I’m writing to you from room 1009 in the Schaumburg Marriott located outside of Chicago. Tomorrow I get the privilege of delivering one of my favorite workshops on presentation skills. Although I’m tempted to share all of the great benefits of this wonderful program, I have a more compelling message that I believe you’ll enjoy and find value in.

Question: What could a simple cab ride have to do with becoming a better sales professional?

Answer: Almost everything!

After landing at O’Hare today and gathering all of my gear, I headed curbside to grab a cab. I’ve probably done this drill a hundred times, but today was different.

My cab pulled up and the driver gets out, walks around to the trunk, takes one look at my gear (think 50 pound case filled with camera, tripod, microphone, materials) and just grunts at me. Immediately I feel like I’ve done something to offend him.

Feeling guilty, I help him wrestle my bag into a trunk that is already jam-packed (where did all of this other stuff come from?). He slams the trunk lid shut as I sink into the back seat feeling embarrassed that I actually have luggage.

Lesson #1: Be likeable

We all have bad days. I understand that. But when you’re dealing with customers, you need to put on your game face. I don’t know this cab drivers exact circumstance, but how difficult would it have been to offer a warm greeting? A simple smile would have gone a long way. Very few people go to work every day trying to be unlikable, but do your customers really like you? Do they feel good about themselves when you are around?

If you find yourself alienating customers in the first three minutes, I suggest you find another line of work. 

As we pull out of O’Hare I tell the cabbie that I need to go to the Marriott in Schaumburg. He simply nods and rolls down the windows as we head towards the freeway. As we hit the open road, I quickly discover that this driver has one foot planted on the accelerator and the other on the brake. Smooth is definitely not a word in his driving vocabulary. I had actually thought about buying a cup of coffee in baggage claim, it’s a good thing I didn’t because I would be wearing most of it by now. I can almost feel my stomach becoming upset.

Lesson #2: Have great skills

Too many sales reps believe that their selling skills are better than they really are. When was the last time someone gave you honest feedback on your sales skills? A better question; when was the last time you asked for feedback?

I honestly believe that this cabbie thought he was a good driver. After all, why become a cab driver if you can’t drive?

Truth be known, his skills were awful. How are yours?

As we continue our journey I notice the inside of this cab looks like something out of a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting a room at the Ritz, but I do believe you can throw out trash, sweep out dirt and wipe drool off of the windows (do they allow dogs to ride in Chicago cabs?).

Lesson #3: Take pride in everything that you do

Take a hard look at your email signature, voice mail greeting, hand written notes and all other customer touch points. Are your quotes easy to understand?  Do your invoices make sense or do you need a law degree to decipher?

It’s easy to get complacent, challenge yourself to step up and find the “drool” in your organization.

Twenty minutes outside of O’Hare the cab driver turns to me and ask me if I know where the hotel is. I reply that I want to go to the Schaumburg Marriott. He says he’s not sure exactly where it is.

Lesson #4: Be knowledgeable

If I knew how to get there, I could have just rented a car. If we were going to get lost, I would have preferred to get lost before getting on the freeway.

Selling professionals need to be knowledgeable about their products, customers, market, industry and competition. We are the resource that our customers look to for advice. It is our responsibility to know where we are.

If you’re not knowledgeable, don’t take someone for a ride!

We finally figure out where we’re going but the cab grinds to a crawl as traffic starts getting heavy. It’s a warm, humid day in Chicago so I ask if we could roll up the windows and turn on the air. Without a missing a beat (or turning his head) I’m told “no.”  I understand you burn more gas running the AC, but I’m guessing my tip will more than compensate. Now I find myself trapped in a dirty, hot cab that is being driven a grouch who really isn’t very good with directions.

 Lesson #5: Above all, take care of the customer

Cab drivers get tips, sales reps get commissions. There are more similarities than differences in how these two professions get compensated. If your livelihood depends on customers (and your job does), then you, your manager and your organization need to be committed to taking care of them.

I can promise you that if you don’t, someone else will!


Have you learned a sales lesson in an unexpected place? Reply below! I value your comments and input. –TW


  1. Zoltan Puskas says:

    Yes, I learned a lesson. And I believe we’ve all had experiences like this. Never underestimate someone, or their position. Be professional at all times, and treat your customers as you’d like to be treated. I used to tip the people at Starbucks but I stopped. Why, because no one ever said “thank you” even when they saw me drop my change in the jar. It’s like they expected a tip for doing their job.

  2. Interesting article that proves something. It isn’t about what we sell, that driver was “selling” a cab ride to your hotel, which he delivered. It is about how we sell, how we treat customers along the way. You can’t take customers for granted because you believe you’re delivering what they wanted. Next time you’re at O’Hare looking for a cab, if by chance you recognized that driver, what are the odds you step out of line and wait for another cab or head to the rental counter? Customers will inconvenience themselves, or even incur cost to avoid the kind of experience you encountered.

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