People Define You
People define who you are. You really are whom you hang out with and call friends.
For decades, throughout my career, I’ve sought to do business with a specific gigantic manufacturing firm in town. I had moderate success with the organization, but I always came across huge personalities with personal agendas of which I was not part.
I was reminded of this recently when a potential client arrived at our office to consider doing business with us and this manufacturing firm’s name came up. Almost immediately, he mentioned the name of a friend of mine at the organization and derogatorily discussed his “attributes.”
I didn’t verbally agree with his assessment of my friend, as I was trying to learn if this person was someone I could do business with. To test him, I then brought up another name from that organization to see if he knew him. He did know him and proclaimed that this other person had been one of his best friends.
Instantaneously, my work was complete. I knew that this potential client would probably never be someone I could fully trust or do business with, because his assessments of people I knew were polar opposites of mine.
It’s a pretty simple tool to be able to bring up names, measure reactions, and learn of the character qualities of the person by whom they respect and hang out with before you learn the hard way.
If you would indulge me, I’d like to tell you the story of the second person mentioned and why that defined this potential client:
Steve, like me, was from Pittsburgh and a huge Steeler fan. In my previous life, I was selling HVAC equipment to Steve, and he was rarely interested. I was aggressive and would not take no for an answer.
We had a contemptuous relationship based on disrespect for each other and distrust. I would sponsor a foursome at his annual golf outings, eventually refusing to sponsor or attend as they denigrated with questionable behavior.
One time while on an elevator, as the only other passenger departed, leaving Steve and me alone, Steve pulled the “kill switch” and proceeded to give me a lecture on how I was to do business with him. Suffice it to say, not in a way that I was going to participate.
Problem is, we both had huge personalities, and I was not going to go away.
We eventually learned to do business together the right way, both learning to respect each other, knowing that we needed each other.
One day, I received a call from an associate of Steve’s. It seemed that Steve had begun confusing words in a meeting. A rush to the hospital revealed a massive brain tumor that was inoperable and certain to give him just a few months at best.
I was traveling at the time and immediately felt prompted to challenge Steve with the last few months of his life to not let his previous life be the legacy with which he would leave to his wife and daughters, but a new Steve who was now above those previous indiscretions.
I hit the send button! (In a previous “Marketing Minute,” I wrote about how careful you must be in hitting the send button).
To my great surprise, about an hour after hitting send, Steve called me on my cellphone.
Steve, sounding nothing like I had ever heard before, was alive in spirit and energy. He was a renewed soul with the sound of hope, promise and future in his voice.
He said, “Jeff, thank you for sending the email. I know it wasn’t easy for you. I want you to know that I’m a changed person. I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled in my life. I know I don’t have much time left, but what I have, has been special.”
A few weeks later, I attended a wake for Steve. There were family, friends and obligatory visits by those who probably were there because they hoped to have an opportunity to “run into” another of the executives of this large manufacturer who would likely be paying their respects to their fallen comrade.
I approached Steve’s widow and introduced myself. She immediately recognized me and connected me to the email I had sent to Steve. She called her daughters over to meet me and shared that the last few months had been the happiest in many years.
She thanked me for being a different kind of friend and business associate from the others. She smiled and said that Steve would have loved to have had a chance at a new relationship with me. I felt the same.
People define who you are. My potential client knew the “old Steve,” and I didn’t like doing business with the old Steve, and I won’t do business with that type of person again. I would do business with the “new Steve,” who has been redefined.
If someone were to mention that they knew me to their potential client, I hope that my name will seal the deal, not kill it.
Jeff Pinyot is President, ECO Parking Lights/ECO Lighting Solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.