On a frigid Minnesota January eve, I sat on the edge of the hotel suite couch. Leaning forward, I was working to make a good impression.
It was 1986 and was 27.
When the interview ended, the 6’ 3” sales manager from Atlanta looked down at 5’ 6” me and said, “John, you will make someone a fine sales rep.”
As the door closed behind me, I thought …
What exactly does that mean?!?
Two days later, though, Jim Strutton reached out to offer me the opportunity to work from my home—before it was “virtual”—selling training in the Twin Cities.
When he phoned, Karen picked up. Jim’s pleasant and professional persona underpinned by his charming Southern accent sold my 25-year-old wife. When he made the offer, Karen said, “Take the job!”
So I did.
What the young Millers didn’t know is I wasn’t just changing jobs. I was about to be blessed with what all people need to become more tomorrow than we are today:
“Mentor” is defined as a “wise and trusted counselor or teacher”—and at ten years my senior, Jim was perfect for the role. Not to mention his immense knowledge and skill in sales and training!
It’s true that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” When Jim appeared, I wasn’t only ready, I was starving.
Jim fed me.
He fed me by training, coaching, encouraging, correcting, praising, and rewarding me. Jim also believed in me.
Wow, that sounds a lot like outstanding parenting, doesn’t it?!
But I digress.
Jim built me into a salesperson who could go toe-to-toe with executives on sales calls and facilitate training for their teams.
Even though I moved on to do my QBQ! thing in 1995, Jim is still in my head …
Success is based on the right habits and engaging in them every day.
Anyone can have luck because “luck” is Labor Under Correct Knowledge.
To reach executives by phone, you need to call early and call late.
If clients have fun on the sales call with you, they’ll invite you back.
A handwritten note before and after each sales call is your best friend.
The sale is not closed till the client’s check is in your hands.
And on a day I whined about not being able to reach anyone by phone:
John, trust me—someone is at their desk waiting for you to call!
My son, Michael, is now 27. As he builds his SunPrairieFilms.com business, he sometimes turns to Dad for sales coaching.
It’s an honor and a blessing.
But really, I’m just paying it forward. There have been many moments when I’ve shared a selling idea with Mike, quickly adding, “Jim taught me that when I was your age.”
Last month, I spoke in Atlanta on “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” for Zaxby’s, so Jim and I got together. We talked, laughed, and remembered. The slightly out-of-focus selfie plus one at the top is from that day.
It was good to reconnect face-to-face, of course, but the reality is even though we live 1,400 miles apart we’re always connected.
You see, I think of Jim frequently because … Jim is frequently in my thinking.
That’s what mentors really do. They get into your head and stay for a lifetime.
Who got into your head and made a positive difference in your life? What is the greatest value your mentor brought to you? Who are you mentoring?
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