The Unsalesperson: Time to move past instant gratification

Brandon Rogers, partner at LinkBankcorp Inc.

For most people in business, waiting isn’t an option.

It could be argued that in some industries this is a good thing.

Access to health care and the “express service” for an oil change are among the few things for which speed of process is a plus.

Relationships, however, are not. They take time. Moreover, they require a type of investment that we have diluted: authentic connection.

What we’ve twisted is the product we’re selling.

It is no longer the widget.

In fact, it never was.

It’s about the person holding the widget.

We live in a world where we’ve become immersed in “networking” (a topic for another column) and see everyone as a prospect. If I’m honest, I have made this same mistake. For a time, I was in the same race to amass touchpoints and sling whatever product I had in my back pocket. But then something interesting happened.

This is a true story.

It had been years since I had heard from John Doe. In that time since having really connected, I had grown a bit. The right mentors and the right contacts, with a dash of humble pie (or, perhaps, a bowl full), pushed me to understand my business as a long-term relationship. A marriage, if you will. They taught me to dive in but to do so with grace and an unexpectant hand.

“Give yourself to the conversation with no need to receive, and eventually you will see the purpose for the connection” was the overarching advice. I began to adopt it. And I haven’t looked back. So, let’s get back to John.

John had called after I moved into a new role that, incidentally, had the capacity and reach to truly benefit him and his business. His call was mildly authentic, albeit fleeting. And after a couple email exchanges, the phone connection was the nail in the coffin. It didn’t even cost him a cup of coffee (not that it always must) to bridge a brief pleasantry with his real reason for connection: how it could benefit him. Now, let’s be honest, we are all in this to evolve and develop and advance. I won’t recuse myself from this group. But, the approach is everything. Some may call this efficient. I would call this lazy.

I commented to John during our call – after about 10 minutes of his explaining why his idea was seemingly so mutually beneficial – and offered up one response: “How is your family?”

He honestly had no idea what to say. And, I can’t blame him. It’s part of his DNA. But, in the silence he found awkward and I found beautiful, something fantastic happened.

John excused himself, and then apologized. He stopped the conversation to explain to me some personal parts of his life that he hadn’t shared with many, and I reciprocated. The call lasted another half hour, during which time we never veered back to the original intent. It’s been months, and we’ve shared a couple of meals. The business conversation has only recently reignited. And, we’re both better for it.

“It’s a numbers game,” is what I often hear. Perhaps. But things are beginning to shift and I’m becoming keenly aware of them. The desire for immediate benefit is falling away and more people are seeing the benefits of delayed gratification.

I remember being a boy and waiting the eight months that lay between Christmas and my birthday to get that new super soaker or whatever gaming system was up and coming. I remember caring for that thing even more because of the requisite time investment.

Now I find my heart moving in that same space, but it’s relationships instead of toys. It only took 30 years.

Brandon Rogers is a partner at LinkBankcorp Inc., a startup bank in Central Pennsylvania. His past experience includes finance roles at Giant, Highmark and JPMorgan.

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