Guarding the Fishbowl

“When you don’t find much meaning in what you do, you don’t bring much value to what you do.”

                                                                                                        ~Jim Cathcart

I think I first heard Jim say that in about 2002. I remember thinking about those words one Saturday afternoon when I was in a discount store doing some shopping with my wife. I was actually just following – (I’m not a good shopper) but I did manage to pick up a couple of tools.

The store was one of those that requires a membership card and everyone has to enter through the same door. As I’m sure there is on most Saturdays, there was a steady stream of patrons passing this same point and I could not help but notice a display to the right of the door containing cell phones. The display was attractive, it had all kinds of information about telephone services on it and there were also many cell phones. There was a fish bowl in the middle of the table that I can only assume was for business cards. Oh, and I almost forgot: there was a salesperson. Or at least a person.

As the crowd went by the display, many of the people were talking on cell phones or perhaps had just put them away. Some of the people were there for items they needed, but many – like me – didn’t know exactly why they were there. They were there spending discretionary income with discretionary time. And no one was approached- not once –by the cell phone guy.

After selecting my non-essential plumbing tools while waiting for my wife, I circled back a couple of times to see how Phone Guy was doing. He was inspecting the lights. He was twiddling his thumbs. He was talking on his cell phone! He was bored.

Imagine how long that day was for him. He probably went home very tired. Maybe he talked about how terrible his day was and how he should find a better job because no one buys phones, they already have them.

What a waste. His employer paid him to work all day. He showed up, but instead of engaging some of the hundreds of prospects that just kept filing by the booth (that his employer paid for) like ducks on a pond; instead of relieving some of them (like me) of their discretionary dollars by showing them new and improved phones and services, he chose to wait for business cards to jump into the bowl. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never picked up the phone to order a cell phone. I also have changed providers several times because of promised lower prices and better services. People who have cell phones buy cell phones.

This could have been the day when timing, opportunity and need met the right product and salesperson, and I just might have bought the cell phone my son had been claiming he needed. But Phone Guy didn’t reach out – to me or anyone else. And he probably didn’t make any sales.

I had a curious thought on the way home: it looked like he was guarding the fish bowl!

You may not get an appointment with every call you make, or an order from every meeting with a prospect. It might even take you 20 meetings in some months to generate a single meaningful proposal. One thing you can be sure of, though, is that the enthusiasm and discipline that you put into each and every one of your daily activities – the value you bring- will determine your long-term success.

You will find that to be true whether you are prospecting, presenting to large or small groups, writing proposals or just working within the structure of your company.

If you let the value you bring to the situation be obvious, your success will be certain.

~ Jerry Cox, Brainier President