sources for leads.  I picked up whatever she had for me, smiled, and said good bye.       

I took a chance breaking my 70 rule.  She was over 70 and I went after the lead anyway.  I am telling you, it is hard to argue with the 70 rule.  With endless opportunities out there, sometimes it is best and most efficient to live by what you learn.   Stick by your rules. 


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