What hitchhikers teach us about sales

By - Last modified: June 22, 2012 at 2:45 PM

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I pick up hitchhikers.

There. I’ve admitted it publicly.

While we’re at it, a random inspection of my GMC Sierra would yield a full gallon of gas (strapped to the bed), jumper cables and a can of Fix-A-Flat in the event I encounter some poor soul suffering related ailments.

Why?

In my younger years, I drove a high-end sedan that became so unreliable I thought it had rolled off the assembly line on a Friday the 13th after being worked on by Mr. Magoo. I found myself stranded so frequently that I put towing companies on speed dial.

There are few things more miserable than sitting on the side of the road waiting for help and watching thousands of people zip past you. There are few things more relieving than seeing someone’s brake lights come on and their car pulling over to the shoulder.

Now imagine yourself as the CEO, SVP, GM, owner or partner of a company. Every day you come to the office and you have nagging, frustrating problems to solve. It could be dragging revenue growth, low production efficiency, high material costs, a problematic corporate culture, human resource issues, intense competition.

Your “car” might not be down and out but, figuratively, it is on the side of the road and not running the best it could. Thousands of people are passing you by. You’re looking and waiting ...

Jump back into your role as a representative of your company — salesperson, CEO, VP-Sales — it doesn’t matter. YOU are driving down the road. You spy a car on the side of the road and a frustrated operator. You and your team have an expertise in solving some particular problems. You have various solutions in the back of your vehicle that might get the car and driver on their way to their destination.

Do you stop?

THIS is sales. It’s the ability to identify prospects that need our help and the willingness to step out of our comfort zone to do it. Networking, cold calling, getting referrals from customers are all versions of the same thing: driving down the road looking for people that we can help with the tools and expertise that we have.

Not once in 16 years of assisting motorists have I had someone truly in need say, “I was hoping you’d drive by, too. I like it out here by myself.” Normally, while cautious, they are glad to see me. They might say, “I don’t know what’s wrong,” or “I’m not sure I can help.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t try.

Not everyone needs our particular help. If a guy’s car is on fire, chances are he doesn’t need additional gasoline. Sometimes a company really doesn’t need what you sell — but I’m willing to bet it’s part of a small population.

Call reluctance is the equivalent of driving by people that need our help and thinking, “They don’t need me” or “They look fine” or “Someone will help them.” It's fear at best and indifference at worst.

It should be you. Your company. Your solution. Have courage.

By the way, I am not recommending that you pick up actual hitchhikers or hand out gas to stranded motorists. I’m 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and a black belt. The fact is that some I stop for are at first nervous even though I’m trying to help them.

Oh, wait. That’s sales, too. Isn’t it?

Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.


 

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