Sales Know-How: Customers are gifts to be treasured

Like a child shaking a colorfully wrapped box, businesses spend their time trying to determine if a customer is going to be worthy of their time instead of being grateful for and enjoying the opportunity of working with a customer who is interested in their services.

"Yes! I got a pencil sharpener!" I'm not sure why but, a few years ago, my niece was sure she was having the best Christmas ever after opening that gift. The adults in the room all looked at one another slightly puzzled as to why that gift was her favorite but it didn't matter. She was having the best Christmas ever.

Unlike older children, younger children seem to approach each and every gift with eager anticipation. They spend less time trying to qualify a gift as good or bad before they open it and see what is inside. To the casual observer, it would seem that the older a child gets, the more likely he or she is to judge a gift based upon conditions completely unrelated to the gift itself.

For example, when young children sift through their Christmas gifts, their eyes sparkle with sheer delight and excitement from not knowing what is inside such beautifully wrapped parcels. They shake violently, hoping to hear a familiar sound that might help them solve the mystery of each carefully chosen present. Smiles are ear-to-ear as the children surround themselves with the joy and opportunity of the season.

Business people tend to take this one step further as they similarly qualify and classify their customers. Like a child shaking a colorfully wrapped box, businesses spend their time trying to determine if a customer is going to be worthy of their time instead of being grateful for and enjoying the opportunity of working with a customer who is interested in their services.

With the economy slowly recovering, our business landscape is changing as rapidly as the season. Customers who would normally be considered ideal clients are going out of business, and customers who have been previously written off as too small are growing quickly. In these economically uncertain times you may be erroneously thinking that the package in the biggest box with the prettiest wrapping paper contains the sweetest reward.

Imagine if your gifts could choose you. Suddenly the paradigm shifts and you realize that it may not be a good idea to pick your gifts up and shake them violently. You begin to look at your opportunities a bit differently because you now recognize that nothing in this world is certain. You begin to realize that some of the biggest opportunities in this world are disguised as simply average or normal. How do you know when you are talking with a customer who may just turn out to be your best gift of the year?

They surround you each and every day. They may not be the biggest customers you have yet. They may not be wrapped in the shiniest wrapping paper yet. They may not be packaged in the largest box under the tree but there is something magically unique about these opportunities. You will feel it within each conversation. You will spot these opportunities by listening with your gut.

Recognize that business is not slowing; it is simply moving from where it used to be to a new, undisclosed location. New customers have moved into plainly wrapped packages and scattered around the base of the Christmas tree instead of hiding in their usual hiding spots. If you want to be able to claim these new gifts, these new customers, as your own you must start by thinking more like the young, eager, and excited children you see at your holiday gatherings, full of unbridled faith and anticipation.

Your fresh attitude will launch you into 2009 with passion and excitement as you shake off this turbulent year and embrace the joy of receiving all good things. You will no longer rely on the cloudy thinking of the past. As you take a fresh look at some of the presents surrounding you in your business, you may find that the best gift of the year is where you least expect it.

Tom Richard is the President of Tom Richard Marketing and Bolt From the Blue sales training and specializes in both marketing and sales education. Visit his website at


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