This is a true story. There is a lesson here somewhere so take a minute and focus on the next few words. Picture me in front of the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Memphis, TN, right across the street from the ballpark. It is raining lightly as a major thunderstorm has just passed through town. It is approximately 8:30 a.m. The Double Tree is adjacent to the Greyhound Bus Terminal (Key Point). I’m standing there waiting for a cab when out of the corner of my eye, I see him coming. Remember, I am next door to the Greyhound Bus Terminal. A man in his late twenties or early thirties, or maybe approaching 40 came right up to me and said, “Hey Mister. My bus leaves in twenty minutes and….” I must have wrinkled my nose or showed some similar sign of distrust as he then shouted at me, “Hey, at least listen to my story.”
This abrupt outburst was a signal for me to start speaking. “Why would I want to listen to your story when you are screaming at me with an attitude like that?” The ball now was back in his court. “Attitude?” he responded. I admit it wasn’t much of a come back and I was braced for a bit more, but it was the best he could come up with as he was now looking at the back of my head walking slowly toward the hotel front door.
When I reached the door and turned, he was gone. Was this just another Memphis Greyhound Buys Terminal scam gone amuck? Was this guy our next president-to-be who simply needed a little front money to get back to his world headquarters? Was this Mr. Greyhound himself, and was I being filmed on the next Charitable American Reality Series?
I do know that this man wasn’t very happy once I determined (perhaps a bit prematurely) that his dilemma had no place in my economic future, I’ll admit it. I scolded myself all the way to the airport for not hearing the man out with an open mind. The fact that I have been “taken for a chump” before should not have influenced my decision whether to hear this man out or not. Could he have approached me in a more positive fashion? Could he have lowered my defenses and actually got me to listen to his story? Could he have upgraded his ticket to first class on the bus with a little more thought, a little more planning and by choosing a better opening ice-breaker with a safer entry strategy? I think the answer to all these questions is “Yes.” But he didn’t.
He got p’d off at me because I did not immediately play his game. He thought I owed him a listen. I didn’t. You may think your prospects owe you a listen. They don’t. If these two statements are true, it is up to us to choose a strategy that has the best chance for success. I sized this man up in a millisecond. Good, bad or indifferent, the fact I was 50 yards away from a bus station might have influenced my interpretation of the situation as it immediately conjured up mental pictures of Telly Savalas as Kojack.
This might be a stretch, but I think this is how profiling works. You are trying to get a stranger to give you a some of his money outside your own bus station. How are you going to set your stage to help you buy your ticket, get on your bus, and ride out of town singing a happy tune? If you wing it like my friend did, you just might find yourself frustrated and left waving your bus good-bye.
What are your first words going to be to get my attention and have me listening to your presentation? Chances are, you will only have one chance to make your point. You know you are good at what you do. You know that you are an honest person. Now, what are you going to do, say or write to get others to endorse you and your proposal?
Mike Marchev has plenty of stories, strategies and tactics to keep you on top of your game. For information on Mike’s 6-Week Online Selling Course, email Mike at email@example.com with the words “sales course” in the subject box. Mike’s daily column is made possible by AmaWaterways.