(#10 in The Energy Bar series)
Jim Blasingame (the Small Business Advocate) told me a great story about energy. At age 27, he landed a job in sales with Xerox. He met with the local head of a manufacturing firm. Jim said his own head “was packed with product, pricing, and strategy.” He went on to say, “. .. any listening and probing techniques he had learned were no match for the cargo of content” that he was dumping on this guy’s desk.
The prospective customer stood up while Jim was in mid-fevered-sales-pitch , stretched his arm toward the door, and signaled that the meeting was over. When they got to the door, Mr. K brushed him off by saying, “Well, Jim, you’ve certainly given me the business.”
But what Jim did next was priceless.
Jim stood outside that door “. . . with his words detonating in my brain.” He thought for a few moments, and knocked on the exec’s door again. With all the humility he could muster, Jim said, “Mr. K, I am sorry about what just happened. May I please start over?”
The exec replied, “Hello, Jim – come in and let’s talk about business.”
Jim continued to work with Mr. K for many years.
BTW, you can read Jim’s fine and entertaining article about this called Gold Mining Tool of Professional Salespeople.
Let’s look at this story using The Energy Bar. (Click the link to watch the 3-minute animated video about this tool). Mr. K was probably indifferent or barely interested in seeing a new salesperson. Instead of accepting that’s where the energy was, Jim dumped his “cargo of content” on this executive acting as if the prospect was actually interested in Jim or what he was selling.
On quick reflection, Jim realized that he had blown it. Now, as a result of that sales call, Mr. K’s energy was probably somewhere far over on the resistance side. Unless Jim did something differently, he might never see that potential customer again.
By acknowledging that he had blown it, he opened the door to further conversation. Had he done anything else: waited a week and called again or sent a brochure about a product he had forgotten to mention, he would have just made matters worse. Being contrite allowed Mr. K to be generous and forgiving. And that winning combination of good energy on both sides was the start of a strong working relationship.
Jim knew what to do. He knew how to listen and probe for more information. What saved him was his ability to quickly realize that he alone caused the resistance, and took the risk of immediately taking responsibility for what happened and asking for forgiveness. This allowed Mr. K’s energy to shift. (Didn’t make it shift, but allowed it to shift.) As Yogi Berra may have said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”