By John F. Marshall
Senior Vice President
I was recently in the office of wonderful, 92-year-old campaign volunteer, who up until then, I had not yet had the opportunity to meet. I had a very clear agenda in mind as I was preparing to enter his office, but mostly I was interested in getting better acquainted. He did not disappoint me in the least.
What I had thought would be possibly a 30-minute meeting quickly turned into an hour and a half. I had heard a great deal about Fred, all of it good and decided that this was a man I definitely wanted to learn even more about.
He is now retired, of course, and has turned over the family business to his son. But he is in his old office five days a week, faithfully arriving in the morning and making the rounds throughout the company warehouse greeting the employees, asking them about their families and basically helping people to start off their day on the right foot. Everybody loves him from what I can tell.
Anyway, during the course of our conversation, he shared with me the nuances of doing business in Europe, China, Japan and a few other places, all of which he had traveled to during his active years. He made a point of telling me about how he and his sales people, when visiting Europe, learned the correct way of doing business. “We realized that we couldn’t just fly in and start doing business,” he told me. “The Europeans really like taking the time to get to know whom they are dealing with, so oftentimes we would spend a day or two just getting acquainted.” Evidently, by adapting to their European customers, their business success was really enhanced.
That struck a real chord with me when he told that story. I have often been told “now don’t take too much time with the pleasantries…you are with the prospect to ask for a gift.” Well, in the 36+ years I have been in this business, I have to tell you that I have let such advice go in one ear and out the other…and in quick order. I, too, believe in taking the time to forge a relationship, or at least try to. Now, it’s true that some prospects aren’t all that interested to follow those words found in Rodgers &Hammerstein’s The King and I. If they don’t, well then you know you can move forward more quickly perhaps, with your request.
For me…taking the time to know someone, investing a bit of time in wanting to learn more about that someone, has worked. It sure did with Fred who told me how much he enjoyed “getting to know” me and that I was welcome to come back at any time. You might want to give this approach a shot.