The Farmer and the Porsche

farmerYou know, I don’t normally write about sales-related topics. But I’ve always liked this story my dad told me when I first started out in AV/IT/automation over 20 years ago. It’s one of the many awesome #DadAdvice tidbits I got over the years as a second-generation entrepreneur. Though he was a pinstriper and signwriter and I am a creative technologist, a lot of things cross over — like this story. The story goes like this:

A person walks into a Porsche dealership with their best suit on, looking sharp and serious about buying a car. Every salesperson in the room fought to get in front of this potential client. Obviously, seniority was first in line for the client, then the eager middle seniority was next. Last was the newbie salesperson, pushed aside and left to watch what unfolds. Hopefully, they don’t get trampled in the rush.

After a lengthy exchange, the person in the nice suit left the dealership with a card behind to be contacted in the future. Everyone knew it was an easy sale and how lucky that salesperson was to get to that client. This only left the person at the bottom of the trickle-down wondering: How do you ever get to success in this environment? How do I get to be seniority if I can’t get to the client?

The next day came, and a loving couple walked in with a young child and another one on the way. They wanted a larger luxury SUV for a lifestyle upgrade. Again, everyone at the dealership was ready to jump to get this client; they pushed the new salesperson aside and ran to be the first in front of the potential client. This again left the newbie salesperson to wonder: How can I ever have success in this environment?

While the young newbie salesperson sat there and wondered about what a new strategy would look like, they looked out the window and saw an old farmer kicking some tires on an older, used Porsche that had been sitting in the corner of the lot for years.

“Perfect,” the newbie thought. “Get outside, have a chat. They seem nice enough. I’ll go say hi and stretch the legs, maybe just clear the head.” And so they did.

A few days go by, and the person in the nice suit had come in and out, taken a couple of test drives, asked a few questions — even haggled on price a few times. But no sale yet, though it’s a sure thing and everyone knows it. The family had already bought the new SUV and was happily on their way. Everyone but the newbie was counting their commissions before the checks hit the bank. The newbie still felt horrible, and management had come by to say, “Hey, you’re watching how the others do it, aren’t you? Why aren’t your numbers up? What’s the problem? Get more sales, and quick.”

It’s now been a stressful week or two; the nice suit person is still ready to buy, new clients have come in but the newbie still had no luck pushing their way to the front of the line. The newbie knows the cat-and-mouse game is rigged! The big dogs keep getting the treats. So again, the newbie was left to sit and ponder: What will break this cycle? How can I succeed in this? Then he looked outside and, low and behold, there was that old farmer again.

This time, all the other salespeople started laughing at the old farmer, pointing and making jokes about how broke he must be, how dirty he must be. But the young salesperson remembered him. They had chatted the other day and it made him feel better and connected again. The newbie had left their previous conversation hopeful and positive with a refocused energy.

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The newbie stood up, walked past everyone and went straight outside to talk to that farmer. The old farmer remembered the young salesperson and smiled. They chatted and laughed and got caught up again. Some time went by and the old farmer finally asked if he could drive the old, used Porsche. He said he had always liked this one when he was young; it was his dream car. Well, the young salesperson had no problem with that. Off they went!

Parking back at the dealership sometime later, the kid asked how the farmer liked the drive. The old farmer told him, “I always loved the old old Porsches look. But driving it, well, that was unbelievable! It was amazing! I could never get those other salespeople to even talk to me. You though, you’ve been nice, honest and helpful since the first day you saw me out here kicking tires. You came right out to help me and didn’t expect anything in return. So, thank you. All I have to say now is: Let’s go inside; I want to buy this old Porsche for myself, and I also want to get five of those shiny new Porsches. One for each of my kids — I’ve waited years to do this!”

The feeling that the new salesperson had as they signed a year’s worth of sales in one sit down, just knowing everyone was watching him in disbelief, was priceless. But the best part was that old farmer and his five kids told everyone they knew for years to come. That young kid ended up closing more deals than all the other salespeople in the company. They eventually came to own that dealership by the time their career was done. Now they have a lifetime of great stories to tell and a trail of clients and referrals that will never dry up.

I know things have changed, and this was #DadAdvice when I was kid. I don’t know what made me remember this story this morning. But I thought it was worth a share. Nowadays, change is happening fast, and sometimes it’s easy to forget the simple things like just connecting with people. Daily interactions and how we choose to treat people matter.

I’ve made a career working on referrals, just through conversation, shared positivity and passion toward a collective concept or vision to co-create something great. Sometimes I was racking and stacking a rig or doing real-time design iterations on a boardroom table. Sometimes it was one-on-one meetings or within teams of people. Seriously, even gardening and just talking to neighbors and passersby. It’s when we slow down and engage in these connections with others that things really start to happen, both personally and professionally. Being in an open, positive position to capture or create these shared moments without judgments and preconceived notions is key.

I hope this story connects with you, AV-related or not. Don’t just give up the challenge; don’t just sit watching and wondering as the old dogs get the treats. Take a new view and do things differently. Engage and walk toward the challenges! Don’t worry if you need to disrupt “the way things have always been done.” Be the hero who figures out a better way simply by being open and honest with yourself and others. Because who knows, maybe one day you’ll end up owning that company you’re working for right now.