It was a Friday night, and the last thing on my mind was sales prospecting.
I'd left my tie and jacket in the car - it was a hot evening, uncommon for Seattle but welcome for at least a little while - like that friend who always buys the drinks but you still choose to see them only a few times a year...because there's not enough free booze in the world that can mask their inherent unpleasantness to make their company bearable on a more regular basis.
Being summer - what Seattle natives call the 45 day respite from rain and gloom you see in every movie about the city - the bars and nightclubs were open to the warm night air.
Walking the avenue in Belltown, I caught whiffs of conversation, laughter, aromas and music as I passed each open doorway. This being the early 2000s, the neighborhood was only half gentrified - the (as of yet) still unsoftened hard edges of some of the clubs (and their patrons) still made a Friday night in Belltown a unique Seattle experience.
It was then I ran into Jack - a long time salesperson at the company where I was presently hanging my hired guns and hat. He was outside a well-known dive-y bar and was leaning forward on a streetlight - the top of his sweaty, "Mr. Weatherbee from Archie Comics" head holding his body up as he peered straight down the lamp.
As I walked closer, I could see that he pivoted his head left, then right, then down again - like he was on a swivel.
He was a man on a mission. Actually, if truth be told, he was more like someone who was about a drink and a half away from spending the night in one.
He was in an obviously inebriated state - his hand painted tie (yes they still make them) hung snarled yet loose around his neck. His dress shirt - DRESS in name only - was a like a sad semaphore signaling his surrender to King Alcohol - one shirt collar up, the other down, one shirt tail out, one tucked in.
I think he was missing a shoe.
I jogged over to him - he needed a coffee, a cab and a couch....in that order.
"Jack," I said as I walked up to him, "how's it going?"
His feet planted firmly, he proceeded to lift his head off the streetlamp and raise his entire upper body from his waist - like a drawbridge slowing going up, up, up to allow a fishing boat through a canal. Once in an upright position, he pivoted on his heels and looked at me. His eyes were watery, but pleasant. For a moment, he looked very unsteady and I thought that Jack might prove Saturday Morning commercials wrong - that Weebels really do fall down - but he quickly righted himself and tucked his errant shirttail (and the bottom half of his tie) into his pants before he spoke to me.
"Derek!" he said, smiling, "Great to see you!"
Proving he could, in fact, see me, he reached out (in my general direction) to shake my hand - I took it, half to return the greeting and half to keep him from hitting the concrete.
"Jack, what's up? What are you doing out here in the street?"
He scrunched his face, used his unoccupied hand to wipe his nose with the cuff of his shirt and said "I was going to call a cab, but I lost my apartment keys. I was looking for them."
Still grasped in our handshake, he attempted to turn back to the streetlamp. He miscalculated his own centrifugal force, and proving Newton and his apple right, he careened backwards and almost dragged us both off of the sidewalk and into the gutter - him metaphorically and physcially...me just physically.
"Whoa! Hey let me help you." Using most of my strength, and feeling a twinge in my back that would, in about three hours, itself evolve into a painful weekend for me on my OWN couch, I yanked him back, righted us and pulled us back from the abyss.
"Let's find those keys and get you home." I was under no illusions - I was aware that the implicit 'US" in "Let's" was going to be just be "Me", as Jack was in no shape to continue his key safari.
I propped him up with his back against the lamppost and began my search.
While I looked for the keys, Jack fished though every pocket he had in such a rough manner that if it had been someone else searching him, charges would have been filed.
After his self-pat down, he produced a single bent Newport and a red Bic lighter. He lit a cigarette and smoked while I looked. I looked on the sidewalk and in the gutter. I looked in the street and back in the doorway of the bar. In the ten minutes it took him to finish his cigarette, I had looked everywhere.
Walking back up to Jack, I asked "Jack where did you lose these keys?"
Jack flicked the spent butt in the gutter and said "Back in the bar..." - he pointed to the bar across the street.
With a stuttering laughter that would shortly turn into increduility before I finished the sentence I was about to say, I said: "Jack - if you lost the keys in the bar across the street why are you looking for them out there?"
He looked at me. All these years later I remember that his face had no malice in it. As he thought before he spoke he looked actually quite childlike and innocent. Then a brief flash across the eyes - his synapses fired and he had an answer.
He cracked a crooked smile as he turned from me. He looked up and pointed to the streetlight directly above and said sweetly,
"Becasue this is where the light is."
Yeah it's an old joke - but it still resonates.
Jack looked for his keys under the light because it was TOO HARD to look for them where they actually were.
It was easy to look for them under the lamppost, the light was good - did it really matter that the keys weren't there?
What does this have to do with sales? Come on. I know you've figured it out.
Are you prospecting by streetlight? Are you making call after call or sending email after email - because you know calls and emails are counted by the boss - doing your own impression of Jack the sales guy?
Are you failing at something because it's easy? As opposed to succeeding at something that's incredibly hard?
The B2B buyer’s decision making process has changed, from even 5 years ago, and is now facing increasing influence from social media and online content consumption.
It's been reported that over 65% of buyers feel the vendor’s CONTENT had and impact on final purchase decision.
Yet, everyone on LinkedIn is talking about COLD CALLING or SOCIAL SELLING or EMAILING.
What about the CONTENT?
Sales organizations face the ongoing (and increasingly difficult) challenge of dealing with a more knowledgeable & social media savvy buyer.
It’s important for sales leadership to understand that individual sales reps creating their own content is no longer an option but a requirement.
Larry Levine is right - what's your content plan?
Not your company's - but yours PERSONALLY...
I've often heard salespeople and sales leaders say "Salespoeple starve who leave their prospecting to others."
Who are you trusting with your content?