Tis the season to be jolly and giving?

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I mostly live and work in Central London. There are many advantages and something for everyone. I love that it is a cosmopolitan and vibrant city, bustling with people, great scenery (I never get tired of the view of the City crossing Waterloo Bridge), there are easy transportation links, great shops, traditional pubs, theatres, bars and restaurants.

However, there is a darker side – homelessness and beggars. As the festive season approaches, I tend to notice beggars asking for money and hustling on the streets and I make a point of offering the friendly ones (using my gut instinct and reading their body language), a hot drink and some food. I never give money.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised by an encounter with an elderly vagrant. He got my attention because he was much older and sober and he gave a good opening pitch. “Can I have some money? I just need enough for my dinner. I’d like chicken curry.” I told him I did not have any money, but I could buy him a sandwich from Pret. He was adamant, he definitely did not want a Pret sandwich – turned his nose up.

He looked me in the eye and said slowly: “I want chicken curry and rice, with extra chilli sauce and a coke.” Pause. “Not diet.”

So I smiled and said “OK, I’ll see what I can do” and began to walk away. He called out after me and told me which café to go to – very specific. That made me laugh, so I said I had some errands to run, I’d get his food when I finished, which I did.

He was still sitting in the same place when I returned half an hour later. Obviously starving, he thanked me genuinely, opened the take away container and got stuck into his meal. I walked home knowing I’d made a small difference that day.

When I shared this story recently with friends, they said I was soft, I got played and I was conned, but I disagree. I thought his approach was right: he gave a good pitch; he was direct; he connected and read me perfectly and was successful. He got his chicken curry meal.

What surprised me was how I felt. I did something small – the take away cost £3.70 – and it made me smile.

 

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Everybody Needs A Superhero

Captain cb scully

Like most people, I read with amazement about Captain C B “Sully” Sullenberger (what a name), who was the ultimate hero in 2010. Not only did he successfully land Flight 1549 on the Hudson river following a bird strike, but he then walked the entire length of the plane – twice – to make sure all 150 passengers had escaped. He was the last person to leave the aircraft.

My earliest memory of a superhero is Batman played, of course, by the gorgeous Adam West. To me, he was the ultimate hero. Smart, funny, brave and strong and he always solved the problem, caught the bad guy and lived to fight another day.

 “Being a hero doesn’t mean you’re invincible. It just means that you’re brave enough to stand up and do what’s needed.”Rick Riordan, The Mark of Athena

It may be controversial and I know we don’t often save lives, but I feel quite strongly that the majority of sales professionals are unsung heroes. I feel privileged that I get to interact and engage with these hard working men and women who regularly demonstrate their superhero qualities on behalf of customers who, surprisingly, probably don’t realise it.

In that list I would include my favourite luxury fragrance sales ladies who consistently and patiently go the extra mile to help their discerning clientele understand, discover and select the suitable gift for family, friends and sometimes as a mark of gratitude for business connections. Or the good people in Logistics who ensure that valuable documents, drawings and their clients’ best work is delivered on time and in a professional manner. Lastly, those tenacious City surveyors who are pivotal to finding the right office building in the right location, providing security, safety and a working environment so their clients can get on with whatever they do.

When I get feedback from a client about how my coaching enabled a reserved individual to approach a group of peers and prospects at a high profile networking event with confidence, skills and ability, I feel like a hero. Most recently, I heard one chap practised his questioning techniques in a social setting. He is now dating the lady he practised on, not quite what I had in mind for connecting and engaging!

Doing what we do every day, we often encounter rejection and a fair amount of frustration, but to the people we are in service to – our customers – we are their heroes. So go on, I dare you, adopt your superhero persona and go the extra mile to be your customers’ hero today. 

(Oh, and do tell me how you got on…)