Fifty Shades of the Ozarks
By Sean Luce
On a recent consulting trip to the Ozarks, I rode shotgun on sales calls with Brad Trail who is one of our top performers. Brad is the leading producer for the Ozark Horse Trader (ozarkhorsetrader.com), a weekly shopper of unusual market dominance. Brad was the 2010 recipient of the Luce Performance Group's Rising Star Award which is presented to a sales professional who has less than two years of media sales experience, demonstrates top numbers, and shows unique sales potential.
Brad had just returned from a Hawaiian vacation with his family while I was in the market. We were scheduled to spend a day making sales calls together. As a consultant, I like to coach in the field. Assessing sales skills does not happen in the office or from behind a desk. The best way to support a rep is to see what is happening with them out in the real world. I told Brad that I would be looking for referrals when we traveled together the next day. In coaching reps, I always stress the fundamentals of selling. Referrals are one of those basic fundamentals.
Shade #1. Referrals. Brad has built his territory in large part due to referrals and I wanted to make sure that he did not stop asking for them. In my opinion, there is never a bad time to ask for a referral. Current clients, or even those who are not presently buying, can generate new leads. We left the office at 9 a.m. that day. Please take note of the departure time. These reps have miles to cover, so getting out early is mandatory. At 3 p.m., we made an unscheduled call to the local Chief of Police in one of the towns in his territory. I asked Brad, "What's up? This is not on your planner." I thought that he had a fine to pay. I got a strange feeling calling on the Chief of Police. Brad said he gets good referrals from the chief in that market. I was thinking, "Really? Referrals from the Chief of Police?" I was all eyes and ears for this one.
Shade #2. Rocks. We walked into the police building and Brad asked the receptionist for the chief. The chief walked out and acknowledged Brad's presence. Brad had carried something in with him. He proceeded to tell the chief that he brought back two rocks from his Hawaiian vacation -- the rocks were for the chief's rock collection. Brad pulled out the rocks. The chief's eyes lit up like a little boy's. Brad went on to ask the chief if he should label the particular beaches where the rocks were found in Maui. The chief's eyes grew even bigger. Brad asked for some tape from the receptionist and labeled the rocks. The chief said "thank you" and warmly told us goodbye. Getting back in the car, I asked Brad why he had developed such a relationship with someone who cannot buy advertising. Silly me! Brad said the Chief of Police is one of his top referral sources in that market. The chief will personally take Brad over and introduce him to local retailers. I was naturally curious how Brad made the acquaintance the chief. He said the chief had pulled him over for speeding. He took the time to get to know him. What a great lesson on taking lemons and making lemonade!
Shade #3. Ricky. Our last call of the day was to an auto parts store. Brad had warned me that we would be calling on Ricky. I kept wondering why Ricky was such a big deal. He said, "It's just kind of an unusual place, Sean," Brad said. "I leave it for my last call of the day when I do this route." Brad also mentioned that the owner, Ricky, also calls everyone else Ricky. This is the Ozarks and anything is possible. I was definitely anticipating seeing something I had not seen in 26 years of media sales and consulting. We finally arrived and entered the business. The owner greeted Brad and said, "Hi Ricky." He looked at me and said, 'Hi Ricky'." Everybody inside the business had "Ricky" sewn on their uniform. After five minutes, the moonshine came out, and it was pure strawberry. Five minutes later, the owner spotted a certain large bird outside of the window. He proceeded to grab a rifle from behind the counter and motioned for us to follow him outside. He fired at the bird. He missed and we went back inside. Brad took the order, and we headed back to the home office. My hunch was correct. It was like no other call that I had ever made in my career. I do like Ricky's style though. He only has to remember one name. When in the Ozarks, do as the locals do!
Just a day in the field…47 more to follow from the Ozarks.
Sean Luce is the Head International Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at email@example.com.
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