I’ll never forget one of the harshest lessons I ever learned in business. I was 22 years old selling advertising space for a large newspaper in the D.C. area. I really wanted to be an advertising copywriter or designer. Either position would have been fine. But there was a terrible recession going on and the local ad agencies simply weren’t hiring. So I figured I’d sell ad space instead. And to do it successfully I decided to sketch ads and write copy for local retailers while giving them offer ideas and marketing counsel.
I sold a lot of advertising that way. And I guess I got cocky. Drawing up ads for prospects worked pretty well and helped close deals. It was a great way to get people excited about the possibilities. They could envision the ad easily. We’d collaborate and imagine the impending success for each ad.
Then one day I ran into a buzz saw. I found a prospect who was analytical. He was more concerned with numbers than ideas. But that wasn’t the problem. I recognized that and changed my tactics. Instead of designing an ad and suggesting coupons, I scribbled out numbers reflecting possibilities for a return on his investment.
He was just about ready to say “go”. I knew it. We went through the numbers. It made sense. It was sold. Right?
As he was contemplating his decision, I got impatient. The clock was ticking. The room was silent. I couldn’t stand it. So I jumped in and started talking….Selling! Yuck!
He slowly looked up at me with an angry glare and barked, “Would you shut up! I’m thinking! Didn’t anyone ever teach you to shut up when you’re closing a deal?”
Stunned. I was stunned.
Next he picked up the papers, shoved them into my chest and ushered me out the door.
Try as I might, I could never get him to see me again. In the end I think that was his loss because I was truly just trying to help make his life better. But the lesson stuck with me.
When you’re trying to close a deal. Shut up! Or get thrown out!
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