Kudos to Kevin Magee: sales and networking tips

I had a terrific conversation with Kevin Magee
over coffee and chocolate chillers at Second Cup this morning. I met
him very briefly at the Mesh planning party—in fact, while I was on
my way out—but within a minute he had set me at ease, established a
connection, and left me looking forward to chatting with him some
other time.

We finally had the opportunity to catch up today, and I’m glad we did.
He had read my blog (and even some of my homework assignments!), so he
knew of my passion for evangelism and my enthusiasm for sales. (Awww!)

Role model

And boy, did he have a lot to teach! He’s the kind of salesperson I’d
like to be. Many people both inside and outside sales think of sales
as a nasty, cut-throat business. Kevin Magee proves that not only do
nice guys finish first, but that it’s really the only sustainable way
to go.

“Have we met?”

Kevin told me about the benefits of having the kind of face that
everyone thinks they’ve seen somewhere. “Have we met?” is one of his
favorite techniques for getting people to talk about their backgrounds
and interests. Looking back, I realized that he must’ve deftly pulled
that on me too! Wow.

You just need 60 seconds

Kevin also shared some of the ways he taught other salespeople to
handle cold calls. He said that for the first 10,000 calls, it’s
truly, truly horrible. After that, it’s just horrible.

You know how many people start their call with, “Have I called you at
a good time?” Kevin shared that “Have I called you at a bad time?” is
much more effective. There’s never a good time to receive a
telemarketing cold call, after all, but in general, people will be
generous and say that it isn’t a bad time.

Then Kevin told me how he taught sales people to ask for 60 seconds,
just 60 seconds to find out if this is the right conversation they
should be having. They would then time themselves, stop at 60
seconds—preferably in the middle of a sentence—and ask for
permission to continue. By so clearly respecting the other person’s
time—and piquing the other person’s interest!—they might be able to
get permission to continue for 5 minutes. And then maybe a meeting in
person. Asking *permission* draws people further in because you
respect their time and allow them to control the conversation.

Recruiters rock

Even with the 60-second technique, though, cold-calling is tough tough
tough tough. You can warm up the call by connecting with people in the
organization. Kevin found that recruiters are *great* for doing that,
which is why he’s happy to help them however they can. See, recruiters
are in the business of connecting with people, and they form special
bonds with the people they place. When Kevin wants to crack open an
account, he’ll ask his recruiter friends if they’ve placed anyone
there—almost always yes—and then he’s in with an introduction!

Wow

So for an hour and a half, this experienced, wonderful salesperson
shared all sorts of sales tips that I would probably have had to spend
years learning. I’ve read lots of books on networking and sales, but
it’s different hearing from people who are actually doing it and doing
well.

I’d love to help him grow, too. Kevin told me that reading my
reflections on this blog had prompted him to think about how he was
doing things and how he could improve. For a 23-year-old, I’ve learned
a fair bit, and that’s because of kaizen – the Japanese
principle of constant improvement. I love experimenting, reflecting on
the results, sharing my thoughts, and working on the next step.
Sharing what I’m learning about life has led to so many more insights
from other people. Wow!

Next steps

So, how can I act on his advice?

His “Have we met?” trick will be very handy for me. I meet so many
people at the local tech get-togethers. That’s one way to make that
connection and to naturally tell people about these events if they
haven’t heard of them yet.

I can look for ways to be more useful to the recruiters in my network.
I would love to introduce them to teachers who are interested in
helping their students find cool work, for example. I can keep an eye
out for students and professionals looking for work at the events I go
to. Still, I’m not adding much value that way, but at least referrals
are handy, and if I vouch for the recruiter, that’s at least a little
bit. If I get to know people better, then I can add more value.

And the things I want to do for my career? I think there’s a big
market for it, bigger than I’d realized… I can do so much to help
people connect!

I’m looking forward to getting to know Kevin Magee better in February. What a way to start my day!

Random Emacs symbol: set-fringe-mode – Function: Set `fringe-mode’ to VALUE and put the new value into effect.

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