I left for Omaha on a Monday morning, arriving in the early evening after ten hours or so in the car. I had an appointment for mid-morning on Tuesday with one of my customers and another set for Wednesday morning. It was my plan to see my customer Tuesday morning then hightail it up to Sioux City and make a couple of cold calls* before returning to Omaha.
I was selling components for the corrugated board industry (you would incorrectly call it cardboard**). Tuesday I showed up at the appointed time and place. I left a message for the buyer and sat in the sparse lobby. After 20 minutes or so I tried again. At thirty minutes I had the operator page my contact. No joy. After cooling my heels for an hour I made like Elvis and left the building.
With resignation I headed back east towards the hotel. What to do? A few minutes later my cell rang. It was a sorry ‘bout that, come back at 3:00 conversation. No time to drive to Iowa now.
There was however, another potential customer on my list. A small box plant who had never purchased from us before. Ever. My predecessor’s files had a stern “don’t waste your time” note attached to this customer. I didn’t even have a contact name. Well, the plant was in the general direction of my hotel...I could drop off a business card.
I moseyed up to the office door and told them what I was selling and asked for the appropriate contact in the hopes I could get a name to call next time I was in Omaha to make an appointment. I was told to hold on a few by a very nice older man. Soon the buyer was shaking my hand. I did my spiel, showed my brochures, talked up the product. We took a tour of the plant. He showed me an issue he had with the competition product. I told how we could fix that. Ninety minutes later I had a request for quote. I called the office. They promised a quote by the next morning.
I got up early Wednesday and printed off a hard copy of the quotation at the hotel business office. I hit my previously scheduled appointment and then called my new prospect. He said to bring the quote by the plant. The same older gent let me in the front door. I showed the buyer the price. He left the room. When he came back he had a signed purchase order. He also had the older guy I met at the door both times. He was the owner. So that he could greet customers, the owner placed his desk right beside the door. In the front of the office. No hiding behind glass doors with a corner view for him. I liked this place.
That’s how I accidentally got a new customer.
I drove up to Sioux City. Left business cards and brochures. Mounted my car and started the long drive back to Indiana. I pulled into the drive well after midnight. It was a seventeen hour day. Three days, two nights in a hotel, five customer visits, almost fifteen hundred miles of driving, and one big new order. Just another week on the road.
* showing up without an appointment hoping to find out a contact
** cardboard is the stuff like a shirt box, the heavier stuff is corrugated board— like shipping boxes or pizza boxes — the stuff that is usually brown.