Experting

Recently, I went to a site—I’m not going to mention the site; I have no interest in embarrassing anyone—that advocated scrutinizing prospects, carefully picking and choosing among them, so as to maximize calling efficiency and sales volume.  It all sounded rather brilliant, and if you, indeed, have the power to pick out the “good” ones and leave the “bad” ones for someone else to butt heads against, I kneel at your feet and congratulate you.  I think, though, you probably can make a lot more money as a seer than a salesperson.

As you all know by now, for 40 years I sold advertising on telephone-book-covers to small businesspeople; it was a one-call-close simple-sale.  We initially cold-called prospects out of the yellow-pages and then worked on referrals from clients we signed up.  Bob Trudeau, the man I worked for during the two years before going into business for myself, taught me many valuable lessons about selling.  One of the most important of those lessons was this: never expert.  Those were his exact words.  “Experting” was trying to pick and choose the best prospects, instead of lining them up as they come, treating them all the same.  “It’s foolish,” he’d say; “you’ll never be able to ascertain the good from the bad, no-one can.  If you try, you’ll pass up some of the easiest sales that are out there.”  Since I revered every word he uttered, I followed his advice and learned, from own experience, how right he was.  It turned out that some of the largest yellow-page ads produced zero results, while regular and bold listings produced huge sales.  Sometimes it all was a matter of timing.

Another form of experting was in judging a prospect by how difficult he sounded in the approach.  I had colleagues who actually cancelled appointments because prospects came across as hardnosed, challenging; they managed to set up the appointment, but after thinking about it, cancelled because they thought they were going to get chewed up, waste their time.  I treated all appointments the same: if I managed to set up the appointment, I went out on it.  It turned out that some of the easiest sales I ever made were from prospects who had growled at me in the approach, during a long, difficult interchange, finally begrudgingly inviting me to come in and present to them.  I believe many of these prospects knew they were an easy sell and, because of that, did their best to get rid of salespeople in the approach—sort of a defense mechanism.  I went out on many a presentation thinking it probably was a waste of time but made a sale; conversely, I went out on many a presentation thinking it was going to be a breeze and came up empty.

My advice: with all due respect to the unmentioned site in paragraph one, treat them all the same; “experting” is a foolish endeavor—don’t do it!