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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Sales Strategy Lessons in Penn Station

Written By: Seth Sklar | 6 Comments

Recently, I was waiting in Penn Station during rush hour for my nightly train home, when I witnessed what was perhaps the worst sales strategy.

For those not familiar, Penn Station during rush hour is like a bull rush – thousands of people running in all directions to catch trains after putting in a long day of work. People don’t want to be bothered: They want to make their train, put on the headphones, and ignore the world until it all begins again the next morning.

So, here I am walking to my track when I see a booth set up in the corridor for an international charity, attempting to raise money for poor children. Within seconds, a representative approaches me to give me his “pitch.” And he is not the only one; there are four representatives all together trying to “make the sale.”

My response: “Sorry sir, I’m sure your charity is great, but I have a train to catch and I can’t miss it. Have a good night.”

It turns out that my train was delayed 10 minutes, so I was able to just sit back and observe. Finally, I had to ask one of the representatives, “Do you mind if I ask, how long you have been here?” Their response: “Three hours.”

So, I had to ask, “And how many people have you convinced to sponsor a child?” Their response: “Two.”

So, 12 hours of combined work netted two “sales.”

Lessons Learned

1.  Publicity isn’t always a good thing. The Booth has to go. The Booth allows people to know what you’re trying to push before you even open your mouth. Before you can even give them the value proposition, their minds are made up. Approach people on a personal level, then ask for the money. Make them comfortable before discussing money.

2.  Timing is everything. Trying to make a sale while people are running past you to catch a train in two minutes is not a good idea. Perhaps try a mall or a shopping center, where people have time and are more relaxed. Selling is easier when the prospect isn’t under pressure. If one is in B2B sales, avoid calling during busy season. If calling a finance department, year-ends are a bad idea – same with accountants during tax season. That is a big NO NO!!

3.  Location, location, location is not just a rule in real estate. It’s a rule in sales as well. There are many reasons why sales professionals take clients to meals, sporting events, etc. One reason is because they now have the prospect contained for fixed amount of time. The prospect can’t leave. The sales person has their full attention. Attacking people as they run down the corridor of Penn Station is not the right location.

Sales situations occur not only in business, but every day in your personal life as well. A pickup line is shorter than the average elevator pitch. So, the next time you’re looking to make your pitch, remember the following: You can’t control everything, so you better do your best to control what you can.

It doesn’t guarantee the sale, but it definitely increases the odds.

So, what do you think? Do you consider locations when you have sales conversations? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Article written by
About Seth Sklar: Combining years of sales experience, working for notable companies such as PR Newswire, Thomson Reuters, and currently Toppan Vite (NY). Seth has found his greatest enjoyment in helping people and organizations accelerate their success.
  • wordwhacker

    Hi Seth. I think this is all good advice for businesses. You make some great observations here.
    But I’m wondering about those charities that rely on volunteers and try to catch people at busy places. This is obviously a horrible strategy as you point out. What can they do?

  • susanlcross

    What a great article by sethsklar!  Good advice for those who are trying to make a name for themselves in sales.

  • TPChamp

    Good Stuff Seth. Very informative.

  • Seth Sklar

    @wordwhacker You need to treat volunteers like you would employees. They are representing your organization and you are relying on them for revenue. Volunteers should be trained just like an employee would. They need to be managed and given feedback.

  • Seth Sklar

    @susanlcross  Thanks Susan! In life we can’t afford to waste opportunities. It is true in our personal lives as well as in our professions.

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