A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was visiting San Francisco for some work at Stanford University. He wanted to meet up after and take a day trip to Napa. For those of you who know me, taking leisurely day trips to Napa is no longer a part of my genetic makeup-and by that what I mean is that business takes up much of my time these days. However, the temptation for beautiful lunches and vineyards remains the same!
Consequently, I had just finished reading Phil Knight’s latest memoir called Shoe Dog. An inspirational read for entrepreneurs, and also just anyone. It’s his story of how he created Nike from his “Crazy Idea” to one of the most successful companies in the world. There were many things that resonated, and some that were enlightening. For example, he grew his company without the help of emails, internet, online shop etc…for the first few years. He just went up to people and talked to them to sell his product! Cold calling left and right-and mind you, he’s an introvert. It was not his thing.
In today’s world we have to make appointments, go to conventions, meetings, networking events, and have everything digital…In keeping track of all of that, we sometime loose our ability to communicate as people, as humans. I realized after reading Shoe Dog, as a neurobiologist, I’ve had no previous experience in sales until recently, so I made myself a commitment that this is what I’m going to work on and learn for 2017, uncomfortable or not!
Now going back to Napa, I’ve been wanting to pitch my product to the community up north because it’s a great fit for the market and I decided that taking my friend up to Napa is going to be my first “cold-calling” experience-just like what Phil Knight did. So I packed up 10 bottles of my Substantial Living LONGEVITY probiotic vegetables, some business cards, a little explanation of the products and my little black notebook that goes everywhere with me. I told my friend that I’ll go if he doesn’t mind the cold-calling! I decided to get warmed up by calling V. Sattui at their amazing artisanal market and spoke with someone and left the buyer a message that I would be in later that day. Okay, it’s not that bad, I thought.
So off we went to our appointment at Biale Vineyards-which is a beautiful little vineyard right off the main strip. I had left my bag of probiotic goodies in my trunk, because I didn’t want to seem too crazy!
As we were going through the tasting and the guy was chatting I was listening to his interesting story and tidbits. When he walked to the other table, my friends asked me a few times “are you going to say anything”, and I said, “yes, when the moment is right”. I had no idea when that moment would be. After he told us about a lamb recipe and french blue cheese wrapped with pistachios, dates and Biale porte, I jumped in about my product being a great addition to any cheese board in wine country. I had no idea what was going to happen next. Was I nervous? Hell YA! Was I scared? Not really-entrepreneurship takes that out of you. Once I got started talking about Substantial Living and my story as to why I do what I do, and my product, he got so interested that he started giving me names of people at Biale I should talk to. I offered him to try my product, and he loved the idea, so here I am walking to my car to the trunk and thinking, “wow this is really happening”.
As I walk back to the table, there’s someone else waiting there to talk to me, he was the head chef of the vineyard. We talked for a good 30 minutes, and turns out he used to own restaurants in Napa and knows the whole community. He gave me 14 names of local places with the buyers he knew! It was amazing and insane (in a good way!)!
We are so into protocols and ‘right or wrong’ ways of doing things in todays’ world. What I learned from Phil Knight’s book, was to find your way. Be self-aware and know what you are good at, and what you need to do better. We all have insecurities, but if we allow ourselves to be open to experience or learn from someone else’s story, the courage or intention will lead to great places. So my friends, anything is possible, anything…don’t get bogged down by convention. Easier said than done I know-but nonetheless it gets easier, and more fun. After all, the human connection is the strongest bond-technology is only a tool to strengthen the bond. I knew I wanted to work on the art of selling cold-calling. It’s not something I have experience with, and frankly it’s not comfortable for introverts, ie. me. As a CEO, you have to learn the trade of all departments to be able to understand what they need to grow and work together. My dad’s friend was the ex-president of Fujitsu and he told me that at the beginning of my business career not so long ago. Every little insight helps in building something truly great, and insights come from being uncomfortable and putting yourself out there. A little tidbit from my desk to yours this week. Happy Monday everyone! XO