A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
OK, maybe it wasn’t in a far-away galaxy, but it was a long time ago.
1985 to be exact. I was 19 and thought I knew everything–just like every other 19-year old. I remember it like it was yesterday even though almost thirty years have passed. I learned the most important sales lesson of my life and I feel extremely fortunate to have learned it at such a young age; so early in my sales career.
I had a prospect who I had determined didn’t have the interest or the means to by my product. I gave a less than professional presentation, basically just going through the motions, speeding through the process so I could turn them loose and get another “up”. (I’ve since come to hate that word, too)
I was required to have a manager talk to each prospect before they left (we used the T.O. system) and I did as I was told. I will never forget going to my manager’s office and telling him, “Well, you can talk to them but they can’t afford one.”
I can hear his response in my mind to this day.
“Thanks, Butch. I’m really excited now to go out there and try to close a deal for you,” he scowled. “Do me a favor, don’t EVER let me hear you tell a manager that again. Your attitude may be horrible, but don’t kill his, too.”
I was young, new and dumb. And to make matters worse, I thought the world of my manager. To feel like I had disappointed him cut deep.
He left his office to go see the prospect and what I assumed would be a cursory in and out, shake hands and move on.
But he was gone and gone and gone and gone. I don’t know how long, but it may have been 45 minutes or longer I sat in his office feeling as low as a snake’s belly.
A few moments later the door opened and he walked in, “You were right. They can’t buy one–they’re buying two.”
He had gone out and I can only assume did everything in his power to prove to a young, impressionable salesman to never, ever prejudge.
He taught me a lesson I live to this day: I prejudge everyone as buyers until they prove me wrong.