35 Years of Relevance – Hopefully

by TedV

My First Two Sales Lessons Taught Me Everything I Needed To Know About Relating To Customers

35 years in sales and marketing

Thirty-five years ago today (1/18/13) I started my career in sales and marketing. I was a brand new sales rep and I knew little about selling or my future customers. Believe it or not I agreed to be a specialist selling factory sealing products under the mistaken idea that it was industrial shrink-wrapping equipment. It didn’t take long to figure out I’d sell products that stopped leaks in pumps, valves, etc.

Robert Daughtridge, the top rep in that sales office, gave me my first two lessons in selling – the hallmarks in my understanding of relevance in marketing and sales.

He sold general products to factories. We went to the drill bits cabinets and he grabbed a quarter inch bit and held it under my nose.

Relevance Lesson Number 1

“There are more quarter inch drill bits sold in the world than any other size. And yet, no one wants a quarter inch drill bit. They want quarter inch holes. Sell holes faster, sell a more accurate hole, sell more holes per bit purchased – but NEVER sell drill bits.”

If you apply the lesson of Holes-vs-Bits to every customer interaction you will always sell with relevance.

Relevance Lesson Number 2

Robert and I then got in his car to go to a customer of his. On the way we stopped at an office supply store and he spent a couple of buck buying me a small note binder, an alphabetic divider set, and lined paper.

“Write down the company name, address, and phone number of every account. Then write down the names and titles of everybody you meet – not just the plant engineers and maintenance supervisors, but all the mechanics and receptionists as well. Don’t just write down everything about the work they do, but write down the names of their spouses, kids, hobbies, etc.

“Everything you can do to show you’re interested in them and their work, as well as trying to be their friends, will help you sell.”

Somehow the way Robert said that sounds a whole lot more personal than the phrases Customer Relationship Management, List Management, and Social Marketing.


Back in 1978, in the factories scattered across rural eastern North Carolina, I could arrive at a factory office unannounced, ask the names of the key people, and if I said something over the company phone that made them think I could help them, I could usually get about 60-65% of the people I chatted with to come out and talk to me for at least a few minutes right that day.

In 2013 we have to be profoundly clever with multiple voice mails to even get a return phone call from someone we’ve never met.

Today I celebrate 35 years of learning, relearning, and learning again how to get potential prospects to say to themselves:

“Wow! This guy is talking about me!”


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Think, Think Again, and then ReThink to Relate to Your Prospects

Photo Credit to baysaa

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