'From The Desk Of...'

The elderly couple I passed while briskly walking up Second Avenue were hunched over at the same angle. They were holding hands. I flew by them, heading to my bank--which I soon learned was theirs as well.

Inside, I filled out my deposit slip while standing at a counter behind a large window looking onto the street. As I wrote my account number, I glanced up and saw the elderly couple I blew by, conversing on the corner. His hands were waving to help express his needs while her mouth curled in disgust. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the entrance of the bank. He came through the second set of heavy glass doors and immediately turned right. I watched him as he walked right past me. He appeared to be looking for something or someone in an attempt to look inconspicuous. "Something is going down," I thought to myself.

Sure enough, the elderly man did an about-face and headed back toward me and the glass doors. As he passed by the counter where I was standing, he stuck out his left arm, grabbed as many as five pens without stopping and escaped out the door.



I watched through the window as he returned to the street, where his wife stood exactly where he'd left her. She pulled the trigger on a look that gets shot often, I imagine. He stared back briefly, lowered his head and then stuffed the pens into the pocket of his tan windbreaker, a style old men wear in the summer. Hand back in hand, the two then crossed the street--one more satisfied than the other. Do you recall the days in sales when salesmen (as they were referred to then), would leave a pen on the desk of their clients as a reminder they were there? Metaphorically, the pen would mark the salesman's territory. These artifacts of salesmanship from another era sported the company logo and some even the sales rep's name.

What do you leave behind after you meet with a client? What is your modern day "pen"? A salesperson I used to manage shows up with a printed and bound booklet of research. She collects articles and industry reports on highly relevant topics so her clients have a reference tool in case they need one--all "from the desk of" you know whom.

The "leave-behind" is a gesture that expresses gratitude for your client's time and attention. Ambiguous tchotchkes or something self-serving will not deliver your desired impact. The best leave-behinds are ones that express your personal style, extend the mission of your content brand, and serve the interests of your clients.

For example, if you work for a content property that covers entertainment, leave a music CD or movie DVD, along with a review your editors wrote, on every call. This extends your brand with your personal imprint, and helps your clients stay relevant with popular culture.

Selling a men's or women's lifestyle magazine, leave behind beauty care products your client or their significant other would never buy but would like to try. Representing a travel Web site, find out where your client traveled to last and show up with a photo from that destination.

Books are another easy and moderately priced leave-behind. I love this option--clients may take a while to read what you give them, but when they do, they will recall and appreciate your thoughtfulness if it's a great read (hint: read what you give).

Whatever you decide, choose something than can be left on every call you go on, so order a stack of whatever you choose. That way, if midway through your quarter you are practically out of CDs or books, you (and your manager) can recognize the volume of sales activity you have been generating.

Leaving a modern-day pen behind won't get you the business. Leaving nothing won't get you remembered.

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