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The Evolution of a Salesman

When I graduated college in 1992, I couldn’t wait to put what little I’d learned into play.  Fortunately, I had a role model (“Who We Are”/”People”/”Ken Jones”) willing to let me shadow him like a puppy dog twelve hours a day.  Before long, I became a pretty solid “ad man”.  But it wasn’t the media planning or copywriting that inspired me.  It was consulting with our clients.  It was listening to their problems and challenges – and finding creative ways to solve them.  Problem was, the company I worked for at the time was fat and happy.  They had “enough” business to pay for our waterfront office space and their German automobiles.

I thought that mentality sucked.

At the time, I was low man on the totem pole.  Frankly, I’m not even sure my status qualified for a head on the totem pole.  This was a status I gratefully would never relinquish.  Yet, typically it was either me or Ken who opened shop every morning and the two of us would inevitably lock up every night.

After finishing the annual Port of Miami print media plan three months into the year – and by the way, you ain’t lived until you’ve duked out a 12-insertion deal with Inbound Logistics magazine – something strange happened… I ran out of things to do.  We in the real estate/mortgage profession can’t even fathom this ever happening, right?  I was getting a paycheck every two weeks and was doing absolutely nothing to earn it.

Apparently, my ass-sitting didn’t bother the owners of our ad agency very much.  But it bothered the hell out of me.  We needed some new clients – and if the owners weren’t going to get off their duffs to find some, hell… I would.  Now if you’d known me then, you’d probably be laughing right now.  I was barely old enough to buy a beer.  I’d literally just gotten my degree.  I had absolutely zero business experience.  And I was picking up the Yellow Pages and cold calling some of the largest and most prestigious advertisers in the Tampa Bay area.  I was too young, stupid and naive to know it wasn’t going to work.

Have you ever experienced that moment when you asked for the moon… and got it?  That’s what happened one day when I landed an opportunity to pitch the Bay Area Midas conglomerate of stores.  I doubt I’d ever been that nervous in my life and I doubt I’ve been that nervous since.  We didn’t win the business, but it was a quality at bat.  One of the few at bats our firm had all year.  And it was that day when I realized that I wanted to be a salesman.

Today, the ad agency I’d worked for is long gone.  Hardly a surprise, really.  But I’ve been selling ever since and I love it.  We are so lucky to have jobs where we get the absolute best of both worlds.  On one end, we get to make it rain and create revenue.  On the other, we get to consult with our clients and make critical business decisions.  If we’re really lucky, we can even mold our product into whatever we want it to be.

But the art of selling is completely different than it was back in 1992.  The days of picking up the phone and and instantly connecting with a decision maker who controls a $10 million/year advertising budget are long gone.  The days of walking into a broker’s office (note, I’m a vendorslut) with a smile and a handshake doesn’t get the warm and fuzzy reception it did back in the day.  We survivors… we’re damn busy and we don’t like being interrupted by cold calls no matter how svelte the guy’s tie is.  And it wasn’t until I started getting cold called at Top of Mind when I realized how inherently rude the practice is.

Two things have permanently changed about my business today, and I’d like to share them with you:

1)  Our Clients Have Become Our Salesforce- I’ve tried it all.  Outside salespeople.  Inside salespeople.  Celebrity Spokesmen.  Tradeshows.  The Works.  But I can honestly say that today, only 7 years in business, we get 90 to 100% of our clients via referral… and we win more new clients each month without a single salesperson than we did when we had 12 outside AE’s knocking on doors.  If you are a Realtor, you have exactly one asset in this business and one asset only – and that is your client database.  Do your clients know how much it would mean to you if they were to ever refer just one single sales opportunity your way?  If not, there are ways to convey this message without begging or sounding greedy.  That’s a different post for a different day.  But you need to let your clients know what their referrals mean to you.  What would one more at bat per month mean to your business?

2)  My First 45 Minutes with Brian Brady Provided an Epiphany - There is not a day that goes by where I’m not grateful for the lesson Brian taught me approximately two years ago.  The power in Social Media is not in our connections.  Let me repeat that for effect because it’s arguably the most important and powerful lesson anyone’s shared with me since the days of Ken Jones… THE POWER IN SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT WITH OUR CONNECTIONS.  It’s in our connections’ connections.  Your connections know you.  Hopefully they like you.  So it stands to reason they know other people who ought to get to know and like you too.  Surely you’d be willing to reciprocate for them right?

And so, my fellow cat skinners, there is no reason to ever make that scary cold call again.  As we honor and celebrate the fourth birthday of Bloodhound Blog, I’d like to thank each of you for what you’ve meant to me.  You give without asking for anything in returnYou motivateYou innovate.  And perhaps above all you make me laugh.  Thank you – it is truly a privilege and honor to contribute to this community.

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  • 6 comments

    6 Comments so far

    1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson said: On BHB: The Evolution of a Salesman – When I graduated college in 1992, I couldn't wait to put what little I'd learn… http://ow.ly/17WU7s [...]

    2. Jim Klein June 30th, 2010 9:33 pm

      That was a terrific post, Mark. There’s nothing like a great salesperson, easily the most valuable talent (generally) in the business world. It’s even greater to see your passion and love for it…very inspirational.

      A true salesman will never be out of work, just like a true cab driver will never go hungry. I’ll always be eating, and you’ll always be successful!

    3. Chris Johnson July 1st, 2010 12:16 am

      Mark-

      Good stuff. Who’s gonna stop you, not who’s gonna let you?

      -Chris

    4. Marc Knight July 1st, 2010 8:01 am

      Great post. As an old adage goes, “No Sales, No Money;
      Know Sales, Know Money”. Sales is something learned. It’s nonsense when some individuals claim that they are a born salesperson. The more knowledge and experience you amass about sales, the higher your income will be. That’s simply how it works…

    5. Jeff Brown July 1st, 2010 8:30 am

      Excellent, Mark.

    6. Mark Green July 1st, 2010 8:35 am

      Marc, Genuine Chris, Jim, and Bawld Guy thanks for your kind words. I enjoyed writing that article – it was quite therapeutic!