Want to Get In? Try Knocking On The Door

Dirty Harry Teaches Sales to Reluctant Salespeople — a scene from 1973’s “Magnum Force”, featuring Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) and a woman named Sunny who lives in his apartment building:

Sunny: [as Harry walks by to his apartment] Hi!

Harry Callahan: Oh, hi… what’s your name?

Sunny: Sunny. You know, I’ve been living here for almost six months now. It’s funny I’ve never met you before.

Harry Callahan: Oh well… I work a lot.

Sunny: I know. You’re the cop who lives upstairs.

Harry Callahan: That’s right.

Sunny: Mind if I ask you a question?

Harry Callahan: Go ahead.

Sunny: What does a girl have to do to go to bed with you?

Harry Callahan: [blinks twice, then smiles] Try knocking on the door.

More than 10 years ago, I was sitting in the stands at a middle school, watching my son and his friends take on another group of kids in a basketball game. One of the other dads, knowing that I worked in the radio business, sat down next to me and asked me some questions about political advertising. He was a judge  –in an elected position – and was up for reelection.

I don’t remember a lot about the conversation. He knew I sold advertising for a living, and he had some questions about the advertising rules that candidates needed to follow. I answered the questions. Then we turned and watched our kids play. Eventually the game ended, we got into our cars, and I forgot all about it.

Until about two months later when I heard the judge’s radio commercial on my news/talk station. I tracked down the account executive who had gotten the order, and learned that the judge had hired an advertising agency – and had bought $10,000 in advertising on my station.

If I had followed up on the initial conversation, I could have gotten the order myself. Instead, I just assumed he’d call me if he was interested.

My commission for this: zero. It took me a long time to get over that missed opportunity.

That painful event returned to my mind a few weeks ago as I rode in a car with an Account Executive in the Southeast. He was upset because he just seen his chiropractor advertising on a competing television station.

“I’ve been going to that guy for years – and he advertises on Fox?”, he said as he banged his hand on the dashboard.

I asked the Account Executive if he had ever asked the chiropractor to buy anything. “No,” he replied. “But he knows what I do for a living!”

A decade ago, that judge had known what I did for a living, too. Here’s the expensive lesson I learned: It doesn’t matter — you still have to ask for the business.

·        That chiropractor may have a patient who’s an auto mechanic. He knows what the mechanic does for a living. That doesn’t mean he’s going to automatically bring his car to his patient’s repair shop.

·        The chiropractor may have a patient who’s an insurance salesman. He knows what the salesman does for a living. That doesn’t mean he’s going to automatically buy a policy from that agency.

To the chiropractor, the Account Executive was just another patient, and the patient’s occupation was somewhat less important to him than the back pain he was trying to fix. While the AE was waiting for the chiropractor to think about buying advertising, a competitor walked in and swept the money off the table.

Reluctant salespeople depend on relationships in one area to automatically extend everywhere. This rarely works. If you want to somebody to buy, you need to ask for the business. If you want to come in, try knocking on the door.


Sales Skills for Reluctant Salespeople

Want to know more? I’ll be covering this topic at the Katie Kelley Networks Fall Soiree in Portland, Oregon.


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