Learn to Listen to Stories About Cows
I’ve been asked over and over again to share this story and since I have been blogging quite regularly, I thought now would be a great time to do so. The event I am about to share with you happened over twenty years ago, yet still serves as a driving force to how I conduct my business today…It is a story about cows.
The first thing you may say is “wait a minute, where could there possibly be a learning moment in that?” Cows? Really? Yep..cows. Here you go.
I had recently graduated from college and found myself in my small farming community home town opening up shop on my very own financial services practice. I had a great natural market because everyone knew my family and I represented a company with an extremely great reputation.
One of the first things I was taught was to establish great reference centers. For those who are not familiar with this term, a reference center is someone or something that values what you do enough to send folks your way. I had a great one with a local bank.
When I began my practice, banks were just getting into offering financial services and since I was operating in a small community, this concept had not made it to our fair city, therefore a great opportunity lay before me.
One particular day, a nice elderly farmer came into my office. I could tell he had just come in from the fields because his boots were still muddy. He walked in, sat down at my desk and stated that he was here to see me about a retirement account because his banker told him to do so. Great I thought to myself, this is what a reference center relationship is all about”.
After a little education on retirement plans, Mr. G. wrote me a check for $2000.00 and we completed the paperwork and the deal was done. However, the meeting was not. For the next 45 minutes or so, Mr. G. began his on education program on a topic of which I had absolutely no interest in…cows.
With his very slow southern-drawn accent, he proceeded to tell me that cattle prices were bad, feed costs were high and it was just too dry! I tried my best to engage him but the task was too difficult and 45 minutes seemed like 4.5 hours. You may say, “Why did you try to engage him. Did you not feel stupid?” I did, but I was trying to build a practice and although this transaction put sixteen dollars in my pocket, he was a client, PLUS, I wanted to take care of the referral from my reference center. Honestly I was grateful when the ordeal concluded.
The next year, this same sequence of events took place. This time, I was ready. I had read up on cattle prices and was able to have a somewhat intelligent conversation with him. He seemed pleased as he wrote me another check for $2000.00. Same commission, but I felt much better.
The following year, it was time for Mr. G to visit again only this time he did not come in. His son did. He wanted to talk about what he needed to do about his father’s IRA because Mr. G. had recently passed away. I was sad to hear the news. Then he said something to me that rings as clear to me today as it did then.
“Tim, I wanted to also come here today and talk to you about investing some of the money my dad left me, because he always enjoyed coming to town and talking with you about his cows” (You should have chills now).
I learned Mr. G was worth much more than an IRA for on the same land he raised cows, he also pumped oil. I earned the biggest account I would earn for the next five years. You see, this event took place because three years earlier, I came to a crossroad. I could have very easily scooted Mr. G. out the door at our very first meeting, but I chose not to. I chose to value the opportunity.
This event changed my life in many ways. First of all ,it catapulted me to an income level never experience before and it qualified me for our top sales conference that allowed me to sit on a “panel of experts” to share my secrets of success. I’ll never forget, sitting on that stage, listening to my peers share their secrets in 3 steps formulas. I became a bit nervous when it was my time to speak. I mean, I’m 27 years old and I can only share what I experienced, what could I say?
Then it happened; my turn. When the question was asked; “Tell us your secret to success” all I could think to say was: “I learned to listen to stories about cows”. That’s it. No big, complex system, just learning to value every client as if they are the most important entry in my sales book.
The other thing I learned is to not overlook the bread and butter sales; the ones that sustain you. I want the homerun sale just like everybody else but I need to hit the singles everyday while I am pursuing it.
So here is my challenge to you. Value every opportunity you have, never take anything for granted. Your personal cow story may be just around the corner waiting for you. While listening to it unfold may not always get the BIG account , you will get a client that will stay with you forever, give you first shot at all their needs and tell others how great you are…that’s a pretty good deal if you ask me!