I don’t own a car. It took me a long time to get over my ego and admit that I don’t have a car mostly for financial reasons. I could afford one, but it’s such a huge waste of money and resources I don’t think I’ll ever own one again. I don’t think anyone should own one, actually. I think we should (and will one day) share, but that’s a post for another day.The biggest problem with not having a car is that you have to ask a lot of favors. Yet another huge ego blow for me. So I decided to write a blog post telling you how great it is to ask people for favors. Maybe that will heal my ego.
First, I want to distinguish what selling is all about, at least for me. Selling is all about helping people solve some problem. In my case, the problems I most frequently solve are related to writing and marketing, in particular technology marketing. I know how to solve some other problems, but those are the problems I charge people for solving.
In any case, wherever I go, I go without a car. I get to where I’m getting by public transportation or self-propulsion or taxi, and it works quite well. Once I get to a place, though, I am usually on the lookout for a way home, that is, a ride. This isn’t the best conversation-starter ever, but it works. And it forces me to start conversations with people, so I pretty much never go anywhere without meeting people.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t just walk up to total strangers and ask them for a ride. I have to actually get interested in them. Hi. Who told you about this meetup? What were you looking to get from this meetup? Where are you from? Etc. I always make sure to figure out where they are from.
And the thing is, people like to talk about themselves and their problems. If I know how to resolve any of their problems, or I know someone who could help them with their problems, I do what I can. If you are out in the world looking for how to help others, that is true networking. If you are out in the world looking to bum a ride, well, you are just a bum. I’m not denying that.
The best part is once I’ve secured a ride, I get a chance to know someone better. I am usually not intentionally trying to sell anything. I’m just talking to the person and trying to be conversational and friendly. After all, they were nice enough to give me a ride. I want to be upbeat and entertaining at the very least. Unless they are making phone calls, in which case I just aim for unobtrusive.
In order to be entertaining, I try to talk about the driver’s favorite topic, which typically is something related to themselves. This is where it starts to get to be natural to sell.
Given that selling is about solving problems, the first step in selling is getting to know other people’s problems. But there is a catch. This isn’t a gimmick. If you don’t really care about people, they sniff that a mile away and won’t talk to you about their issue, even if they know it’s your profession to solve such problems. In fact, if you don’t genuinely care about people in the first place, I recommend keeping your car. That isolated metal box suits you, and people don’t offer sociopaths rides.
Now, I’m not saying that I am more interested in the other person more than I am interested in myself. I do have to force myself a bit to talk less about me and ask more about them, because me is my favorite topic. I won’t deny that.
Also, most people don’t need my services. I “sell” other stuff too. Sometimes I give them the name of someone else or another company. Sometimes I recommend a particular discipline of self-development. Sometimes I just listen. That’s often the best thing you can do for another human being. But often, it just turns out that the person offering the ride does need my services. It just so happens that way. It’s not chance. Not when you bum as many rides as I do. It’s a numbers game, like any sales job.
Regardless of the numbers, at the end of the day, it’s all about caring. Caring enough to ask about the person. Caring enough to hear what they are dealing with, even if they are kind of subtle about stating their issues. Caring enough to suggest an answer or recommend a solution.
Lately I’ve been doing some pro-bono work for the Microsoft Accelerator here in Israel. I truly want these young people to succeed, and I’m willing to put in a morning a week to help them, because I care. I just do. I believe that the success of my business is mainly because I care about solving people’s problems. I am listening for that, writing for that, and developing that on a daily basis.
I’m glad they are listening for me too, because the best part of hitching rides is making new friends and deepening relationships with the people around me.