Everybody knows that a perfectly made jelly donut with the sweet jelly just peeking out looks too delicious to pass up. Especially if they are fresh out of the fryer and you can smell them from a mile away! These donuts entice, they make our mouth water with anticipation and when we finally take that first bite, the reward of that explosion of flavor makes all those calories worth it…Those donuts are easy to spot and their visual appeal is matched by their savory satisfaction.
Now, not all donuts are created equal, nor do they all look perfectly made or the same. Many years ago, one of my early mentors and a significant influence in my life, Ed Abbruzzese, taught our Sales Team an essential lesson about prejudice and pre-qualification of a prospect. It made an indelible impression on me and I have borrowed this little gem multiple times over the years to convey the message of treating 100% of your prospects with respect, attention and care.
It was a typical Saturday morning, and we all filed into the meeting room to prepare for the day. As usual, there were two boxes of donuts on the table with the usual assortment from Rienhold’s Bakery. A local joint with outstanding quality baked goods, so this was always a welcome treat. However, it always seemed that at the close of the day, after the meeting room had been cleaned up, one donut always remained uneaten…the poor jelly donut. I can’t tell you why, but this poor donut was orphaned and discarded every single time.
This presented Ed with an opportunity to create a teaching moment that we wouldn’t miss the point of and stay with many of us interminably. One particular Saturday, like all of the others, Ed decided to discuss the perils of pre-qualifying. At the opening of the meeting, Ed offered the jelly donut to anyone in the room…As usual, there were no “takers”, so Ed proceeded to place the orphaned sweet treat on a plate in the middle of the table. It sat there all meeting long, as we all listened intently and Ed shared thoughts about the prospects who entered our showroom and looked, sounded and acted like a person who really didn’t intend to or couldn’t “afford” to buy a car. He espoused the dangers of missing an opportunity to impress and “wow” a prospect, as it could cost us profit, or even worse, cost us the chance to deliver a car altogether. His meeting hit the mark with me, as I reflected back on the times I allowed myself to listen to the little voice in my head tell me that someone was “wasting my time” and “just kicking the tires” as we say in this business when we failed to close a prospect and “spot the car”. As he closed out the meeting, he asked us all to stay a minute longer. He proceeded to turn around and open the drawer behind him to his right. He reached in and pulled out a large sharp knife. Reaching across the table for the paper plate upon which sat the poor jelly donut most likely destined for another trip into the garbage pail in the corner of the room. As he pulled the plate toward him, he drew the blade of the knife to the donut and gently cut into it. As he pulled apart the donut, with the jelly oozing out, he wiped a neat, tightly wrapped roll of five $100 bills. The entire room let out a collective “Holy $h*t!” and immediately understood the value of Ed’s message.
From that day forward, I have always looked for the good in people, and assume the reasons that I can, and should, always work at not pre-judging people or opportunities presented to me. You never know what opportunity or a great customer will present themselves to you or in what form they will first appear. Treat everyone and every opportunity like they are one-in-a-million, not one-of-a-million!
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