25 years ago, I received one of my most valuable lessons as an entrepreneur.
I was selling dry cleaning discount cards door-to-door early one Saturday. The first house I came to belonged to an 87 year-old lady. I showed her the value of the discount cards and asked her about her family and friends.
After a few minutes I realized that she didn’t qualify to buy the card, as she really didn’t do enough dry cleaning. I thanked her, wished her a good day and turned to run to the next house. She stopped me and said she wanted to buy one of the discount cards. I politely refused to sell her the card, because it would not benefit her, and I would feel bad about taking her money for nothing in exchange.
She insisted she wanted to buy the discount card, and I realized she wanted to give me something for being nice to her and listening to all of her stories about her grandchildren. I asked if she had any chocolate chip cookies. She laughed and invited me in for cookies and milk. I re-explained how the discount card worked, and she finally admitted she only took one blanket to be dry-cleaned every four years. This meant that the discount card would last her for another 100 years! After a few minutes of friendly chatting and great cookies, I left, thanking her for the cookies and kindness.
As I approached the next house, the door opened before I could knock, and a young woman smiled and said, “Hello Jim! I’ll take two please!”
I was shocked, and asked her what she was talking about. She said she had a check made out already for two dry-cleaning discount cards. I told her that I had to explain the card to her. She laughed and said that would not be necessary. She already knew the benefits and she smiled as she signed the terms and conditions.
The nice little old lady next door was very well known and loved in that neighborhood filled with young, urban, professional couples. She had called ahead and told everyone in the neighborhood that “Jim” was coming. She had memorized the sales pitch exactly, and told each person that they should buy two. I made over $1000 in commission in one day, and broke the highest ever company sales record.
That is the power of Word of Mouth and an example of doing the right thing for the customer every time.
The other lesson here is: treat little old ladies with kindness and respect. They can be your best ally or your worst enemy. These days, they know how to use email, the internet and how to blog.
Disrespect your elders at your own risk.
Respect your elders and stand by for a lot of referrals.