Drawing on more than 40 years of sales prowess, Jim McCarty has developed an intriguing, results-oriented series of sales techniques known as Showbiz Selling. I conducted this interview a few years back as research for another project, and I’m pleased to share his remarks with you here. You can learn more about Jim at http://www.ShowBizSelling.com.
KL: Thank you for speaking with us today. Can you share with us your thoughts on prospecting?
JM: Sure. One fact is this: Everybody prospects. I don’t care if you’re a priest or a rabbi or in the real estate sales or if you run an envelope company. Everybody has to prospect. I mean, even if you’re looking for a wife, or you’re looking for a date, you’re prospecting. That’s the whole thing. I think that sales people have the responsibility to get sales, are afraid of the word “prospecting.” You know, they’re human beings. They’re not prospects. If, in fact, you walk down the street, everybody you came in contact with would be a “prospect,” as far as I’m concerned. A long time ago, we tried to make it more definitive when we said a prospect was a person—as far as the life insurance business.
KL: Great insight!
JM: A prospect was a person who was in good health, had a need, and had the money to solve the problem. We have a tendency, as sales people—and I’m putting everybody in that category as sales people—to say, “Well, what do I say to him? How do I approach him? What do I do? How can I gain their attention? Should I mail something? Should I send them a pen? Should I…?” I mean, that’s too much information. Here’s what I say to people. Let’s say that you were starting in business. You’re starting in the business of doing management consulting. Well, where do you start? You see a group of people at your church or Rotary Club or whatever. Where would you start? Here’s how you start:
“Hi, I’m Jane Smith, and you are–?”
“Oh, I’m Jim McCarty.”
“Jim, let me ask you a question. Are you from here? I mean, are you a native of Columbus or–?”
And I’d say, “Well, no, as a matter of fact, I live in Florida.”
“Really? So what exactly is it that you do?”
“Well, I’m the national spokesperson for American Express Financial Advisors. What is it that you do?” I would ask out of politeness. It’s called engagement. And we are reluctant, as human beings, to engage people whom we label. Somebody’s the president of a company. That intimidates you.
KL: We feel intimidated- yes.
JM: Even if it was a welder, we say, “Well, I don’t know anything about welding, so I’m not going to say anything.” And whenever you put a label on a person, you become more reluctant to approach that person. And prospecting simply is engaging people on a regular, ongoing basis, looking for common ground.
KL: What I’m hearing you say is that sales people, because they’re human beings, that one of the reasons for their hesitation is they’re concerned that they don’t want to dehumanize the process, or they don’t want to dehumanize people. So by engaging people, we can prospect without losing that human condition. We must always be in the mode of engaging and showing an interest in other people.
JM: Exactly. To expand on that just a little bit, you should find people that you genuinely like. Too many times, sales people say, “What can I do to make you like me?” Well, that’s not the thing. People will want to do business with people that like them.
KL: That’s reasonable. That makes sense.
JM: I believe our minds are funny things. I’m not a psychologist but I do have a strong belief in the fact that our minds really don’t know right from wrong, up from down, left from right—unless we’ve told our mind whatever it is, over a long period of time. And our mind associates actions with the words that we tell our mind—it is self talk. For example, if we have somebody in the- the head of the sales department, and said to him, “You’re going to have to prospect or perish.” The word prospect turns a lot of people off. They think, “I’m not any good at prospecting. That sounds like something pushy. That’s not me. I’m not good at that.”
KL: It sounds as if you become known as a prospector, people will avoid you in the elevator.
JM: Exactly. I had an agent one time that worked for me that was really good. He was really good but he was in a real bad slump and he was at the- about three months had gone by and he hadn’t sold hardly anything. And I was on the verge of having to terminate him. But he was a great guy. I couldn’t say enough good things about him. And he was good, when he was good. I said to him one day, “Look, for the next two weeks, I want you to do me a favor. I just want you to go over to the mall. Don’t come to work and don’t come in the office for two weeks. Go over to the mall and just hang around. I want you there when the people are out there walking, and I want you there only until noon. Will you do that for me?” So, he said okay. Guess what happened? He started writing a lot of business—not at the mall but he started writing some business from the activity at the mall, which got him excited again so that he would go on out and continue the march. It saved his career, if you will, because when he would go there, even if he was sitting on a bench in the mall or sitting in the food court. Every once in awhile somebody would say to him, “I have seen you here for about the last three days. What’s going on? What do you do?” Somebody would engage him in a conversation about what it was that he actually did. One of the best things a person can do is go to the Men’s Wearhouse. Do you have a Men’s Wearhouse?
KL: Yes. We have several.
JM: You know, it’s funny. You walk into the Men’s Wearhouse, and you buy lots of stuff because you think they like you. Remember what I said here awhile ago?
KL: I remember very well.
JM: You walk in, just take a survey—go buy a pair of socks. Find the least expensive thing. Walk in and somebody will come up to you and they’ll introduce themselves. “I’m Joe Schmoe, and you are?”
“Well, I’m Jim McCarty.”
“Really, Jim? So what is it that you do?” Immediately they do that.
KL: They engage people who come in.
JM: Absolutely. And then guess what happens? People buy more stuff because they think that they’re friends with the guy. People do business with people they like. You can’t get to that stage unless you engage somebody in a conversation and visit with them. Don’t prospect: visit.
KL: Okay. That makes perfect sense. Is there anything else that you would like to add that you haven’t shared with us?
JM: Sure. Let’s not make such a big deal project out of prospecting. It’s, “Hi, how’s it going?” I have a friend of mine, a good friend—he’s a plastic surgeon. Guess what he’s got to do on a regular basis?
KL: He has to prospect.
JM: Absolutely. Now, if you said to him, “So, do you do any prospecting?” I’m not sure what he’d say. But they do it, in every walk of life, through websites, running ads in the newspaper, having shirts, sponsoring the Run for the Cure—you know, I mean, sponsoring the symphony. That’s called prospecting. Everybody prospects.