It was either late winter or early spring of 2005. I was “calling on” a family-run plumbing wholesaler with several locations, and they were expecting me.
The morning was a beautiful and crisp sunny day. I was feeling happy, confident, and having a good time.
I was traveling with an employee of a rep firm, which was fairly typical. Nothing different. Let’s name the employee “Ralph.”
Ralph seemed rather pensive; maybe it was my driving? I pride myself on my driving abilities; perhaps his wife was not allowed to drive? Either way, I am pretty sure he was unhappy to be traveling with me that sunny day.
Ralph seemed uncomfortable, and we only had a couple of calls to make that day.
Such a beautiful day, why be so unhappy?
About a quarter of a mile from the wholesaler, Ralph turns to me and says rather sternly, “I’m going to warn you now. They’re not going to like you.”
I thought for a second, “well, that came out of the blue.” I figured Ralph did not like me. And one of the reasons I just thought he did not like me was because I was a female in what was typically a male position.
He did mention that being a female was going to give me a disadvantage. So I thought about it for a second. And I thought he is trying to intimidate me.
I looked at Ralph, and I said, well, I’m not worried about that. I can only imagine what else came out of my mouth at that time. But my whole point was that I had already been in there by myself.
A few years earlier, I had an electric tankless water heater brand to sell to plumbing wholesalers. So, I was familiar with the company.
I thought I’ve already called on this company. And I found this company to be extremely professional, warm, and welcoming.
So, now I am thinking, I’m being sabotaged. What else is Ralph going to say or do?
The things that run through your head, maybe, I am intimidating him?
I don’t know. You know, I’m slightly under 5’3″, so I don’t know how intimidating I can be. We should ask my husband, haha.
Ralph and I walked into the wholesaler, and I met their outside sales team, account managers, and so on. They were very welcoming, receptive and immediately worked with me to create a plan to grow the business. Not at all the experience Ralph “prepared” me for, just the opposite.
I didn’t want to gloat (someone is reading this and saying, “Oh yes, you did”), but I did check out Ralph’s face to see how he was taking in all of this.
Did he have a relationship with his customer, the plumbing wholesaler? I think not.
Ralph told me not to be surprised if we only had a couple of minutes with the company principals, but we had well over an hour.
Was he forewarning me to be nice? Or was it that he didn’t have a relationship, so he figured there was no way to develop a relationship. It might’ve been twofold.
A couple of years later, a new person was hired to take my place as I moved into a different role. Because I, a female, had the position, the company hired a younger male, degreed with little to no plumbing experience. He was eaten alive. I know this because I talked with wholesalers, who questioned who hired the young man, who decided to hire him?
I tell you the story because people are probably thinking, Oh, well, you know, men always treat women so poorly. Well, women treat men poorly as well. And women treat women poorly, and men treat men poorly. And it is not always about gender.
Now, years later, I realize the advantage I had over Ralph
At that time in my life, I knew so much about the product I was selling. Living and Training “Selling Steps” was a part of my everyday life.
I practiced selling in every part of my life, so it was not something I had to remember; I lived it.
Relationship building was second nature. Step 1 – Greeting
Those first few seconds of meeting someone when you either sink or swim.
As I taught my children, you either do it right the first time, or you may never get the chance again. Those first few seconds when you meet someone, and they either like you or do not.
Ralph may not have wanted to work with me that day; he may have been intimidated by my knowledge. But Ralph had his chance to build a relationship, and I would say it did not go too well.
Practice Greeting. It is a lot easier to do it right the first time.
The Back Story –
I just told this story last week; sometimes, I tell a story and feel like I am doing standup. I laugh a lot while telling (exaggerating) how either bad or funny a story is. Sitting and talking is not something I am good at…standing and talking seem to work better, which is funny in itself.
I am an early riser, so that means I have to have my coffee early. If I am in a hotel room and go through the two packets of coffee in the room, I have to leave in search of more coffee. Which means I have to put my makeup on and look presentable.
As my children and husband know, I never leave the house unpresentable in fear of the paparazzi. You never know when you are going to end up on the News.
Being presentable has served me well.
On one of my trips, I had to leave early to find coffee. I got ready, went down the elevator, bought coffee, and on my way back up, a handsome man walks into the elevator.
As I always do, I said Good Morning, made a little chitchat, got off the elevator, and I said, “Have a good day.”
When the meeting began, guess who the new CEO was? You got it, the guy in the elevator.
Those first few seconds of meeting someone, The Greeting, was a lifelong practice. When introduced to the new CEO, he said, “We already met; how are you?”
You NEVER, NEVER know who you are going to meet. I say this over and over again, wouldn’t it be better to see the Beauty first?
What to Write About? – Writing Prompts
It has been many years, and I see life through different eyes. I realize the advantage I had over Ralph, sadly. The difference was as simple as something I practiced, Greeting.
As you look back on an experience or an event, what can you see today that you were incapable of seeing years earlier?
I have learned that in telling a story or writing a story, things you never realized come forth. Something you never thought of presents itself.