While at the Natural Products Expo helping a client set up the trade show booth I’d sold them, I ask the marketing director (a dear friend) if they were hiring any sales executives?
The sentence barely passed over my lips, when she bolted out of sight and, like a well-tossed boomerang, returned to confirm that the new V.P. of Sales, would meet with me at the booth on Sunday at noon.
Mistake #1: Judging Others by Their Scarf, or ___(fill in the blank)
I arrived at the booth as scheduled and was told that the V.P. of Sales (we’ll call him George) had stepped out, and would be back at any moment. No sooner had I settled into a chair when I noticed a six-foot-something-ish man strutting down the aisle of the trade show with the swagger of Mick Jagger on the catwalk at a Stones concert.
The dude was wearing dark glasses (inside), tight black jeans, a tight-fitting black t-shirt, black cowboy boots, and a leopard print scarf!
No alt text provided for this image
As he zigzagged his way through the crowd, he was headed directly for me, collapsed in the seat across from mine, swept his rock-star bangs from his face, and in a booming voice said, “Wow. . . what a show!”
I am rarely speechless, but this time, I was mute. He broke the silence.
“So you’re Tarini?” he said, with a hint of surprise. “…I’ve heard fabulous things about you!” Then leaned-in close enough to make me sweat, and smiled a disarming combination of childlike and clairvoyant.
“Um, yes . . . I’m Tarini, and . . . um, I’m guessing you’re George?”
I stammered as much from having to adjust my image of him as from nervous tension.
He didn’t fit the image I had in mind of the organic company for which he was in charge of leading their sales — the one where Birkenstock’s, organic cotton, hemp, and dudes with ponytails seemed de rigueur.
But the truth is…
I hadn’t had time to picture him.
If I had, he would not have been dressed like Johnny Cash with leopard print accessories and have the moves like Jagger.
So began my career in an organic herbal supplement company with a mentor I could not have cast more perfectly than if I’d called central casting myself!
He was the rare, and perfect combination of a crazy-wise sales guru, corporate outlaw, transcendental mystic, and misbehaver that I needed for my growth.
Mistake #2: Not Surrendering My Agenda To Serve Others.
“Surrender and serve . . . It’s so simple,” George said. His eyes distant and misty as if recalling a time he’d failed to heed his own advice. “The secret is to give up our agendas and allow the other to win . . . this is the only sales advice you will ever need!” If he said this once, he said it a hundred times in as many ways.
Mistake #3: Chasing Sales Goals Instead of Transferring Enthusiasm and Inspiring People
Over the thirteen years I spent growing that company with him, there were as many times that I lost sight of my purpose, dug my heels in, and focused on hitting numbers.
When I’d get overly numbers driven — and weary from it — George would crack a joke that reminded me to take my responsibility seriously, but myself lightly.
Then he’d offer some crazy-ass sales wisdom like…
“Tarini, forget about the numbers!” he’d boom. “Your job is to transfer enthusiasm and inspire people to fall in love with this mission, and the numbers will follow!”
Mistake #4: Not Re-frikin-laxing
One morning I called George with my hair on fire, ready to fire one of my sales reps.
I told him my story, I had it locked down, and finished by saying, “give me one good reason why I shouldn’t fire em’?”
Without missing a beat, George replied, “I’ll give you two. One: This is your ego getting in the way, and two: You won’t respect yourself in the morning.”
Then he added, “Tarini, your job is to be a calming influence and get out of their way. It’s only vitamins. . . re-frikin’-lax!
Mistake #5: Hiring Based on Résumé Rather Than Traits
Once when I asked him why he took the risk on me as a sales manager… without prior experience on my résumé… his response; “Because great leaders have the ability and the willingness to surrender to something bigger than themselves — you’ve got both. And besides… do I look like the H.R. department to you!?”
The Epic Take-Away: Stop Behaving Yourself!
Whenever I see the bumper sticker that reads, “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” I think of George.
He had an uncanny sense of timing on when misbehavior was called for and when it was necessary to play by the rules. For this reason, he was what I call a professional misbehaver.
The term “professional misbehavior” is one coined by my friend (another mentor), and author Rick Lewis. To be a professional misbehaver as Rick defines it is to intelligently break the rules — our own and at times the rules — so that we contribute our authentic selves and derive a sense of lasting significance from our work, and our lives.
These mistakes I made, or only narrowly missed making, are just a sampling of the many lessons I learned from my sales mentor, who was either breaking rules intelligently or just misbehavin’.
Here’s the epic lesson I’ve learned as a mentee to a spiritual mentor, and to my rock-star sales manager:
1. Be vulnerable; tell the truth, and ask for help.
2. Work your ass off to extract the diamonds from mistakes and misbehavior’s, and leave behind the rhinestones.
3. Pay the gems forward by being our authentic self (Leopard print scarf is totally optional)!