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A One-Legged Chicken, A Three-Legged Dog and Growing My Business

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The town I was looking for really wasn’t a town. Just a place. It was in the middle of Nowhere Virginia. I was a young college baseball coach and, like most young college baseball coaches, I spent my summers recruiting. Always hopeful that today was the day you’d find that guy that could help the program get to the next level. Now that I’m in the world of sales, I’m often reminded of how similar recruiting is to the world of prospecting. Eyes wide-open for that next great client. Staying close to your network for referrals and leads. Hope abounds. Disappointment becomes a way of life. But you know they are out there. Keep looking.

On this hot July day, I was looking. Working off a tip from one of our alumni (think referral), I drove 4 hours to this….place. I’m from a rural, out-of-the-way place and this was a rural, out-of-the-way place. Trust me. It wasn’t even on the fold-out gas station map that was a staple for good recruiters. After some zigging and zagging, I find the rinky-dink little ballpark. It was surprisingly quaint. It had a covered grandstand and cement bleachers that went 6 or 7 rows up.

I get settled in and survey the situation. Notebook in my back pocket, I start taking it all in. I find my guy. He’s catching today. I look out at the field and notice something bizarre just off the left field line. “Is that a dunking machine? Wait - does that sign say “Elephant Ears?” It seems the carnival had just ended and someone said, "Get that stuff off the field! There’s a game today!” And some kids carried it over and placed it about 3 inches from the left field line. Hmm…that’s different. And dangerous.

I see my guy hit and I’m watching his every move behind the plate. Trying to compare him to players we have, dreaming of who he could be. And to be honest, his talent wasn’t obvious to me. At all. I remember thinking, “What am I doing here? Good grief - I’m 4 hours from home, I’m going to get home at 1 a.m. and this kid is a non-prospect.” A wasted day. Just like we sometimes find ourselves in our prospecting endeavors. We go to networking events and we think, “What a waste of time. Lame. Why am I here?”

But I’m here so I may as well make the most of it. As the game goes on, I saw something that I’ve not seen before or since. Making it’s way up the cement bleachers was a chicken. At a baseball game. But it wasn’t just a chicken. It had one leg. Can you visualize a one-legged chicken flapping one of its wings in order to stay upright? Just working its way through the smattering of fans. But that’s not all. Following right behind the chicken was a three-legged dog. You can’t make this stuff up. Again, “What am I doing here?”

My guy, it turns out, shows himself to be a pretty good player as things unfold. The more I watch, the more I like him. A lot of energy. Understands the game. Winning-type persona. One of those “work hard, hustle up” type kids. I always had a soft spot for players like this. I started to think he might fit our profile. By the 7th inning, I had decided I wanted him. In prospecting for your next client, do you have an ideal client profile? A checklist of things that you know will be a good fit for your product or service? As a coach, I had to have a profile, a standard, that kids had to meet. If they didn’t share our program's values, they would never last beyond the first semester. A waste of their time and ours. If you don’t know what you are looking for, how will know when you see it?

To finish this bizarre story, this young 17-year old ended up coming to our school. He never saw the field his freshman year. Not once. But that energy, those winning behaviors, that desire…he never lost it. Because our program valued that, he was a great fit for our culture. And he thrived. He went from not getting a single inning as a freshman to being one of the best players in the history of our program. And we’d had some very good players. He was drafted by the White Sox, played several years of professional baseball, and went on to become a very successful baseball coach at the high school and college level.

In January, he was inducted to the Roanoke-Salem Baseball Hall of Fame. And in his induction speech, he told the story of the one-legged chicken and three-legged dog! He said it was a trigger event that changed the course of his future.

I think about his story a lot. It reminds me that in prospecting and building a thriving business (just like building a winning baseball program), you really have to just do the work. You don’t have to like it. You’ll often ask, “Why am I here?” You’ll say, “This isn’t working.” But showing up is a big deal. Day-after-day. I think about not pre-judging prospects. Things may not start strong, but if you stay true to your process, sometimes you’ll find your dream clients. And finally, I think about how unpredictable client acquisition can be. We prospect, we conduct sales meetings, we ask for referrals…we do everything “by the book.” And then, something lands in your lap out of left field. I’ve never been able to explain how or why that happens. Maybe it's just our reward for doing the behaviors and the universe decides to throw you us a bone?

On that summer afternoon in the middle of nowhere, every sign and signal was pointing to a wasted day. But if we don’t bail out and continue to stay true to our process, we often strike gold. Sometimes our best clients come from unexpected places - out of the middle of nowhere. On that day years ago, I had no idea that amidst the carnival leftovers, the chicken and the dog…I had found a Hall of Famer!

Plant your feet, do the work, and follow your process to the end. Your next Hall of Fame client could be right in front of you!

Robin Green

Robin Green

Robin Green is the President and Owner of Ascend Performance, Inc., a certified and award-winning Sandler Training Center in Richmond, VA. He specializes in helping companies of all sizes to develop the Attitudes, Behaviors, and Techniques that will help them reach new levels. Robin is a keynote speaker and podcast host. You can reach him at robin.green@sandler.com. We help companies and motivated individuals with sales, management and customer service training.