Your Teenage Daughter’s Birthday? Thank You, SMS!

10,000 repetitions.  That’s the number of times I’ve read is necessary to reach mastery.  Based on that calculation I should be a master twice over.  Yet this past Friday, Black Friday for you crazed shoppers, I was as nervous as if this were my first rep.  Was I practicing karate kicks?  Handstands?  Nope, I was on the precipice of making my 20,001st sales call (not scary) to an otherworldly being alien to me (scary).

25 years in sales has given me the opportunity to call on every audience imaginable: small business owners, Fortune 500 executives, Realtors, factory workers, engineers, government officials, auto dealers, homeowners…  But never the mysterious demographic on my target list last Friday – a Social Media Sensation (SMS).  Truth be told, the only reason I even know the term SMS is because I’ve heard my teenage daughters reference them.  Limited research tells me that in order to be an SMS one must: A) post unusual, emotional, or animated clips to the internet, B) possess no inhibitions, and C) have thousands of online followers, none of whom are old enough to drive.

What prompts a middle aged guy with no Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tik Tok, or Instagram to call on an SMS?  Simple, his daughter’s birthday wish.

Jacqueline’s always been drawn to celebrity performers, be it Justin Bieber in her early years (she’ll kill me for this but check out her JB performance from 10 years ago) or Harry Styles in her adolescent years but heading into her 16th birthday she’s gone all in on Jack Novotny, a teenager building a strong online presence.  His thousands of followers span the globe but coincidentally, Jack lives in the same village in Western NY State as my parents.  How do we know?  Because while walking through town on Thanksgiving, Jacqueline exclaimed, “Eeeeek!  That’s Jack Novotny’s house!  I recognize it from his videos!”

Jacqueline is too thoughtful to storm Jack’s house, invade his privacy, and beg for a selfie but her dad?  Hmmmmm……

I wanted to approach Jack on the down-low but how does one with no social media accounts contact a social media star?  Email?  Please, we’re talking about someone under the age of 20.  Phone book?  Even more preposterous.

And so it was on Black Friday morning that I, a social media luddite, found himself standing alone on Jack’s porch, knocking on his door, and hoping the family isn’t a posse of Second Amendment fanatics.

Fortunately, Jack’s lovely mother approached the door unarmed and seemed as astonished as I that A) a social media sensation lived in her village, and B) that individual is her son.  Funny how this new wave of celebrity originates; without talent agents or PR firms or billboards, the last to appreciate a rising star are those closest to him.

On the same day as my house call and during Jacqueline’s 16th birthday party, Jack Novotny – and his curious mom, of course – made a house call of their own.  To Jacqueline’s shock, humiliation, and extreme delight, Jack marched into my parents’ house, presented Jacqueline with her birthday cake, and posed for pictures with our family.

Jack could not have been more gracious and his surprise visit lit up Jacqueline’s face more than an entire Walmart’s worth of birthday candles.  And of all the sales calls I’ve ever made, this one brought more satisfaction than any other.

*To Jack Novotny and his mother, thank you for generously sharing your time and attention.

*To my mom, Thank you for planting this idea in my head when you whispered the day before, “If I had Jack’s number I’d call him right now.”

*To every sales manager who’s coached me on how to knock on a stranger’s door and ask for something, thank you for teaching me the skills required to do it right.

*And to you, kind reader, a few takeaways that might earn you a big contract or a surprise celebrity encounter:

  • Even in today’s world, human, in-person calls trump digital communication. 
    Connect with the human, not the human’s digital interface.

  • When knocking on someone’s door, do not stare directly into the house.  That’s creepy. 
    Instead, keep your gaze to the side and keep your hands out of your pockets where the other person can see them.

  • Goes without saying but dress appropriately! 
    My gosh I still see salespeople and solicitors dressed like they just rolled outta bed, which is not inspiring anyone to answer your call.

  • In all things at all times: smile.
    Your expression drowns out your words.

  • When all else fails, ask their mother.
    Your prospect may have no interest in what you’re seeking but if Mom says it’s OK, the rest falls into place.

Sure, 20,000 sales calls boosted my confidence to make the 20,001st but please understand – You don’t need 20,000 sales calls under your belt to make the exciting happen, you just need to make the one that’s next in front of you.

Happy 16th, Jacqueline!  So proud of the young woman you’ve become and the challenges you throw my way.