I discovered my dryer was broke last week – wasn’t heating. I called a local repair service that I had used before for a refrigerator before. While the technician – I’ll call him John – was working on the dryer, we just started talking about business. Turns out he’s one of the owners of the company. He and I batted back and forth thoughts on sales, where he sees opportunities and challenges for his profession, and how he achieves success.

Thoughts on Sales and Business

John started the repair teaching me about my dryer – the do’s and don’t’s. He walked through what he was testing and why. He was teaching me because I took apart some of the dryer before he arrived. I tried to diagnose the problem myself but found myself lacking.
As we talked about the dryer, he asked me what I do – sales. He asked me a lot of questions about sales and why I found it both challenging and rewarding. After a few more probing questions, I asked him his interest. John shared how he viewed sales as an “everyone has to do it” thing. He realizes the most important aspect of sales is building trust. He talks about how he often does not ask for a sale, but find people “buying” his services. Customers want to buy from him. He builds trust with customers. It’s what he was doing with me early on by teaching me about the dryer – establishing credibility. He established more trust while knowing I’d still need help to fix appliances anyways. Read: I’d be a customer again.

Where John Sees Great Opportunity

John feels most technicians, especially those working for big companies, work for a stable hourly wage. But the good technicians want commissions. These are the ones who know that if they deliver for customers, they’ll get repeat customers – earn more money. For John, he sees the opportunity for technicians who have the soft skills knowing technicians are the foot soldier sales force, not back-office staff. Technicians interface directly with customers.
Technical education is where John sees the greatest opportunities. John says local colleges and high schools have done away with many of the basic electrician courses, focusing instead on services. Now, there’s a dearth of capable technicians who can truly troubleshoot, and not just “part changers”. Adding to the problem are larger companies who do not offer proper training to technicians (hard and soft skills).
Being a technician is “recession proof”, he says. People still need to wash clothes. They still need refrigerated foods. People still need HVAC during recessions. He feels this is an area he’s poised to continue to succeed, but where other can step into looking for good job opportunities.

How John Succeeds

John enjoyed talking about business. He’s an avid listener to podcasts like Zig Ziglar’s to help him as a business owner. Since his job takes him across the city at times, John listens to business podcasts daily.
He’s a constant student. He cites his interest and passion for learning about electricity. In the past, in school, he did not apply himself or care much for different school subjects because they weren’t applicable to him. But when John started changing the context of geometry or science into terms he enjoyed like electricity or appliances – everyday objects – he started to absorb material faster and better. 
He credits his success to always learning. It’s one of the reasons why John schedules at least an hour a week – something doable – towards reflection and planning. He calls his Sunday his “ritual” day. He sets this time aside and turns off his electronics to focus on learning – developing “mastery” of his craft and improving his business.
There are entrepreneurs everywhere. They’re not always the internet stars in Silicon Valley. Most are the small business owners striving to build a life for themselves and their families – those pushing themselves.
Setting aside time for a dryer repair became so much more than just a repair. It was a networking opportunity and learning experience. It was an opportunity to meet a Stranger and be empathetic.
William the Magician!
About a month ago, I was talking to a buddy at a coffee shop about start-ups and entrepreneurship. A man sitting next to us overheard heard our conversation, and asked us questions about building businesses. He happened to be a professional magician, and ran a small business called Davenport Magic. William Davenport was, in gist, an entertainer for kids, company events, business customers (like Wow Café’s customers who would enjoy a dinner anda show), etc.
We spoke to William for a few minutes before having to part ways about all things including marketing, selling, and generally, growing the business.
Fast forward a couple weeks, and William called me to schedule a sit-down to talk in greater length about what he’s looking to accomplish and glean more tips. He also mentioned how that day we met, however brief, was taken to heart and he had implemented a lot of what we talked about including blogging to drive inbound marketing… EVERYDAY. I was astounded and impressed, so I agreed to an officialsit-down.
So we met yesterday, and had some good conversation, and man, I’m excited for him. He’s got a good thing going for himself, and has the desire to be something greater. But really, I’m more excited because he’s a good guy who is PASSIONATE about what he does.
I want to share a few tidbits from our conversation…
  • It’s all about relationships. I think everything is ultimately driven by relationships whether that’s to a brand, to a friend, to family, etc. For William, it’s apparent how important relationships are. Much of his business is from word-of-mouth. He’s a magician, and though it’s not a common skill/ profession, there are plenty of other options for selecting entertainment for a gathering. As such, what makes someone call you for a gig is that relationship. For me as I do independent consulting, I’m not really that different from others. Consulting’s commoditized. Instead, though, I get calls because of my relationships.
  • Your brand needs to be consistent and genuine. Part and parcel to relationships is your brand – who you are, what you represent. For William, he showed up in a suit, and carried himself with confidence. His tone of enthusiasm was authentic. He wanted to portray himself as a professional and inviting. Your relationships grow and become stronger through a consistent, genuine brand.
  • Call to action. Call to action. Call to action! From his website, to his emails, William didn’t have an apparent call to action to either visit his website, send him an email for more information, or sign up for a gig. When someone visits William’s site or sends an email, he (you can insert your name here) should motivate the visitor to interact with you. Leads are special and coveted, and once you have them in your queue, you can start to cultivate that relationship, which hopefully turns into an event (for William’s case).
  • Know your audience. William mentioned how he works hard to understand the psychology of the crowd. It allows him to throttle or mix up his tricks to cater to the crowd. For example, at tradeshows, he knows he needs to approach more than one person at a time because with one person, they can be scared and distrustful. With approaching two or more people at once, people tend to open up more… and with two people engaged, more of the crowd around stops to look at what’s happening.
  • “Make people feel great”. This was priority number one for William, and it’s a great message for everyone for their customers. This reminds me of the Head of Care for a major phone manufacturer I worked – she and her team strived for a common vision: “Delight the customer”. For William, making people feel great included the following facets: 1) great personality; 2) dress the part; 3) hold yourself to a higher standard; 4) ASTONISHMENT – this was more of an aim, but it’s paramount.
  • Be and stay humble. There’s always someone out there smarter than you, with more experience, or with a grander network. For William, there’s plenty he can learn from others, and there’s much I can learn from him including captivating audiences (or sales prospect for that matter). 
  • Work your @$$ off for your dreams and passions. When I asked William what kept him up at night, he recited everything about his business. His business is what drives him, and what motivates him. At the end of the day, he’s thrilled to have left his corporate life and computer science background behind in pursuit of his passion in magic and entertainment. You could tell that though he worked so hard, he still had so much energy and enthusiasm for what he does.

William’s going to do well on his current strategy, but there are few things he can do to be even greater – yes, including his website. We’re working on that. However, I know that he’s going to hustle and make good choices to expand. He’s eager to learn, and he wants to improve.
The other thing I realized, more for myself, is how much I like working with small businesses. This is probably what motivated my good friend Don Pottinger to write “The Best Entrepreneur I Know”. I see the same small business challenges and opportunities being in startups myself… also because I see the crazy hard work my dad puts into his small business in electrical and mechanical engineering. I just started a dialogue in potentially helping a small biz in Midtown selling lighting fixtures. With all the conversations, these are entrepreneurs who are working their tails off, and are so busy. I know that if I can make small changes in their businesses, I can make a world of difference for them, too.
William’s a magician and small business owner doing what he loves… that’s special, and what drives me. Dare I say, “It’s magical.” Haha, okay, when I reach this level of cheesy, I know it’s time to end.
Till next time!
What are your thoughts on what makes a great small business? How about a small business owner? What are some words of wisdom for William on up his company?