A recent conversation about arguably the worst boss I ever worked for had me smiling.
And only part of the reason for the smile was that I had almost forgotten I ever worked for the guy.
While visiting my hometown, a friend told a story about someone I worked with almost 25 years ago at the company with that terrible boss.
The guy seemed to wake up each morning set on demeaning people. While I was usually spared the worst of his belittling, I saw enough to keep my eyes open for chances to get out of there.
And yet with all the resentment I can dredge up about that guy, the conversation with him that I remember most vividly was, amazingly, a positive one. Heck, it was some of the most useful coaching I’d received up to that point in my career.
I was early for the sales meeting he called every Monday morning at 8:00 AM. On that morning, it was just he and I, and he asked about a bid proposal I had made to a large company.
It was a big enough proposal to have taken up a few folks’ time and effort, including his own. I dreaded telling him that we didn’t get it. It wasn’t going to be pretty.
As I began explaining (apologizing) he said, “Hey, look. Don’t be depressed. We’ve never done business with those guys. They’ve used the same suppliers forever. The other idiots here can’t even get a meeting with their purchasing department. I’m impressed they like you enough to even let you bid.”
As I contemplated being his “favorite idiot”, he finished with, “Don’t stop talking to those guys. Most salespeople quit. Keep visiting and stay friendly with them. It’s what you do after they tell you ‘No’ that determines if you’ll ever get another opportunity.”
Instead of hearing all about why I had failed, I was encouraged to keep courting a customer worth having. And I did.
Within 6 months, they actually became a customer, and I was momentarily a hero… just before I left the company to get away from that boss.
(Funny how those things work out, huh?)
But that conversation stayed with me. His recognizing my effort in defeat (that ONE time) and making me feel good for working hard to even earn the right to be told “No” resonated then. It still does.
The folks out there hustling are almost assuredly going to be rejected more times today than their peers.
But they’ll achieve more successes in the days to come, as well.
Strive to be one of them.
I read a sports story last week that reinforced to me what is often the differentiator between exceptional talent and exceptional achievement.
The story was about Ichiro Suzuki collecting his 4,000th career hit. Truth be told, I’m not a baseball stats guy, and I didn’t originally know if that was all that big of a deal.
I then read that the 4K Club only has two other members, one named Cobb and one named Rose. So, okay, it’s a pretty big deal.
Some purists argue that a portion of those “professional baseball” hits came while Ichiro played in Japan, and his stats should have an asterisk near them. Sure, whatever. But it’s still quite a feat.
(And there are a lot of MLB records in the past decade more deserving of asterisks. Just saying.)
My favorite part of the story was that when Ichiro moved to America, he and his wife specifically wanted to find a 3 bedroom apartment. With only the two of them, the realtor wondered why they needed three rooms. They explained that one room was needed for Ichiro to practice his swing while at home.
I had to smile. Professional baseball players already spend more time swinging a bat at team practices than most humans practice anything.
But this guy knew that what separated him from that pack was the extra work he put in that others didn’t.
There is no denying that a person needs a pretty high level of natural athleticism and talent to play a professional sport. But at that level, talent abounds.
The person sitting at the end of the bench on most professional teams has more natural athletic ability than most of us could ever dream of having.
When everyone has talent, talent isn’t what differentiates people. Hard work does.
I smile whenever I hear someone referred to as a “natural salesperson”. People usually use the term to describe people who are good talkers.
Often they have charisma. They’re persuasive. And those traits are wonderful.
But if they aren’t accompanied by a strong work ethic and productive work habits, they are mostly wasted.
A “natural salesperson” to me is someone with the work ethic to get out and talk to people and the mindset of continually making new friends.
I’ll bet on the salesperson shaking the most hands and kissing the most babies over the charismatic desk-jockey any day. So should you.
Are you going to step up to bat today?