In our offices, there’s a very regal reception area. The front desk is often unmanned, but a “mahogany row” of offices stretches out behind the desk area, and a large, glass-enclosed conference room punctuates the scene. We like it, our clients like it, and maybe more importantly, our prospective clients like it. It’s an impressive, professional scene, man.

There is, however, one group of people who hate it……solicitors. To a solicitor, it can be a very imposing and non-receptive place, and that’s not even considering the “NO SOLICITATION” sign on the front entry. Go sample your wares elsewhere, pal, we ain’t buying.

If you’ve ever been in a sales role (even if you don’t call it “sales”) you’re familiar with the term “cold call.” Just thinking about the term gives me a queasy feeling. True “cold-calling” is one of the more frightening things you could ever experience. Twenty+ years ago as a fresh college grad, I can remember working job interviews that included actual cold calls…I was mortified. Since then, I’ve been in roles that required internal sales (selling ideas to my internal customers), outside sales, consultative sales, professional sales, Soupy Sales, and various other responsibilities that involved the process of influencing someone’s decision-making process. Like you, I’ve read all or part of any number of books that instruct or advise a better way to skin this particular cat. There is nothing new under the Sun regarding this topic, but I do have a few simple bullet points that sum up my approach (because I haaaaaate doing it.)

  1. Lucky 13 ~ It’s been hypothesized by those who know these things that it takes 13 “No’s” before getting a “Yes.” Start mowing down those “No’s” so you can get to something more positive.
  2. Be curious ~ If nothing else comes out of the experience, find out something about the individual. “What keeps you up at night?” If you can’t sell something, you can at least soften up the gatekeeper. People buy from those they like, try being that person.
  3. Be a farmer ~ Make realistic goals for each visit, each interaction. It’s all for the greater good, right? If you can’t convince yourself that you’re cultivating a future sale, it’s going to be very, very hard to enjoy your life. For reference, watch Glengarry Glen Ross (again, if necessary) and pretend for a minute you are Shelly Levine (Jack Lemon.) Not…..for… “Always Be Closing” is a really sure way to scorch the Earth below, for you and future generations. Don’t screw it up for your successor, too.

[There’s also the highly under-rated value of “showing up.” Even a terrible salesperson, if consistently making calls, will sell more than the dude sitting in the car with flop sweats.]


“Can we interest you in personal hygiene products?”

The capstone to this story? One day while having an impromptu office “hallway” pow-wow with a group of colleagues, we noticed a young lady walking our way. Unwavered by the pomp and circumstance of our reception area, undeterred by the lack of a receptionist, and unfettered by the prospect of approaching four people having a hallway conversation, she proceeded to initiate a conversation about our office supply needs. “Leave us your card and we’ll pass it on” was the response from one of my colleagues – that usually indicates “class dismissed.” But her response was so good, I felt it deserved a larger audience – “I’d love to leave you a card, but can I also get the name of your Office Manager so I can be professional about my visit?”

Wow. That, my friends, takes stones. That was several months ago. She didn’t get a sale that day. She did, however, leave an impression that stuck. Because of that visit, we’re taking a look at our various providers. My guess is she gets a call.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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