My son Max has been working hard putting together a skating/dance party for tomorrow evening to benefit an anti-bullying charity – Kidpower International. Yes, he’s a great kid, but he’s really doing this to fulfill his “mitzvah” requirement for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Think of it as a quid pro quo for having a great party and getting lots of gifts from family and friends. Maybe that’s too cynical. The requirement also reminds young men and women (around 13 years old) that they have an ongoing duty to help the community and repair the world – Tikkun Olam.
I helped him organize his thoughts for this fundraiser-party. We knew we’d need posters, publicity, etc. And we’d want the event to be compelling and fun. Together, we brain-stormed on what to do. He came up with raffling off prizes. We discussed hitting up local businesses for donations or prizes, signs, etc.
Max put together a flyer and got his story straight on what he was up to and why. He wrote the following and we posted it on Facebook and sent to our networks:
Hey everyone this is Max and I am taking over my father’s Facebook account for this one post.
Last year, on the first day of school in 6th grade this really big guy was picking on a little guy. I basically told him to pick on someone his own size. I thought it was dumb that the big guy was bullying the little guy. I was worried that the huge guy was going to beat me up, but he didn’t. But I wanted the bully to stop. Luckily, a teacher broke it all up.
I am getting ready for my April Bar Mitzvah. One requirement for Bar Mitzvah is to do something nice for the community. The incident that occurred in the sixth grade was my motivation for my mitzvah project. My mitzvah project is that I am holding an anti-bullying skating party on March 7th from 7:00-9:00 PM at the Pinckneyville Park roller hockey rink – 4758 South Old Peachtree Road, Norcross 30071. The rink is behind the baseball fields. The party is there because I love hockey.
I am asking for a $5 donation from everyone who comes. At the party there will be games and prizes every thirty minutes. Also there will be snacks and music. If you can’t skate, please come anyway to party. All proceeds will go to KidPower®, a global anti- bullying organization. If you can’t make it to the party please donate at KidPower’s website at
Click the donate button at the top right and donate in honor of Max Shapiro so that I may keep track of all the donations.
Even if you can’t skate please come even if just for a little while and have fun!
Now it was time to hit the road to try to get help. I quickly realized that this was going to be Max’s first sales experience, a quasi-introduction into my world of sales. I suggested we go to some printing places to ask for free printing of flyers and posters. Like a good sales trainer, I had him practice the above as his script. The story is compelling and we have definite “asks” for donations to make the party a success.
First, we went to the local Office Depot. Max presented his flyer and told his story to the manager. Turns out, the gentleman we were speaking to wasn’t the ultimate decision-maker but, he was an influencer. This gentleman asked us to wait, he would talk to his manager. Uh-oh. We are not at the decision-maker! I told Max to not get his hopes up. After a long five minutes, we were told he’d give us 50 free prints of the anti-bullying bookmarks and 20% off anything else we needed for the fundraiser/party. Max was shocked. We printed up more flyers, bought a large roll of raffle tickets, all at a discount and had the print manager print 50 copies of Kidpower bookmarks – three to a page – that we’d give out at the party. We thanked the print manager and off we went.
I told Max, “see, sometimes, you just have to ask.”
Emboldened, we went to the local Kinkos/Fedex – but were told to call corporate, blah, blah, blah. Oh well. Then, on to the local FastSigns franchise. Max practiced his story and request – could they print up two poster for us, we have the pdf. This time, we didn’t get the mid-level manager (Office Depot) or the local powerless manager (Fedex), but instead right to the owner – THE DECISION-MAKER! Without thinking twice, the Owner said, “Yes, I’d be glad to do it, they will be ready in a week.”
Max was shocked.
I reminded him that he had a compelling, emotional and relate-able story. He was at the decision-maker level and he had a direct, reasonable request – two posters. Yes, son, this is what sales is all about.
At the party, Max wants to raffle off prizes. So, he suggested we try to get gift cards from the local movie theater, pizza place, Yogurtland (at The Forum) and Gigi’s Cupcakes (also at The Forum) stores. With some success under his belt he made the pitches. His win rate: 50%. Not Bad. Yogurtland and Gigi’s each donated $10 gift cards. Yogurt land also gave us a tall stack of coupons to give out at the party.
(NOTE: Please patronize Office Depot, FastSigns, Yogurtland, and Gigi’s, especially the Norcross/Peachtree Corners, GA area.)
We learned that movie theater managers – at least ours – are powerless. And perhaps kids working at pizza places forget to relay requests to managers. Hmm, sounds like some sales opportunities I’ve been in.
Sure, had we started earlier – had a longer sales cycle – we may have still “won” at the movie theater and the pizza place. But, for this effort I was trying hard to just coach in the background, not run the effort. And Max got the point about time management.
So what did we learn?
- A good story goes a long way to creating an emotional bond with the prospect.
- If you are not dealing with the decision-maker, your chances of success decrease.
- You must at some point confidently ask for the business.
- If you are not prepared for a longer sales cycle, you will lose some opportunities, so keep your funnel full.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – You must have a definitive objective or ask.
I illustrated this last point with a slightly off-color story about Leo Durocher (see item #28) and his successful carousing with beautiful women from his excellent autobiography. Hey, don’t judge: he’s a 13-year old boy, and you have to tailor your lessons/stories to your audience.
The party is tomorrow night. We’ll let you know how it goes.