The following is the sixth a ten part series of “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”
Knowing when to stop
While I lead a non-profit Chamber of Commerce today, my first occupation after graduating from Winthrop University was serving as a marketing representative for Harper Brothers, an office furniture and supply company in Rock Hill (SC). Sales isn’t really a subject you can learn from a text-book. It really derives from natural and learned abilities, experience, knowledge of your product, customer needs and expectations and competitor information as well as good advice or coaching from a mentor or professional coach.
One of the first golden rules I learned from sales was that most people have a tendency to try to pack too much information into their delivery. We tell them how to build a watch instead of just what time it is. Sometimes the best sales approach are the simplest ones. Public speaking is another area where people get caught up in their message and say way too much when they already have their point made. When I was a teenager, I was terrified of getting up in class and giving reports at Northwestern High. Eventually though, I overcame that fear through practice and experience. In 1992, I addressed a convention with a 35 minute speech to 3,500 delegates. That would not have been possible without practice and preparation.
I learned to craft talks on a subject and rehearse it over and over until I had the delivery just right. Then one day, one of my mentors from the Junior Chamber (Jaycees), Charlie Madsen, gave me some simple advice. “Bill, when you give one of your motivational talks, look around the room. If you see them eating out of your hand, you know you got them hooked, finish it. Don’t go into another story or make another point no matter how good you think it is.”
Charlie reminded me of the young politician on his first campaign speech. He booked a big auditorium hoping for a great crowd, but he found only one man sitting alone in a chair. He waited and waited but no one else showed up. Finally he looked at the lone guy and he said, “Hey, you think I should get started?” The man looked at the politician and said, “Sir, I’m just a farmer and all I know are cows. But if I take a load of hay out and only one cow shows up, I’m still gonna’ feed it.”
So the politician reared back and gave him his best. He talked on and on for an hour, then two as the farmer shifted back and forth in his seat. Finally when the politician wrapped up with his big delivery, he asked the old farmer just how he did.
Once again, the farmer pondered and then said, “Sir, I’m just an old farmer. All I know are cows. Of course, I do know that if I took my whole load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow showed up, I wouldn’t dump the whole load on him.”
Charlie winked at me as he made his point. Your talks, speeches, and sales presentations are defined as much by your audience as your product. I learned to tailor talks to groups using the people in the room. Reading expressions to see whether my points had been made or needed to be expanded upon.
The bottom line know your product, know your competitor, most importantly know your audience, and finally know when to stop.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a certificate of need hearing for a new 66-bed behavioral hospital planned for Huntersville by Carolinas HealthCare System. I shared with officials from the Division of Health Service Regulation the need for such a facility and the Lake Norman Chamber’s strong support as our community and region continues to see a dramatic increase in our population.
Del Murphy, Jr. vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System’s Management Company shared with our Chamber leaders the overwhelming need for additional beds for behavioral health services. Murphy pointed out that on an average day between 20 and to 30 patients are held in the emergency departments and general acute care beds at CMC hospitals in Charlotte, awaiting psychiatric bed placement. CMC-Randolph inpatient occupancy exceeds 100%. There are simply not enough beds to service our growing population. I pointed out that the community in which I live, Huntersville, was roughly 3,000 people in 1990. Today there are 46,773 people living in our town.
I also shared a personal story that my Grandfather Russell lived the remaining six years of his life with Alzheimer’s and my Grandmother Feemster battled dementia before we lost her this past February. I loved my grandparents dearly and spent many weekends with them in the twilight of their life. I sat by their bed looking in their empty eyes that stared back at me, wondering who was that stranger holding their hand. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of those final years we had together. But just as they took care of me as a child, my family took turns staying with them. However, many families in North Mecklenburg and South Iredell simply do not have that resource.
Many families have husbands, wives, sons or daughters who battle mental illness who have yet to be treated or in some cases diagnosed. Their extended family resources may be limited and their options few. That’s compounded when they have to travel to outlying counties for service when they live here in our lake region.
We are fortunate to have outstanding healthcare providers in the Lake Norman region, but there can be no dispute that we are sorely lacking when it comes to psychiatric health. As business and community leaders, we cannot settle for anything less but the very best when it comes to the health of our citizens and employees. The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce supports this proposed facility