Advice From My Father: Never Judge Anyone By Appearances Alone

Robert Terson

Anyone who is a regular visitor to this site, or has read Selling Fearlessly, is aware that my father played a huge role in forming my sales career. As I said in the book, “I longed to be a salesman because, as a child, I’d gobbled up all my father’s amazing tales and hungered to compete in the same arena.” And believe me, his tales were truly amazing! I’d like to share one of them with you today; it makes an important point.

Dad told of a time when he and the sales manager who was training him in the life insurance business called on a prospect who had requested some information, it was a hot lead. They pulled up to the business, got out of the car, and looked around. Almost immediately a laborer toiling up on the roof of the building, dressed in filthy overalls and covered in tar, called down to them, “Hi, y’all! How you doin’?”

The sales manager, who was in complete charge of the situation—Dad was just a novice trainee at the time—frowned and ignored the man on the roof, said, “Let’s go find the owner.” So they went up to the door and walked right on in. The sales manager asked to speak to Mr. _______________.

The clerk behind the counter said, “Oh my, did you have an appointment with Mr. ________________?”

“No, but he requested some important information from our company and we just dropped by to deliver it, hopefully have a word with him to explain the details.”

“I’ll go ask him if he has time to see you,” the clerk said.

They waited.

Five minutes later the clerk returned looking a bit flustered. “May I ask what you said to Mr. ______________?”

The sales manager, looking somewhat dumbfounded, said, “We haven’t seen him yet; how could we have said anything to him?”

“I don’t know, sir, I’m just the hired help around here, but Mr. ________________ said, rather sarcastically, that he had no desire to talk to anyone that rude.”

The sales manager’s eyes were bugging out. “What!? I don’t get it. I haven’t so much as spoken to the man; what’s his problem?”

“I don’t know, sir, but he was emphatic—he has no desire to talk to you, won’t talk to you.”

The sales manager wasn’t one to give up so easily, so he asked where Mr. _________________’s office was, and could he go back there for a moment and talk to the man?

And the clerk said this: “I’m afraid Mr. __________________ is not in his office, sir; he’s up on the roof doing some repair work, and I can assure you he’s not going to come down to talk to you. Which frankly surprises me, because he’s usually willing to talk to anyone, a real open-minded man…”

The cliché, of course, is never judge a book by its cover. Or as the title of this blog suggests, never judge anyone by appearances alone. It’s a foolish thing to do. It’s a lesson I absorbed as a child and never forgot; and I can attest that it served me well a number of times.

What about you? Do you make hasty judgments about people, especially when it comes to their appearance? I suggest you keep in mind Dad’s story. Everyone deserves a modicum of respect—everyone. Whether it turns out he’s in a position to buy from you or not.

Do you have a similar story? I’d love to hear it!


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