You can say that again. After almost a decade and a half of attending HARDI conferences, I don't believe there was ever more buzz about a speaker's performance than what I heard about Sam Richter's (www.samrichter.com) presentation in Orlando in October. It served as a prelude to the opening luncheon keynote.

For anyone in the writing or speaking business, the word relevant is probably the single most important connection necessary to both making an impact and having continued success in your field. If it is important to the lives of your audience, they care; if not, they'll tune out or turn off, quickly. Speakers struggle, sometimes mightily, to make their topic “fit” the needs of the audience, and I've seen wholesalers constructing the mental math that takes place as they listen attentively, trying to understand how the presenter's information is relevant to their business.

Not Sam Richter. He displayed a torrent of examples of how Google and other search engines can easily find out things about us that made almost everyone a little uncomfortable. While his goal was to show how to gain information about potential customers, what he demonstrated often applies to our personal lives.

For example, he showed that former HARDI president Bud Mingledorff had contributed to the Georgia Republican Party (Richter blackened the amount given, and I'm doing the same for the party he supported). But that information is only a few keystrokes away. He showed how you are seconds away from clicking on websites that list criminal records or the value of your home (how much you pay in taxes). In short, Richter removed many of the blindfolds of assumed privacy. I say assumed because much of this was available in BG (Before Google) days, but it was laborious, time-consuming and expensive to obtain. Now, someone on a remote Scottish Island can unearth much of your private material, including the appearance of your house and the nature of your neighborhood.

Richter's premise for all of this is simple business reasoning. The more you know about someone, personally and professionally, the more likely you are to find some common thread that serves for a warmer intro when you finally meet. I agree with him completely. If you meet a potential customer and discover cousins that went to the same college and you further unearth that both of you are avid tennis players, it does not necessarily mean there will be a deal. But if you really DO believe that we tend (or certainly prefer) to buy and work with people we know and like, the commonality we share is clearly the starting point for the blossoming of business down the road. All of us have examples of how friendships or long-standing business relationships started with nothing more than a minor, often coincidental commonality.

Richter also stresses that the more you know about a company (not just individuals), the more knowledgeable and focused you will appear when pitching your business. If sharing a common interest is the starting point for them to “like” you, then this aspect of it is getting them to respect you. Do both and you have a powerful dynamic duo of influence.

Good salespeople (like superior writers) can never get enough information. His book is THE source for this. Anyone who ignores these vital clues to a potential customer is either inept, close-minded or really doesn't care. It's that simple.

I have written about the books I keep on the top shelf of my computer/hutch desk. Those books, ranging from a dictionary to grammar books, leave virtually no room for an additional volume. I can be a tough and practical critic when it comes to placing someone's book up there. After all, those books are my “go to” sources that are often even better than the Internet. Sam Richter's book, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling, joined the elite crowd.

One final point. Even a superb book like Richter's faces rapid obsolescence because of the Internet. Therefore, despite touting the book, I would strongly suggest you sign up for his newsletter so that you are kept up-to-date, well after information in it turns stale.

I happened to meet Sam Richter by the elevators the evening before his presentation. I told him I had heard the buzz about his presentation and looked forward to his speech, both for his content and delivery, and explained that I, too, did some public speaking. He admitted to me that he was essentially shy and had to overcome that trait in order to become a highly respected and desired international speaker. He also demonstrated another superior trait that many speakers don't have: he listened and never interrupted. He is a person to follow.


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