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Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Make it a habit to help others before yourself

July 15. 2017 5:50PM

Over the course of my career, many experiences have influenced the way I think and handle situations in business. And today, I'd like to share one of my favorites with you.

Early in my sales career, I called the CEO of a fairly large manufacturing company. I had done some research on the company and the CEO, and I decided to give the old cold call a try. My first attempt resulted in leaving a voice mail. He returned my call a few hours later, and the way the call started blew me away.

I answered the phone, and he said, "Hi Chris, I'm returning your call. What can I do to help you?" While this may not seem like a big deal, I found his question about how he could help me extraordinary. This was also a very valuable lesson for me not just in business, but in life.

So, what is so amazing about a CEO asking what he could do to help me? To me, it's simply how he started the conversation. He immediately put me first and opened the dialogue by offering to help. And it wasn't the canned question, "How may I help you?" that you hear so often. It was sincere.

This experience taught me that people who put themselves second and lead with helping others most often have the favor returned. I'm a big believer that when you do the right things, good things will happen to you. And this is one of those examples.

In this case, the CEO actually became a client of mine and in turn, I ended up referring a ton of business to him. It was a win-win for both of us, but that likely never would have happened if his approach was different.

Most people I know don't think that way, especially in business. We're all so focused on our own goals and objectives that we unintentionally miss the opportunity to help others and provide assistance in ways that we may not immediately recognize.

I'll give you one other quick example. A co-worker of mine whom I worked with more than 15 years ago reached out to me for help getting an interview with a company where I have a lot of connections. Although I hadn't talked to him in years, he was someone I liked a lot and always admired. So, I made some intros for him and endorsed him to several executives at the company. Although he didn't get the job, he really appreciated the assistance I provided and called me the other day to let me know he landed a job at a new company and coincidently, he had some business needs that my company could help him with. He remembered the help I provided and returned the favor.

Try this. Take one day and forget about your personal agenda and focus solely on helping other people you know with their business. Refer someone to them. Share an idea. Help them with a challenge they may be struggling with. Or even just ask them the simple question, "What can I do to help you?"

This isn't really an approach or a tactic. It's a mentality. It's a core belief. It's understanding and recognizing that it's not all about you. But it is something you may have to work hard to focus on, as we're all wrapped up in our own world and focused on ourselves.

Business aside, if more people focused on others first, the world would be a much better place.

Christopher Thompson ( is vice president of business development at Talient Action Group in Manchester and writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.

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