A Cup of Coffee to Rebuild Your Career

July 27, 2009 at 2:32 am 1 comment

Guest Editorial by Buddy Rhodes, Building Enterprises Inc.

After decades of being a successful salesman and sales manager, growing businesses from start-ups to thriving, profitable ventures, I found that I had worked myself out of a job. The company I worked for had grown so large and successful through acquisitions that it didn’t need me any more, and I was laid off.

            So I did what I knew best: I started a new sales campaign – selling myself as a product using the same sales strategies that had worked so well for me in the past.

I am writing this article to help each of you newly unemployed individuals rebuild your career using these tried and true sales methods. I want to share with you how I reengineered myself and recreated my success – one cup of coffee at a time.

The Three Essential Elements 

Every sales process requires three essential elements: List, Script and Behavior. For those of you who are unemployed, the List is basically everyone you know. You never know which one of your friends, family or acquaintances will be the one that will find you your next job. Even in today’s high-tech world, it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know. These days, about 85% of the job openings are never advertised, but are filled by word-of-mouth recommendations. Script is the message that you are going to share with all of the individuals on your list. Behavior is the effort required to do what you need to do: visit with each person on your list over a cup of coffee and share your developed script (story) with them.

List Development

Day One of unemployment is the ideal time to develop your list. This effort can be very difficult, but by taking proactive steps right away to create your future, this task can give you a sense of real progress and control, which helps you focus on the future, rather than dwelling on the painful past. 

Unfortunately, most of your business contacts will be on your office computer, and you will be prevented from accessing them as soon as the boss gives you the bad news. The day they called me into the boss’s office to tell me they were laying me off, the IT department entered my office, took my laptop and removed all company information from it – they didn’t even let me back up my personal files. Boy, did I learn a lesson! I knew all along that the laptop was a company asset, but it was so easy to keep all my computer files on that machine. Today, I use Google’s Gmail and keep all my contact info online – password protected, of course.

In the process of list development, technology can be a real savior. I joined LinkedIn and Facebook, and I invited many of my friends and business acquaintances to “connect” with me or be my “friend.” While this is a great starting point for list development, keep in mind that list building is never over. I am still collecting emails and phone numbers of people with whom I would like to visit.

In addition to online social networking tools, there are many other ways to develop your list. Many selling organizations use a “name jogger,” which is a questionnaire designed to help you recall your key contacts. Who is your financial advisor? Who is your dentist? Who do you know at church? These name jogger forms are great ways to start from scratch.

Do you have business cards?  Have you gone to trade shows or joined professional organizations that have membership directories? To whom have you sent emails in the past? Also, check the emails you have received to see if any other individuals were copied on them – this is a great way to glean secondary “friend of a friend” contacts.

Another way to expand your list to the secondary contacts is to ask your primary friends for referrals to their contacts. This is a very successful technique in the sales profession: a professional sales consultant will visit with his current clients to ask them for referrals. Do the same thing in when you are selling yourself as a product. Did you have customers you worked with in your previous job? Go see them and ask them for their help. How about individuals who heard your presentations or worked on projects with you?  The key here is to get creative and grow your list as large as possible.

Script Development

The right script can make a sale; the wrong script can do the opposite. After being laid off, you need to give considerable attention to exactly what it is that you are selling. Sure, you’re selling yourself, but do you want to sell your old self or perhaps sell a new self to land a better job?

One thing about being laid off is that you have a wonderful opportunity to start a new life. What do you really want to do? If there ever was an opportunity to do what you always wanted to do, this may be the time to recreate yourself.

For many years, I have helped unemployed friends rebuild themselves by facilitating a brainstorming session with them. What have you done in your life? What are your skill sets? What have you enjoyed doing? Would you like to turn that into a profession? Will you continue to enjoy it if you have to do it every day?

If you have never run your own business and are thinking of starting one, you better be prepared, as there are many more failures than successes. But with the proper support and help, you can launch a new business – even in this economy – with the right script.

Once you have decided what you want to do for a profession, it is time to develop the script, including questions you want to ask and key messages you want to tell each of the individuals on your list during your visit. Writing this script may even influence which people you place on your list. For example, if you want to sell software to midsized oil companies, it might be a good idea to add some midsized oil company names to your list along with the software vendor companies that might hire you. 

The script is not cast in stone. It can be amended and improved as you go along. In fact, if you seem to be struggling to decide what you want to accomplish (which product you want to be), it may be a good idea to go ahead and begin to visit with your contacts using the first draft of your script. These first few visits may help you determine your future direction. The beauty of selling yourself is that you can adapt the product you are selling – and the appropriate script – at any time.

Such was the case for me. As I visited with various individuals on my list, I slowly developed a business plan for a new venture that was actually a mutation of an old business plan, and I am now implementing the new concept with a better, more complete script.

Behavior and Implementation

In the sales world, when we talk about behavior, we are referring to the action required to accomplish the task at hand. The most important task for an unemployed person to accomplish is to get in front of as many people as you can. Many people find that this is the most intimidating part of rebuilding yourself, particularly when you feel so vulnerable after being rejected by your former employer and are worried about your future.

Fortunately, this task is much easier today than in the past because you can use email and other electronic means to accomplish it. What worked for me is to use technology to set up appointments for what I call my “Cup of Coffee Campaign.”

From my scripting exercise, I developed an email informing my friends and associates that I had recently been let go and that I have some new ideas I would like to share with them. My subject line for the email was: “Cup of Coffee with Buddy Rhodes.” That conveyed the idea that the chat would be short, and it left enough questions unanswered to arouse curiosity. This is a powerful combination.

Don’t send your invitation to your entire list all at once; just send enough so you can follow up promptly with a telephone call to set up a meeting at their convenience. 

Cup of Coffee Campaign

The day after I sent my first emails I received several positive responses. The next day I held my first Cup of Coffee Campaign visit. Rather than meeting me at the nearest famous coffee shop, many of my contacts preferred to have me visit them at their offices.  So I went out and bought $5.00 gift cards from that famous coffee shop and gave one as a gift to each person I visited. These were warmly accepted as payment for their valuable time.

The script I gradually developed along the way is now a one-page overview of my Leverage By Sharing concept, with two visual images that describe a totally new business model for the industry that I call Selling PODS™, which stands for Professional Outsourced Development & Sales. Just about everyone I met with showed interest, wanted to consider joining my venture, or referred other associates of theirs who would find that topic interesting. I am now doing business with four of my Cup of Coffee Campaign prospects and several more are pending.

This Sales Process Works

When followed industriously, the three-prong sales process of List, Script and Behavior will lead to successful sales, whether you are selling products, services or yourself. Your list should always be growing – and backed up electronically. Your script can be improved and amended as new features are added – or new directions are pursued. And the Cup of Coffee Campaign is a behavior that has proved to be very fruitful – particularly for the coffee shop.

            Your future employer is ready to buy, so go sell yourself into a successful new venture!

About the Author

Buddy Rhodes is the owner of Building Enterprises Inc., which provides outsourced sales teams for businesses in the energy industry. He can be reached by email at budrho@gmail.com.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. sroth  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:06 am

    great article budrho!!


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