Sales – You Gonna Do it the Hard Way Or Like Rick Pitino?

Sales – You Gonna Do it the Hard Way Or Like Rick Pitino?



“That’s right! You’re not your dad. He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.” (David Spade to Chris Farley

Man, sales can be tough. I remember coming out of college and working in sales for a telecommunications company in New York sign company louisville ky

City. That was rough. My manager was from the “no excuses” school of sales. Every question I asked was interrupted with “I have an idea- sell something” or “will you please sell something, PLEASE?” The problem was that even though I was trying hard, the customers I was cold calling didn’t seem to care. Most of them, when I was able to get them on the phone, responded negatively to my request for an appointment; responses ranged from asking me to do things that were anatomically impossible to my personal favorite, “kill yourself.”

The weekly sales meetings were the worst. I was on the #2 team nationally in sales so most of the salespeople sold a lot of phones. All of the meetings were run the same way. There would be announcements and then we would go around the conference table giving our sales numbers verbally. “Schenk?” “120 units.” “Great job!” “Nichols?” “85 units.” “Way to go! I’m impressed you closed the IBM deal.” “Furniss (me)? “(cough) (mumble)” “Furniss- didn’t hear you. How many units?” “Zero.” “Zero? Wow- way to be an asset to the company! At least you’re a consistent loser!”

For those of you keeping score at home, the top 3 insults from my sales manager were:

How is Furniss like a rowboat? No sales.

I have a great idea on how to solve the nation’s drug problem. We just have to have Furniss become a drug dealer. Nobody will buy.

Do you know Furniss is actually Bob Hope’s long lost brother? No Hope.

I thought this experience was the norm for people who were new in a sales job. Then I read a story about the University of Louisville hiring Rick Pitino as its head basketball coach in 2001. Pitino was joining a program that was in turmoil (aka they weren’t winning a lot). Pitino knew that his success would hinge on his ability to recruit and sell great players on joining his program. In 2002, he signed a highly coveted recruit, Francisco Garcia (now with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings). However, Pitino didn’t even sell him on Louisville. He came on his own accord even as he was heavily recruited and offered multiple scholarships by major college basketball programs across the country. How did this happen?

It happened largely by accident. Pitino used to be an assistant coach with the New York Knicks in the early eighties. There was a young ball boy that Pitino would talk to from time to time. It turned out that this ball boy wound up as friends with this high school star from the Bronx (approximately 12 years later after both had left the Knicks for several years) and told Garcia that he would be very comfortable with Pitino as his collegiate coach. That was all it took. Garcia was convinced; he willing to sign with Louisville without even meeting Pitino!

As I was cold calling and taking abuse, Rick Pitino was cracking jokes with a ball boy. Who had better results? Coach Pitino. Caring about others trumps sales pitches. Referrals trump cold calls. Relationships trump all. People like to do business with people they like. And a “friend of a friend” is much better than a stranger on the phone.



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