Several years ago, I was on a call with several key decision makers from Pepsi. During the luncheon, I ordered a Coke. One of the most utterly stupid moments in my sales career was ordering that Coke. I try to limit those "stupid moments" to once every 10 years.
I revisited the Ten-Year Rule again last weekend. As I was reminded, one method of avoiding the embarrassment of the Ten-Year Rule is to do my research in advance.
One of the most important questions I ask when I interview a potential media rep is "What do you know about this company?" Ninety-five percent of the time, the candidates do not know anything about the company. They are immediately relegated to the "not considered" group. Since the applicant didn't do their homework for the job, I feel their lack of preparation is a good indicator of how much time the candidate would invest in getting the prospect to advertise. I can say that hiring an applicant who didn't do their homework has almost always come back to bite me.
One of the first rules in sales is to do some homework before setting an appointment. There are several ways to do your homework. I recommend conducting an in-store survey of the business, researching the company's website or social media pages, and finally finding an inside coach at the business. Last weekend, I broke one of my own rules of salesmanship and found myself in a "stupid moment."
I was attending the World Congress on Disabilities conference. On Thursday night, the President, Mark Pepitone, outlined the speakers for the next day. Rita Cosby would be the MC, as well as Paul Rotella, President of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association. I know Paul, and I was familiar with Rita from her Fox and MSNBC broadcasting career. The key word is "familiar" -- but not knowledgeable. I broke my homework rule that night, and it came back to bite me.
The keynote address on Friday was given by Doug Cornfield, Sr. who spoke on behalf of Dave Clark Baseball. After his outstanding keynote, I was conversing with Rita and others, noting that Doug's speech was as inspirational as a book that I had just finished, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I was getting the "stupid" look from Rita and others. Rita graciously commented that she loved Unbroken, as it came out at the same time her book hit the stands. Rita wrote the New York Times bestseller Quiet Hero and has done about 400 book appearances since it came out in May 2010. I was reliving my "Coca Cola" moment. I felt about an inch tall.
In Luce Performance Group sales training, we stress the importance of knowing the customer and something about them. Just showing up is unacceptable. In the Customer Marketing Profile reps use in the field, the "20 Question Customer Profile" is used to record information about the person who makes the decisions at the business. Remember, people don't care how much you know about them, as long as you show much you care about them. Eighty percent of the time, people buy from a rep because they like and trust that person, as opposed to the product. That 80 percent is not a license to schmooze and back-slap. It means that a rep must be knowledgeable in case they earn the job of helping a business in marketing and advertising. Even though I was not selling anything at this conference, I broke all of the rules that Friday.
Needless to say, I went back and started my homework on Rita Cosby. She is a three-time Emmy Award winner and two-time bestselling author, most recently for Quiet Hero. She has been a news anchor for Fox and MSNBC. Recently, Rita has become a syndicated afternoon talk show host originating from WOR0 AM in New York to over 200 radio stations across the country. The real work is getting into the story. Rita is world famous for investigative journalism. When I saw Rita again on Friday night, I apologized for my ignorance that morning. I will not let it happen again -- or at least not for another 10 years.
NOTE FROM SEAN: Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father's Past is about Rita's father, who fought the Nazis in the Wausau uprising of 1944. He was later sent to a Nazi prison camp. Rita's dad did not talk of his war experiences. She learned of her dad's WWII involvement when she found a suitcase containing his war memorabilia. As she set out to research his life, she found out, among other things, that he was awarded Poland's equivalent of the Medal of Honor. I can relate to Rita's experience, as my dad was one who never talked about his military service. I know my father, George Luce, had 24 successful missions over North Korea on B-29s. We did not know about my dad's duties in the Air Force until he wrote a book for his children documenting those experiences based out of Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa. The Quiet Heroes do not tend to talk much about their bravery. My family is fortunate because our dad did the research for us and put it on paper for us. Thank you Rita for my lesson, and thank you to the real heroes. The heroes are our veterans and men and women who serve in the military!
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at Sean@luceperformancegroup.com