Sometimes the best business advice comes from one of the first lessons we learn from our parents: Treat people with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated if your situation was reversed. Simple advice that is easy to forget when you are busy trying to grow your business. You never know where new opportunities will come from so the greater number of positive contacts you make the more likely that you will be on the receiving end of an unexpected phone call that leads to new business.
Several years ago we were approached by an individual who had recently left a job with a magazine in a field where we were publishing six related titles. He had looked us up and decided that his experience was a good fit with our company. He had a background in magazine circulation and we had a bunch of regional publications, so he pitched us an idea to help increase our circulation. When we passed on the first idea he came back to us and offered his services as an independent advertising sales rep. He didn't have much sales experience and my partner and I had to decide if there was any value in retaining this person. After much debate, and maybe against our better judgment, we decided to give him a shot. He'd be working mostly on commission so we didn't have a huge out of pocket financial risk, but there was an opportunity cost in not having the right person on the accounts that we would be giving him. Realistically, we felt a little bad for him; he was a middle aged guy with a family to support, so we convinced ourselves that his friendly personality could translate to sales success.
Over the next several months, his performance was spotty at best. It was clear that he was looking for a full time situation. We couldn't blame him but obviously we had expected to get something out of the relationship. Although we were disappointed we continued to have faith in him and gave him positive encouragement and any other sales support he needed. A few months later, our patience was rewarded when he called to notify us that he had gotten a new job and he would have to terminate his rep agreement with us. As it turned out he was hired by a Fortune 500 company to manage their custom magazine that was mailed to their customers. He almost immediately came to us to see if would could help him with the national sales effort he was now responsible for. After several meetings with him and his new employers we not only were retained to help with the sales but were able to present all of our publishing capabilities and ended up with a very significant new piece of business.