Recently I was asked to write an essay for a book my colleague Scott MacGregor is publishing. The topic is who in my life I wanted to give a “Standing O,” to and there are many amazing people that came to mind and from whom I could choose. I wish I could write something meaningful for everyone who has meant so much to me. So many people have been significant in my life. So, I started out to think about what I have learned that has helped me along the way. After some soul searching, the answer came relatively quickly. The best gifts I have learned are those of humility, vulnerability, and presence. They are cousins of each other and the combination of these human traits – gifts if you will – are a valuable and priceless currency.
That brings me to where I started to learn and observe how these human behaviors work. Again, the answer is easy. My father Marvin Cohen taught me to be approachable, real and decent. I speak of him often in my keynotes and workshops and my first book “Everyone in Sales” has many stories of how I learned to be who I am. Born and raised in Pittsburgh my father had a rough childhood. His father died when he was an infant, and his mother placed him in an orphanage when he was a child because she couldn’t afford to keep him. After high school, he went to the Air Force where he learned photography. In later years he built a modest business as a wedding photographer. As a child, I spent countless hours sitting and listening to him sell his services to prospective brides and grooms. He was successful because he was genuine and humble. It was so much more than his technical skills. My father was always approachable, and when talking with people, he focused his attention on them. He was present with people, and that inspired people to trust him with the most important today in their lives.
My father had an easy laugh and could make people laugh. His way with people was one of vulnerability and realness that drew people in. They wanted to talk with him, and the relationships he had were stronger and better because he could be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is a rare skill, and it was part of his DNA. Vulnerable people are not afraid to show their emotions. He never failed to show me how he felt about me and could express feelings. Too often people are busy trying to be something they are not. Dad was not afraid to show who he was. He was flawed and not without problems. He was perfectly imperfect. He was also acutely aware of his flaws. His ability to talk about himself and who he was made me unafraid to be the same. He was also not afraid to be himself. That vulnerability translated into a presence that endeared him in a genuine way to people. His clients liked that he was always with them and only them.
I often say that “if you want to sell yourself, you need to engage more.” Engagement means being someone people are comfortable walking up to and engaging. It also says you have to be someone who is self-aware of when you are and are not approachable. I have so many memories of asking my dad tough questions about our family, his problems and other topics that kids usually don’t think to ask. He always stopped what he was doing, physically turned to look at me, listen intently and answer honestly.
Marvin Cohen’s natural ease with being vulnerability made him approachable. That approachability was possible because he was present with those around him. He won healthy relationships, respect, trust. He also earned a son’s love and respect.
Todd’s dynamic and motivational keynotes and workshops are based on the foundation that regardless of career path or position, everyone is a salesperson. Since 1984, Todd has led sales teams to deliver more than $950 million in revenue for leading companies including Xerox and Thomson-Reuters. You can also see Todd’s articles on Sales Culture in many magazines, trade journals and theHuffington Post.
For more information or to book Todd Cohen for your next meeting please visitwww.ToddCohen.com
Follow Todd on Twitter @SalesLeaderTodd.