Article Summary: Life is all about relationships. Online social communities thrive because they enable people to quickly and easily connect. Initially, these are superficial connections. As with personal relationships, true bonding requires time and effort. Lessons from our parents, teachers, colleagues, children, mentors, and heroes are plentiful. This article relates lessons learned from my parents and how I apply them to business and sales.
Life Lessons – Everything I Learned about Sales, I Learned from My Parents
Copyright © 2009. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. and ThinkBusiness Magazine
Ira J. Koretsky
During a recent speaking engagement, the topic of first jobs came up. I shared with the audience the story about my paper route. When I was 13, I surprised my parents by taking on a newspaper route for a little-known newspaper company. The route initially had 11 customers. The route traversed some four miles and ended with massive huffing and puffing as I battled a bear of a hill—Mt. Hope Road—which I named Mt. Doom Road. None of my family remembers why the entrepreneurial bug bit me back then. Mom and Dad do remember my tenacity in growing the route, refusal to quit when the odds were stacked against me (paper boys typically did not last long), and positive attitude bicycling up Mt. Doom Road on my three-speed bike.
Talking with my parents prompted me to recall some of their lessons. Here are several learned and how I apply them to business and sales.
He was a born sales man. Always top in his field, Dad had lots of wisdom to share. Of all his lessons, “Ask” was the one Dad emphasized the most. He would say, “If you don’t ask, nothing is going to happen.” A great example is when our family went on holiday vacations. Smiling and making relevant small talk, he would register the family with the hotel front desk. Every single time he would ask if breakfast was included for the family. Even if told no, he always turned it into a yes. Similar stories abound with him asking for a little “yes” or a big “yes.” To this day, I follow his advice and share it with my family.
Application: Ask. Ask for referrals, frank feedback, and request customers to test out your new product or service. How about asking a happy customer to write a testimonial? Later in life, I learned another application of Ask from a senior boss named Paul. He called it K.I.S.S. Paul suggested asking our customers what should we Keep doing, Improve upon, Stop doing, and Start doing.
Paul called it K.I.S.S. He suggested asking our customers what should we Keep doing, Improve upon, Stop doing, and Start doing.
We’re All Different
When we are young, especially in our pre-teen and teenage years, it is difficult to imagine what the real world is like. Therefore, our parents shared with my sister and me different perspectives and exposed us to many experiences. We visited museums, went on weekend driving getaways, and generally explored our environment. During these outings, they showed us how to appreciate differences among people, such as those related to gender, religion, age, nationality, and so forth.
Application: Know your audience. Every time you meet someone for the first time, you are “inheriting” his or her entire lifetime in a split second, as he or she is of yours. What are you doing from that first handshake, that first smile to engender goodwill so that he or she one day becomes your client, partner, employee, or champion? Are your key messages and business stories targeted to your prospective customers? Are they resonating with them? Are they generating new sales and engagement opportunities?
Go Play Outside. It’s a Beautiful Day
As a child, there were days I preferred time alone. I built plastic model ships and planes, played with little green army men, and imagined I was in battles with my G.I. Joes. Mom would encourage me to go outside and play with my crew. If we had time, I would share story after story of how our crew of four—Andy, Gerald, Kevin, and me—got in and out of trouble!
Application: Vary your experiences. Our parents had a goal of ensuring we experienced life. Use creativity and innovation to improve your competitiveness, increase prospecting success, and spark new ideas. Get out of your office and observe the world. Read books, articles, and blogs you would not normally consider. Seek out different opinions. Attend new networking events. Check out your competitor’s messages and stories. Observe people. Based on your new experiences, see if you can spot any trends or come up with an idea to improve your product/service, sales, engagements, sponsorship, membership, etc.
I Love You!
According to numerous workplace studies, employees rate recognition higher than monetary rewards. Why? Because humans thrive on accomplishments, praise, community, and friendship. To me, business is always personal—it is always based on the power of relationships. That is why my parents frequently complimented, praised, and said, “I love you,” to my sister and me.
Application: Say, “I love you,” in business terms. It is easy to substitute an email, a text, or a “form letter” for a personal phone call or hand-written note. Since we live in a 24×7 Internet world, my undergraduate students consistently challenge me on my advice to send a hand-written note instead of emailing a thank-you message. And every semester, I say the same thing. “The hand-written note wins every time.” A colleague Jeremy calls everyone in his contact database on his/her birthday. It is a nice touch and memorable. Treat a customer to lunch, buy him a gift card, or give her a fresh-baked pastry. Whatever it is, show them (e.g., customer, prospect, staff, and partner) they matter. I have a list of more than 30 suggestions on ways of building and growing relationships. And I continually add to it and note what works and what doesn’t for people in my network.
At the End of the Day…
Life is all about relationships. Online social communities thrive because they enable people to quickly and easily connect. Initially, these are superficial connections. As with personal relationships, true bonding requires time and effort. Lessons from our parents, teachers, colleagues, children, mentors, and heroes are plentiful. Most focus on the human condition and attributes such as kindness, appreciation, and open communication. One key element is to vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Do not assume your customer, prospect, staff, or partner knows what you are thinking, what you appreciate, or how you impacted his or her life. Tell them.
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Updated Content 2012, Updated header photograph 2019
Photography Source: Wikimedia