6 Lessons Your Business Can Learn From The Panhandler Who Conned Me.

It didn't work.  The CD, that is. I got conned.  Played.  And right in front of my wife.

Here is what happened.

Sara and I were out for a rare night alone away from our three children.  We enjoyed dinner at a local gastro pub, a beer or two, and coffee -- apparently because we're old and need to stay alert if we are going to maximize our time together.  After wandering into a few stores downtown, we decided to head back to the car.

That's when he stepped around the corner of the street.

"Here you go..." he said.  "It's my latest rap album.  I want you to have it".

For some reason I took the CD that was being shoved into my hands.  It was a CD.  No cover.  No sleeve.  Just a CD that the artist had signed with his name using a Sharpie.

"This is my second mix," he went on to tell me. "It's been playing on 97.3 this week."

I still had not said a word.  I was still trying to figure out the situation.  One minute I was holding Sara's hand talking about how the kids were doing in their classes, and the next minute I was in the the middle of a hop-hop discussion holding a CD.

"We're raising money for charity."

That's what I heard next.  "If you can help us do some good, we would appreciate it."

The next thing I know I am reaching into my wallet and handing the artist a ten dollar bill.

"Wow.  Thank you very much," he said.  And the way he said it brought me back to reality.  I knew I had just been played.

Sara knew it was happening way before I did.  And accompanied it a few minutes late with a "I told you so".

The CD was blank.  Had I turned it over earlier, I would have easily seen that.

I got fooled.

But I also learned an important lesson from a panhandler who sold me $10 worth of nothing.

  1. Give your prospects something they can hold on to. -- It's not enough to have information on your website.  You have to create interaction.  That comes from putting your product or service into the hands of your prospect.  That makes it harder for them to shove you away.
  2. Keep your presentation short. -- Don't use extra words that don't help you close the deal.  Know your lines.  Know what works.  Just keep it simple.  Pitch as simply and as clearly as you can.  If you are saying more than a sentence or two at a time you might be saying too much.
  3. Have a good story to tell about who you are. -- You can make it personal by telling a story about yourself. Don't just offer a product or service, tell them about yourself.  People want to buy from other people, not from big faceless companies.
  4. Being believable matters. -- If you can't get your prospects to believe that you can do what you are saying you can do, then you won't get them to purchase from you.  You have to be believable.  That's on you - not your prospects.
  5. Be clear about what you want your client to do. -- Don't give your prospects 17 different things to think about.  Just lead them to do the next step.  Make it simple to understand and exclusive to them.
  6. Keep it honest or you won't close the next deal. -- Don't do "anything" to close the deal.  Frankly, you can win one sale from just about anything. Lying makes it impossible to build a loyal customer-base.  Be careful what you promise.  It might come back to bite you.

You might not think that you are in the same business as the panhandler who conned me on a downtown sidewalk.

But you are.

You need customers and need (desperately) to move products and services.

From time to time you need to stop and ask yourself: "Are you taking shortcuts?"  

The difference between growing your business and wallowing in your own bad habits is a series of decisions.  There are lessons to be learned from the panhandler I met Saturday night.  Important lessons.

Remember though - no one like to be conned.

I have a CD to prove it.