Fable Friday: Coach Bear Bryant’s sales tip

Many years ago, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant shared this story of his early years at Alabama.

“I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car recruiting a prospect, and I was having trouble finding the place.

Getting hungry, I spied an old cinderblock building with a small sign out front that simply said ‘Restaurant.’ I pull up, go in, and every head in the place turns to stare. Seems I’m the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good, so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedA big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, ‘You probably won’t like it here. Today we’re having chitlins, collard greens and black-eyed peas with cornbread. I’ll bet you don’t even know what chitlins are, do you?’

I said, ‘I’m from Arkansas, and I’ve probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I’m in the right place.’

They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate. When he comes back he says, ‘You ain’t from around here then?’

I explain I’m the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I’m here to find whatever that boy’s name was and he gives me directions to the school.

As I’m paying up to leave he told me lunch was on him, but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay. He asked me if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I’d been there.

I was so new that I didn’t have any yet. It really wasn’t that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I’d get him one.

When I got back to Tuscaloosa late that night, I took that napkin from my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn’t forget it. Back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. The next day we found a picture and I wrote on it, ‘Thanks for the best lunch I’ve ever had.’

Now let’s go a whole buncha years down the road and I’m back down in that part of the country scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed, and he’s got two friends going to Auburn who tells me he’s got his heart set on Auburn too, so I leave empty handed.

Two days later, I’m in my office in Tuscaloosa and the phone rings and it’s this kid who just turned me down. He says, ‘Coach, do you still want me at Alabama ?’

And I said, ‘Yes I sure do.’ And he says OK, he’ll come.

And I say, ‘Well son, what changed your mind?’

And he said, ‘When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn’t going nowhere but Alabama, and wasn’t playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y’all met. You probably don’t remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and you sent him a picture that he’s had hung in that place ever since. That picture’s his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had chitlins with him…’

‘My grandpa said that when you left, he never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word and to Grandpa, that’s everything. He said you could teach me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I’m going to.’

I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were always right.

It don’t cost nuthin’ to be nice.”

So if you’re reading this, you’re most likely in some sales capacity and here’s where you may go astray. You’re always looking for an edge.  “Should I call this guy X number of times?   How many samples should I give out? How do I build my referral network? What benefit can I expect for my business by joining a service organization?”

It’s not you. It’s what you often hear from others. What’s the edge?  The tactic?

But the most successful salespeople I’ve ever met are the ones who never worry about this stuff.  They’re the ones who are always giving themselves away. “How can I help you succeed?” they ask. And they mean it.

I say, quit worrying about the tactics and the sales gimmicks.  Give to others, show your kindness and generosity.  Customers will flock to you. It don’t cost nuthin’ to be nice.

Think Like Your Customer

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

4 Responses to Fable Friday: Coach Bear Bryant’s sales tip

  1. Graham Duryee says:

    Another great Friday tip with real life story. I look forward to them! Have a great weekend.

  2. What a great story! It’s a lesson my parents and grandparents always taught … be kind, be genuine, the little things count. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Mark Renfro says:

    I really enjoyed your article this week Gregory, great reminder.

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