Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach? Not always!

Today’s Fable Friday isn’t a fable at all but a true story about the time I called on Charles Schwab in San Francisco.  As you know, I make my living teaching people how to sell things, and I’m pretty good at it. I’ve been doing it for many years so I’ve sharpened my skills and collected a number of great practices for many different selling situations.

 I figured I’d wow them at Charles Schwab as they were interested in seeing me.  But it didn’t work out that way.  In consultative selling, the idea is to ask informed questions about sales strategies and objectives, current sales behaviors, and any gaps or difficulties the prospect is having, in order to recommend a useful solution.  And I did all these things. In fact it was perhaps the most skillful and thorough sales call I ever made.  But they weren’t interested and didn’t buy my services.

 Why is that, you might ask.  Well, it turns out that at Schwab they really do things quite well, and all the problems I was hoping to discover simply didn’t exist, or had been addressed years ago.  Although they work with outside vendors, they also have an outstanding internal design team for training. They are thorough.  They measure things.  They observe behavior.  They get feedback. Their sales management process is complete.

 Do you know that at Schwab, an investment representative is compensated by growth in assets rather than by commissions?  So the rep you work with at Schwab has no incentive to trade a lot on your behalf.  Instead, they win only when you make money.  Duh.

 I explored every area I could think of and asked great questions, but I walked out of there not having discovered one area in which I could be of help to them.  Well, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.

 So why am I telling you this story? It’s because you have to be careful when you listen to consultants (perhaps like me) who want you to believe that they have a cure-all solution, that they can fix anything and that you will be better off if only you use their services.  The truth is more like, maybe and maybe not. 

 Some other consultant might tell me I didn’t ask the right questions, that I should have closed for something, that I didn’t use his patented process for rapport-building, but I don’t think that’s true.  I think some companies need you, and some companies have things figured out pretty well.  Charles Schwab had things figured out pretty well.  I was unhappy not to work with them, but I was darned impressed with the way they do things.

 All companies hype their prowess to some extent.  I once called on an ad agency and they had a list of their clients prominently displayed on the wall.  Among them was “Proctor & Gamble.”  I said to my contact, “I hope no one from P&G ever comes in here and sees that you misspelled Procter.” Maybe they produced a flyer for them at one time. P&G is big and they farm out a lot of small jobs to local agencies, who will often low-ball the price in order to show P&G on their client list.

 So even though you are kind enough to follow this blog, read it as carefully as you would read any other blog and take from it that which you feel will help you. I hope you found today’s story instructive.

 Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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