Plowing Field

Life is a Business – Chapter 27

A series of essays on the past, the present, and the future

This discussion is for those of you who are “sales types” or “dealmaker types” or “Type A entrepreneurs”, or your basic “alligator mouth bites off more than your hummingbird wings can carry” types. We can skip the tortoise and hare fable, for you are a hare at heart-all the way! I would not ever want to throw a cold blanket on your dreams of greatness, but would like to tell you a story that was told to me, long ago when I was still blinded by youthful pride, drive and ambition like you may be today. Young salespeople can act like guys just out of boot camp basic training… smart, way too cute and invincible…until hit in the head with a longneck beer bottle.

This is a story about elephant hunting – if you sell, you will know this already.

Even after decades of big game hunting, training and professional skills in firearms and tracking…when a bull elephant crashes through the bush into the clearing…even if the hunter kills him…it is a 50/50 probability that the hunter dies with the elephant. Elephant hunting is the ultimate high risk/high reward adventure for the adrenaline junkie. If all you seek is that, then by all means, go for the gusto! If, on the other hand, your goal is long – term success and financial security for your family, I suggest you hunt game that can’t kill you too. Build your foundation upon more solid, safe ground, then, go elephant hunting after your family is secure. I have seen too many sales people in my career bet everything on landing one big account and dedicate all their time and energy to that one outcome…only to be let go for a lack of performance…sometimes, only weeks before the account lands.

There is a reason why theatrical productions start out in the boondocks and work their way slowly toward Broadway- it gives them a chance to hone their skills in front of less demanding audiences as compared to the New York audiences and critics. Everyone makes exceptions for a work in progress, if presented that way, openly and honestly.

You must operate under the same rules as a theater production company. Learn the script, follow direction, observe the basic rules of the craft, then have an accomplished veteran critique your pitch. Listen to suggestions, then, go practice your improved presentation on smaller companies. A smaller company may need your services and never notice your sales mistakes. If you flop, not much is lost, but learn and improve until ready to hunt big game. The larger companies see “Broadway” presentations everyday and have no tolerance for bush league sales pitches…your product could actually be a better value, but they may not see it due to their initial perception of your abilities. If you are interviewing for a first job, go find a volunteer senior business person to interview you as a learning exercise-I have done many in my career to guide people along their way. Most of us older people are glad to do this for young people who show a willingness to learn and appreciation for mentoring.

Earn the right to hunt big game through tending to the work of building a successful business base of smaller or mid-sized customers…they appreciate service, quality and fair treatment and will serve as great references. They are usually far more loyal, allow you to make a reasonable margin, pay their bills and are easier to work with. They will stay with you long after the “elephants” have eaten your lunch and moved on to greener pastures. Guys, it’s just like having a date at a party – don’t get caught looking over her shoulder with dreamy eyes at something shinier!

“Dance with the one who brought you, or you might walk home alone”

By Bill Hewgley