Listening Will Improve Management And Life Skills

by Kevin Daw
Posted On: 12/9/2019

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Last month, I wrote a piece on the perceived rise of “reverse inequality” at National Automatic Merchandising Association shows. I don’t begrudge anyone having their own gatherings. I don’t suffer from “fear of missing out,” as there are always things to do and people to meet. If there were four nights available during NAMA conventions, as there used to be, it would not seem as big a deal. Unfortunately, when suppliers and prospects only get so much time to spend together, and even less “free time,” and so many more women and under-40 executives exist in our industry than in the “old days,” the ramifications are amplified.

I did point out that not only does this affect my ability to get 100% out of attending a show, but that it also affects those in the various camps who miss out on valuable knowledge. Knowledge has always been a key driver for me when considering attending a tradeshow. I used to go to shows with the idea of finding at least one nugget of information that, if implemented in my business, would potentially cover the whole cost of attending. Oftentimes I derived that knowledge from a casual conversation held with other participants.

With that being said, and since I’m unable to attend the Coffee, Tea and Water Show this year, here are three “pay for the whole trip” pieces of wisdom I’ve learned. They are in no particular order of value, as I’ve found them all very valuable.

(1) “Try to work smart, not hard.”

This answer came after I asked a gentleman who ran a distribution business and was part-owner of a bottled water business that I had also invested in (and made president of) how he had achieved so much success, in his career. He expanded on the thought by telling me of how he had learned about time management, and worked on that aspect of his day, by use of a “Franklin Planner.” These were quite new at the time, before the advent of new technology that could help with the job of organization. Organization is an attribute I sorely lack, so although I doubt I ever got to his level of “very few wasted moments,” it indeed helped me increase my productivity in focusing on the important things, not necessarily the most interesting – or distracting.

This advice also came to mind when considering adding an account, that although of value and great import to the salesman involved, would end up costing too much “windshield time” to be profitable. It helped greatly in route efficiency.

(2) “Every phone call is one call closer to a yes.”

This came from a gentleman who ended up creating an entire sales training course based on that adage.

It sounds simple enough, but it’s something that kept me going in the early years when I was on straight commission sales.

His premise was built on the knowledge that every business has a definable success rate in the selling of a product. If you could determine how many calls it took to get a sale, you could determine how many calls it would take to meet weekly, monthly or even annual sales goals. It showed that no call is a bad call, and was a great motivator in getting on with the next call.

(3) “Everyone has value, and you never know what a person you’re speaking with today will be doing tomorrow.”

This one came from my own father and is pure gold as a life lesson. He would illustrate this point by telling the story of how he once called on a company, and a route driver was in the front office while my Dad awaited a sales meeting with the boss.

The driver was asking the receptionist if she could call him a cab, as his wife had dropped him off that morning, but couldn’t get away to pick him up.

My dad suggested to him that the meeting he had would not take long, and my dad would be happy to give him a lift if he was headed east. The driver was indeed headed east, and did indeed wait. They had a pleasant chat on the way, and that was that. Fast forward 10 years and said company, which had grown nicely over the years, put out a bid for coffee. In arriving to present a bid for his company, my dad ended up in the office of none other than that route driver from years before. The memory of my dad’s deed had left quite an impression on the gentleman, and although that chance meeting, and my dad’s reaction to a fellow person in need, were not solely the reason, my dad’s company landed that bid.

As always, may your cup runneth over, and the brew be exquisite!

KEVIN DAW is Head coffee buyer for Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private label roaster serving the OCS, foodservice, specialty and retail industries. A 39-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past three decades.