Years ago (funny how most of my stories start with that phrase), I sold radio advertising — not exactly a slam dunk because of the intangible nature of the product. In those days, I specialized in retail accounts and did a lot of cold calling. One encounter in a new health food store taught me a lesson I’ve always remembered.
When I walked in, I saw a well-dressed man behind the counter and, sitting off to the side, a woman who looked like she had just stumbled in from a homeless shelter. After I delivered my little intro pitch, the man gave me a funny look and said, “What are you telling me for? She’s the owner.” I made a feeble attempt to re-engage, but it was too late; the moment had passed.
The moral, of course, is to avoid assumptions based on superficial characteristics such as looks, clothing and even hygiene. (Howard Hughes, by all accounts, had a spotty relationship with soap and water.) Ever since, I’ve treated everyone like they own the place. The actual owners expect no less and their employees appreciate it.
Not only have I closed more deals, it’s kept me out of the doghouse.
Brian Rouff serves as managing partner at Imagine Communications. He can be reached by email by clicking here.