Thursday, March 1, 2012

Overcoming "The Ask"

Anyone with sales experience will tell you, the hardest part about the job is always "the ask."  At what point in the pitch is "So would you like to take that home today?" ever comfortable?  The answer, never.  It may be obvious that they love the car, the shoes, or the puppy in the window. However, asking them to have enough confidence in your product or service, really, in you, is tough.  It's personal, and the honest truth is "not today" hurts.  "No," as any toddler can attest, is even worse.  Rejection time after time is hard to handle, and every time it happens, it makes the next ask even harder.
When I came home from my three day Teacher Certification Course with Mel and Victoria, I was on fire.  I was ready to get out there and tell the world all about Square Foot Gardening, and I expected everyone would listen with open ears and open hearts.  Monday morning I hit the phones.  I called the county extension class director, the city library events coordinator, the Director of Volunteering for the Childrens Home, I was shooting big.  Message after message was left and I only got one call back.  The extension office wanted to know if I was a Master Gardener. "Well no, " I said, "but you don't need to be a Master Gardener to be successful in this method." "Hmm,"  she said, "we'll get back to you."  To date, I've heard nothing.  "What's wrong with these people?," I thought.  Here I was, ready to volunteer my time and resources, to give them the most wonderful gift in the world,  a garden, the place where beauty meets food, and they didn't even have the consideration to return my phone call.  Well, hmmm, them.
"So on to bigger things," I said and thought of the ultimate way to reach the masses. People will come to me, have questions, love my product and buy my goods.  Florida's Largest Home Show.  Tens of thousands of people flock to the fair grounds for a weekend chock full of gutters, mowers, and Square Foot Gardens.  But how could I make this happen?  Sounds expensive.  Sounds hard.  Sounds like I have another "no" coming.
I pulled up the website and did my research, picked up the phone and waited for the voice at the other end of the line.  This is how it went:
"Hello, this is Paige."
"Hi Paige, my name is Dacia and I am calling about the possibility of having a booth at your upcoming show."
"Ok, what do you do?"
"Well,I have a non-profit here in Tampa that puts Square Foot Gardens into homes and communities in need.  Are you familiar with the book Square Foot Gardening?"
"Well, it is an easy method of growing enough veggies to feed an adult for an entire year in only a 4x4 space.  We like to help people become self-sufficient by providing their own healthy, organic foods, especially for their kids, and you know, like, save the world." (clearly I started getting nervous.)
"Huh, Square Foot Gardening, well that sounds really good.  Oh my boss just said he has one in his back yard." (YES!  I'm in!) "How do you usually price."
"Traditionally, Mel Bartholomew the author of the book has made himself available for presentations in exchange for a booth.  He was just in Florida, but I am a Foundation Certified Instructor and am a very close second to Mel! (I know... bit of a stretch.)  I would be happy to do presentations throughout the weekend for a discount on a booth if that will work for you."
"I will have to run it by my boss."
"Well, I have been to many of your home shows and have seen the Habitat for Humanity booth, they are one of the organizations I have been working to partner with, and I think having a booth next to them would work really well for both of us."
"Oh, who have you been talking to over there?"
(This is the point at which you want to be able to drop the name of the person you ACTUALLY talked to.)
"The director ______ and I have sent a few e-mails back and forth."
"Ok, well let me talk to my people over at Habitat and see what they think and I will e-mail you tomorrow and give you an answer."
"That sounds good, thanks again for your time, Paige.  I look forward to your email tomorrow."
That was the longest night of my career. I waited all day and didn't receive an e-mail.  I was crushed, yet another "no."  But instead of giving up I gave her a follow-up call that afternoon. 
"Hi, Paige it's Dacia from Squ..."
"Oh, Dacia!  Hi I haven't forgotten about you, my computers crashed and it has been a nightmare here today.  I am so sorry I haven't gotten back to you yet.  Since you called here is what we are thinking,  a 20x20 booth next to Habitat for Humanity, close to the stage.  The girls at Habitat have been bugging the Director to start working with you, they think what you are doing is great, so you should keep on them, too."
"Wow, ok!  Thanks Paige, that is amazing!"
"I will send you the details Monday."
When the email finally arrived, I was elated to see that they were going to give me a $3,600 booth FOR FREE.  Carpet, chairs, tables, all included. I could not believe my eyes, I even made my husband read it to me to be sure I was seeing it right.  They even gifted me a half page ad on the back cover of the program and wanted me to set-up a pyramid booth at the enterance of the show.  Amazing!
What we do is exciting, inspiring, and for many people around the world- life-changing.  For those who will listen, what we have to give is something special. 
Do not ever be afraid to ask, you never know what  kind of gift you might be given in return.
By Dacia Mitchell
New Teacher,Tavares,FL symposium class