Lesson #4—Learned from the “Ordinary” Guy at the Party

I get pitched by new companies all the time. It’s one of the best parts of my job. I know there is a lot riding on a meeting with a large enterprise like American Express. However, the pressure to impress often causes people to do or say things that turn a buyer off.

Highlighting credentials is fine, but, name-dropping and number-boasting are not endearing qualities. Sharing client names is okay, but sharing the sensitive details of the relationship is not. Focusing on sounding important won’t get you the second meeting. Focusing on what is important to the buyer will.

To be invited back; listen more than talk, leave us wanting to learn more, and most of all—just be yourself.

Lesson #4—Learned from the “Ordinary” Guy at the Party

A friend invited Chris and me to a charity event last summer. It was in Southampton, a place known for being pretty exclusive. The event’s guest list included a number of celebrities, pro athletes, and some well-known business executives. My husband, the extrovert, was raring to go, but I wasn’t. I prefer smaller crowds and simple venues. It was for a good cause, so we decided to go.

We were tired after the long drive to NY, so we went looking for a place to sit. We found a small table with two empty seats on the porch. We sat across from a burly guy with a scruffy beard, wearing a white T-shirt and beaded jewelry around his neck and wrists. He was very unique looking—I assumed he was one of the celebrity guests. He greeted us with a big smile and stretched out his hand from across the table.

“I’m Rohan, nice to meet you.” he said with a hint of an accent.

“I’m Chris and this is my wife, Dee,” Chris replied. 

“Ah, respect!” Rohan nodded.

“You just look famous—what are you known for?” Chris jokingly asked.

He laughed and said, “I’m just an ordinary guy.”

Chris and Rohan talked while I mostly listened. I was expecting small talk or even some chest-pounding swagger. However, I was completely wrong. Rohan was engaging. He asked insightful questions while openly sharing stories about his life’s adventures.

Rohan dreamed of playing soccer as a kid, but it didn’t go that way. He claimed music was in his blood, but admitted he couldn’t sing. He talked about his family with great pride even though things didn’t work out with the mother of his children. When we asked what he did for a living—he said he “accidentally” got into the coffee business. What attracted him to the charity event was the fact that his father died from melanoma at only 36 years old.

Rohan left out some details in his stories and we sensed there was a good reason why. We wanted to know more, but didn’t press. We exchanged contacts, hoping to meet again.

Later in the day we ran into our friend Jack, who had invited us to the event. He asked if we met any interesting people. We of course mentioned Rohan. Jack smiled ear to ear, then filled in some gaps.

Although Rohan didn’t sing, he left out that his brothers did. They have accumulated more than 20 Grammy awards between them while the mother of his children has 7 of her own. He may not have played soccer—but he was a football star. Rohan played Linebacker for the #1-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the early 90s, then professionally in the CFL. The “accidental” coffee business was quickly becoming a major global brand. Coffee was just one of his many very successful business ventures.

Oh, and his father, who died so young, turned out to be a musical and cultural icon—the legendary Bob Marley.

In a social-media-driven world that places so much emphasis on fame and fortune, it was refreshing to meet someone who has both, but chooses to downplay them. It’s a lesson for anyone making the next pitch or going for that big job. Resist feeling like you have to oversell or stretch the truth to compete. Just be yourself—no one can do that better than you.

Try this approach and you’ll see that “every little thing is gonna be alright.”