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Newspaper or Sales Commission … the Dilemma

A few years ago I was VP of Sales for a premier and exclusive resort community development in West Virginia. 

It was the end of a late fall day and I was bored but, but couldn’t go anywhere as I had an upcoming dinner meeting, about 90 minutes away.  To go home and back would be a wasted effort and to go out and hit golf balls would only get me sweaty.  So I hung out in our lobby office, feet on the desk, and read the Wall Street Journal.

A few minutes into my read, a very humbly dressed guy came in and started talking about the really beautiful (and expensive) homes on the property.  Would the resort offer him and his wife a tour…  “was there a bus tour?” was his question.

“Nah, it’s a private community” was my answer…  no bus tours for you.  But we chatted for a minute anyway, where I discovered he was from (Texas) and that he was in town for a reunion.   Having nothing to do, I said…  “grab your wife and c’mon…  “

We jumped into my very dirty SUV and went onto the property for an hour where they oogled at every house, the mountains, and everything else they saw.  

Twenty minutes into the jaunt they bemoaned the fact they were being forced out of the l overbooked hotel and being moved to the local Days Inn.  So, from the top of the mountain, I called in a favor from a friend in reservations.  A new, and upgraded room was found and they were thrilled…!  Next, I found out that they had met as kids while going to school in West Virginia as well, and they began to reminisce.    

We talked some more… they asked some questions and then, suddenly, it hit me.  These aren’t tourists, they are CUSTOMERS.    

As it started to get dark we made the decision to head back.  I had dinner, they did too.  But during the ride off the mountain they asked if they could see more.  So we agreed to meet the next morning. 

The next day was beautiful and we jumped back into the still dirty SUV.  The first house we walked into was a “spec” house under construction and I introduced them to the craftsmen behind it…  They loved it.  While they spoke with the builders, they asked me to speak with their lawyer who they called the previous night…  BAM!

Things didn’t finalize immediately, but 6 weeks later they closed on the $5.5 MILLION dollar house.  My personal commission was Big…  Grand Slam, Home Run!

I still speak with sales teams about the lessons learned:

  1. Sitting on your butt gets you nowhere.  Every opportunity to sell is an opportunity to make a sale, and you never know when that opportunity will come.  Do the stuff you need to do to be successful – every day – even when you think it’s a fruitless effort. 
  2. Use the word “NO” in a very sparing matter. Sure, everyone in sales has come across a “time waster” or two.  But you never know…  Saying “NO” closes doors and gets you nowhere.  Perhaps the better answer is “perhaps not that, but how about this…” 
  3. Lucky and Good are synonymous terms. You really do make your own luck.  Like Woody Allen said, “80% of life is just showing up…”
  4. Be Nice to Everybody! Phyllis was my friend in reservations.  She was a long term hotel employee who didn’t make a lot of money.  Despite having no incentive to do so, she went way out of her way to help me.  She did, however, because for the previous 5 years I had made her a genuine friend, and friends always help out friends.  Phyllis, the janitor, the dishwasher, the humble guy from Texas, or whomever… they’re people.  Be Nice!