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February 03, 2010

Have I got a deal for you

Faster than you can say "Satisfaction guaranteed!" I have turned into something I never thought I'd become.

A salesperson.

As in, "I'm in sales!!!!!!"

You know the type. The guys have those awfully kempt hairstyles and tuck their polo shirts around their beer bellies. The girls are don Tiffany and, more often than not, carry around pharmaceutical samples. The worst kind gets up in your face and presumes to "read" you by correlating the visual clues you offer with the little checkboxes in his brain. "Woman. Late twenties. Said 'I love my lab' into cell phone. Thus a good bet for the puppy print flannel sheets."

With the good ones, it's like you've made a friend only at the end of the chat you're sliding a day's pay for something you didn't know you needed. Until you realize you did. And once you do realize that, you're back for more.

Both of these models are antithetical to how I've always viewed myself: authentic, straight talker, niche (versus mass market), passionate about ideas and their applications, not products and services. A discerning consumer, an occasional advocate maybe, but certainly not a -- my word! -- not a panderer.

So did I ever think I'd approach a virtual stranger and offer my services as breezily as I might tell someone they're wearing a cool shirt??? And did I ever think I could do that while preserving my integrity!??

I blame The Daily Asker.

The total mindf*ck this project has engendered over the past year and a half, combined with the pressure of looking for opportunities daily, has resulted in today's interaction:

I was at a cafe I love, where I tend to go when I have a lot of work to do. It's quiet, with quality seating and good brew.

The owner, who's usually in the back room, was waiting for his drink by the counter when they called my name. I walked up, collected my tall capp and we started talking.

He told me he's trying to expand his business, get the word out on social media, and redo his website.

"Do you have a blog?" I asked.

"Our roasters do, but I'm trying to do a lot more with that. The whole social media thing."

"That's the way to go. It's free and it can make such an impact. I have a blog, and -- actually are you looking for someone to blog for you? Or do any kind of writing? That's what I do. Professionally, I mean."

We continued talking about his marketing campaign, various changes he's planning, how and why he wants to grow. By the end of our seven minute chat, I

--mentioned some of the clients I've worked for
--learned about the cafe's past, present and future
--gotten an idea of his budget
--listened to some of his goals and upcoming milestones
--told him a bit about my marketing experience
--gushed about his coffee (and believe it me, it was sincere)
--gave him very quick feedback on some of his ideas
--told him twice I would love to help him get the word out
--suggested we meet up for coffee to take this chat to the next level: a strategy session

So here I am, with his business card in my wallet and a follow up meeting in the works.

This, from a person who was, until relatively recently, totally shy when it came to networking. Don't impose. Don't look ambitious or they might think you're spineless. Above all, don't ask for help, time or attention unless it's an emergency.


[image via michaelkiffmeyer]
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