John DiJulius: Getting to Benny

At a workshop, I had an influential partner (let’s call him Larry) ask if he could share a story with the group. His story was about how one of his largest, long-term clients had recently changed its CEO. Any time an organization changes a CEO, all vendors are in danger of being replaced. So Larry went on to share that he knew he had to quickly demonstrate to the new CEO (let’s call him Greg) how valuable and how brilliant his company was, before it was decided to start shopping its services.

Larry admitted it was a struggle; every meeting that the new CEO attended was short and very transactional. Every time Larry and his associates tried to make small talk, share advice or demonstrate their expertise, Greg, who is known by his close friends as “Benny,” was not interested in engaging in anything more than the facts. Larry knew that once the company’s current contract was up, it was going to lose this large, long-term client.

That is when Larry started thinking about all the training, systems and tools he and his team had been going through. He admitted while he didn’t put much stock into it, he decided he had nothing to lose. He realized that there was very little customer intelligence he had learned in the few meetings. He remembered about F.O.R.D. (family, occupation, recreation and dreams) from the training and started doing some research online. Through that, he discovered that Greg was an avid triathlete and was a big supporter of multiple sclerosis causes.

At the end of their next meeting, Larry briefly mentioned that he was aware that Greg competed in triathlons and how it was a goal to compete in one. Larry said Greg’s eyes lit up. He started showing him pictures of different events and telling stories. He told Larry that if he could do it anyone could. Over the next few weeks, Greg was sending Larry advice, books and articles on how to train. Larry also found out that Greg has a daughter who is challenged with multiple sclerosis and that is why he is such a big supporter of MS causes.

Several months later, Larry was competing in his first triathlon with new buddy, Greg. Additionally, he has since become a supporter of the annual event that Greg holds every year for MS. Larry went on to tell the group how Greg’s company renewed its annual contract with Larry’s firm, but best of all, every note or e-mail he gets from Greg is signed “Benny.”