Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Day in the Mountains or You Never Know!

When I was in sales many years ago, I attended a sales seminar facilitated by a failed salesman, who had changed his career path from sales to holding seminars on "How to Sell". It was much like unsuccessful actors or writers, who became critics or wrote book on "How to become a Successful Actor" or "How to Become a Best-selling Author". The one thing he said I found profoundly enlightening was "You never know where your next sale is coming from." which I have found to be very true; consequently, I am manic about self-promotion. This would embarrass some people and certainly offends the dignity of some authors; however, I have found that doesn't only apply to sales but also to opportunities.

People will never know about my books if I don't adhere to that philosophy. This is likely the reason I have more than 40,000 books (5 titles) in print or the eBook format. None were self-published. I met one publisher in a coffee shop. One in a grocery store. Most of this as a result of not being shy, which I will never be accused of. Strike up a conversation. "What do you think of these new electronic books?" "Do you read much?" They may look at me strangely, but I usually manage to get in the fact that I'm a writer. "Really? Do I know your books? What have you written?" and so on.

Case in point: On a recent weekend I was traveling in the mountains. I had a time schedule to keep to arrive in Brevard, North Carolina. The trip started from my home in Greenville, SC. Mapquest said it was 58 miles, an hour and twenty minutes. Fortunately, I left early, as I usually do. If you have a car set up by a NASCAR crew chief or have participated in the "Pike's Peak Hill Climb", you might make it in that length of time. I found that estimate extremely inaccurate, and I am not a cautious or slow driver. The road is two lane, no guard rails and steep drops into Never Land. Some of the most beautiful scenery I know of, but certainly not built for speed.

After being on the road for nearly two hours, Brevard was not in sight. I was hungry and frustrated. Suddenly, there was a small mountainside restaurant not much larger than the first floor of my modest house. I needed directions and food, so I stopped. As I got out of my car, a jeep pulled in and three young people got out. Two men and a woman. They were dressed for a day tromping through the hills - the men in jeans and she wearing cut-offs and knee length rubber boots. They would surely know where the hell Brevard was and how long it would take me to get there.

I used the standard southern opening: "Are you all from around here?" "No, we're from Greenville, SC." The answer came. Although my hopes faded, I asked if they knew where Brevard was and they did. "About thirty minutes away." "That far?" "It's only about twelve miles." Are you getting an idea about the road?

Being on a health kick, I order only two chili dogs. I have found after much research, one can only get "real" chili dogs at small "Mom & Pop" restaurants far from civilization. I did manage to ignore the home-baked pies displayed on the counter next to the sign that said: "I need ones". To my point, they were the best chili dogs I have found since I moved to SC.

Since the threesome that got out of the jeep were sitting close, I struck up a conversation, managed to give them a business card that listed my books and a picture postcard of the cover of my book, "Nothin' Left to Lose", which had just been issued as an eBook. In the conversation, it came out that one of the men, Aaron von Frank and his wife Susan own a public relations firm, bitTyrant. That certainly caught my attention. I am always impressed by young entrepreneurs, who look or sound like they know what they're doing. Needless to say, I asked them to contact me, that I would like to hear more about their business.

The following Monday - by the way, because I had left Greenville so early, I did make it to Brevard barely on time - I received an email from them, giving me their contact numbers and even a suggestion to have lunch together in Greenville one afternoon. I replied, "What about Thursday?" "Fine."

To get back to my point, we did have lunch on Thursday and a great conversation. They are extremely knowledgeable about the business they are in and because of their youth and intelligence, creative and willing to take risks, technically well-informed (something I am not) and have major clients and a new technique, "Method Marketing". I had found a goldmine. The lunch ended with their offering to come up with some ideas - a few of which would have never occurred to me - and a very acceptable financial arrangement.

"Are you all from around here?" I had asked and look where it led. The theorem: You never know where your next sale or opportunity may come from, and, if you find a small Mom & Pop restaurant in the wilderness, be sure to stop for a chili dog or two.

from L to R: Susan von Frank, myself, and Aaron von Frank

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