The Best 30-Minute Sales, Marketing, and Motivation Session I Have Ever Attended In My Entire Life

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Bob Oros

Bob Oros, CSP, CMC is a professional speaker and author. Bob has presented in all 50 states and three continents and is the author seven books on sales and management.

Contact Soar with Eagles for more information on Bob at 479.903.0208 or

  I was driving down a highway in Central Florida when I stopped at a seafood restaurant for lunch. As I entered the front door, a “pan handler” was sitting on the curb asking people for their spare change. As I ate lunch, I could see him through the window, and I thought how distracting it was to the customers. I wondered why the manager didn't ask him to leave.

The consultant in me emerged — I noticed that the man had a can in front of him and one out of every four people dropped some change in it. One out of every four is a pretty good closing ratio in sales. I should be so lucky!

After I finished eating, I walked out the door thinking about how I was going to avoid him. I was dressed extremely casual as my whole day consisted of simply driving from Point A to Point B. On this particular day, I was wearing old jeans and a sweatshirt full of holes. As we made eye contact, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to sit on the curb next to him. For the next 30 minutes, I learned five lessons that will stay with me for a long time. Because of those 30 minutes I am not only a better salesperson and a better consultant, I am a better person.

Lesson One: Understand how they feel. I learned was how it feels when someone thinks you are a bum asking for a handout. It was a strange feeling. I wanted to tell these folks who were walking by that I was not with this guy; I was just talking with him. I am not a beggar; I work for a living. Some of them looked disgusted — it was as if they were silently telling us to get a job. One irate man said that he would give us a couple of bucks but he rudely accused us of being a couple of drunks and the money would just be wasted. Some people avoided eye contact with us altogether. Perhaps they felt that if they locked eyes with either of us, they would feel obligated to put some money in the can.

After the first five minutes, I became less concerned about what people thought. They don’t know who I am. They will never see me again. I wondered what they would think when they see me walk over to my rental car and put the top down on my convertible! It is hard to put into words the transformation I went through after I told myself; “So what if they think I'm a bum — that’s their problem, not mine!”

I may have adjusted a lot quicker than the average person because I had sales experience I could draw on. One of the most difficult obstacles a beginning salesperson has to overcome is the concern he or she has about what people will think of them. If you in sales and are not making the calls because you are worried about what someone will think about you, here is some important insight: they are not thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves. Do you think the people who walked by me went in the restaurant and thought about me during their meal? The amount of time they spent thinking about me could be measured in fractions of a second. Yet, most of the reason many sales people do not reach their full selling potential is because they are dominated by this concern about what people will think.

Lesson Two: Set the stage for the sale. One out of every four people dropped some change in the can. I thought that was really interesting. He didn’t even have to say anything, the can was the presentation! The can did the job for him. He completely set the stage for the sale. He was appropriately dressed to look like a street person. There was no question about it. His old sneakers, his faded shirt that was covered by his sleeveless sweater, his baseball hat, and his unshaven face all created the perfect appearance of what the ideal homeless person looked like in the eyes of his “customer.”

Because of the carefully designed “theater” he set up, one out of four were convinced that the right thing to do was to help him (us) out. This was an interesting observation. In my experience, if you look like a salesperson, the sale is harder to make. If you look like someone who is there to help solve a problem, you successfully set the stage for a sale and it comes much easier. Try changing your image from a stereotypical salesperson to a problem solver and see how much more receptive your customers will be. When you go to the gatekeeper and ask to see the manager, don't introduce yourself as a salesperson. Instead, introduce yourself as a problem solver. When asked why you need to see the manager, answer by telling them you don’t know until you ask them three simple questions and it will take less that three minutes.

Lesson Three: Show sincere appreciation. He thanked everyone. It wasn’t just the words, “Thank you,” but a sincere “I really appreciate it — thank you.” He made them feel good about putting money in his can. People like to help other people, or at least one out of four do, as my research proved. Did you ever wonder what people think about after they buy something from you? They don’t really expect any gratitude on the surface. However, deep down inside they are screaming to be appreciated.

It is very rare for us to get the red carpet treatment from anyone. I recently visited a store and was shocked by the excellent service. Someone met us at the door, escorted us through the aisles, answered our questions, and gave us snacks to eat while we were shopping. When we checked out, you won't believe what happened — they wrote down our name, address, and birthday. Two days later, we got a thank you card in the mail, and a birthday card followed a few days before the big day. Now, the thing that made this so special was “we” were my dog and I. It was a pet store and that is how they treated my DOG! Can you say you provide the same customer service — REALLY?

Lesson Four: I have nothing to complain about. Here is his story. His name is Ralph and he lived in South Carolina. He lost his job and on the very same day, his wife left him. She cleaned out their apartment and their bank accounts. Next, she maxxed all the credit cards by taking cash advances. He was left with the clothes he had in the apartment closet and about $20 in his pocket. He had no family, so he packed a small suitcase and went to the local truck stop where he hitched a ride to Florida. He had been there a month when I ran into him.

I asked him all the questions you would ask. Have you looked for a job? He said, “I can’t even get a job as a day laborer without a Florida address. I have no transportation, no place to live, no friends, no credit, and no money. All I can do is find some place to set up for the day and see if enough folks will help me so I can buy a meal.” He spends every night trying to find a place to unroll his sleeping bag. The lesson that Ralph taught me was this: I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Nothing! I stood up to leave, opened my wallet, and gave Ralph a $50 bill. That was by far the best sales, marketing, and motivation training I have ever received in my entire life.

Lesson Five: Know what you are talking about. Even though I talked with Ralph for 30 minutes, and for a moment, knew the feeling of what it was like to be perceived as a street person, I couldn't begin to describe what it must be like to live on the street.


Because it is impossible to describe a place you have never been. Before someone assumes the role of teacher, trainer, salesperson, or consultant, they must know — really know — what they are talking about. They cannot spend 30 minutes next to a customer on a curb asking questions and think they know what it is like to have the problems they are dealing with.

Here is an example of how important knowledge is. Take the manager of a school cafeteria, for instance. The holidays are approaching and the manager decides to cook turkeys for the school kids. The turkeys are stuffed the night before and put in the refrigerator overnight. The result: putting warm stuffing in a cold turkey overnight causes botulism spores to grow and create a toxin that cannot be killed by cooking. If the stuffing contains onions, they will accelerate the growth of the spores. The turkeys are cooked the next day and the school kids get sick. If they are not rushed to the hospital, the toxin will cause the children to die with botulism poisoning. While the manager’s job seems simple, he must know that the simplest details have life-altering results. Anyone who serves him must understand the complexity of the decisions he makes on a daily basis.

Anything less is the same as trying to tell someone how it feels to live on the street based on a chance conversation with a person who IS living on the street.



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