Shhh… Don’t Tell Anyone What You Do

This applies mostly to guys, but ladies are invited to read on.  I’m not sure why, but gents seldom talk to their friends about their jobs – particularly salesmen.  Weird.  Ladies, on the other hand, frequently discuss the office, their boss, their customers, with friends and family.

So, where am I going with this?  Too many times while coaching salespeople I hear stories about that “one prospect”.  The one they’ve been to trying penetrate for years and just can’t get past the front door.  They are confident there is opportunity there, but it’s one unanswered inquiry after another.

This leads me to ask what they’ve done so far and I hear about their emailing campaigns, LinkedIn searches, direct mail, and so on.  I ask my favorite simple question in such cases; “Do you know anyone who works there?” and I get a negative response.  That is just a set up for my follow up question of “Do any of your friends know anyone who works there?” This usually generates a puzzled look.  I follow with “you know, your golf buddies, guys at church, your poker pals, fellas at the gym”.

What follows absolutely fascinates me.  They never, and I mean never, talk about what they do with friends.  The only exception might be when a new acquaintance asks what they do.  They then give a lame “elevator pitch” that shuts up the inquisitor.

Nine times out of ten their friends are willing to help, but don’t know help is needed or wanted.  One particular example of this from a couple years ago involved a good salesman I was working with in Ohio..  We had the same exchange and he called me a week later saying one of his poker buddies had a brother who worked at his “one prospect”.  One conversation led to an introduction, that led to a sales call and that eventually led to a nice order and a long term relationship.

Maybe it’s time… invite your buddies out to have pretzels and a beer.  Each guy takes a turn and in 3 minutes describes his job.  Then others get to ask a question, or two.  By the way, “I’m a dentist” doesn’t cut it; give it some thought and elaborate a bit.  It’s amazing what a) you will learn about longtime friends and b) leverage you may have about which you were unaware. It’s a win/win.

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