Death by a Salesman (Part 4)

by Trey Nosrac

A new Lexus ES Hybrid, pearl grey with black interior, was in his driveway. Technically, it was his car, but since he does not have a driver’s license, and since I am his driver, this would be my car.

“Why?” I asked.

“Why not?”

“What do I do with my Prius?”

“Keep it, sell it. Do whatever you want.”

I gave one of those head-clearing shakes. “Handing over a brand-new car to an employee is not normal.”

“Let’s call it my company car. I wanted a change. By the way, I was talking about you last night.”

“That’s not good. Does the new car have anything to do with your talk? Am I downsized, and this is our last ride? Damnit, I didn’t see this coming. You should have given me notice. I didn’t even have time to steal anything.”

He chuckled, “No, no, nothing like that. I was thinking of business ideas that might help your sport.”

“That’s good.”

“Not really, I couldn’t think of any great plans. Big companies, like the one I came from, are much different than most businesses. We have a huge head start, and honestly, huge advantages. We have data and resources.

“Well, that’s not very inspiring for my quest to resurrect harness horse racing.”

He sighed. “When we innovate, or when we improve an old product, we take the risk out. We can acquire related companies or properties, we can accurately forecast growth, and we can enter new sectors with incentives to crush potential competitors. New hardware, software, media content, whatever – we know where we are going before we begin.”

I leaned back in the seat and said, “That sentence made my head hurt and doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“My old world became less fun with every passing year.”

“So, you got nothing for me on the horse racing front?”

“Maybe a little something. I called a friend, Richie Schwarzer. We go way back. We started our first year together, and now he heads our product development marketing.”

“Is Richie a racing fan?”

“No, he grew up in Utah, not a harness racing hotbed. Anyway, I explained your sport, your lack of growth, even selling stallions. Then I asked him for advice.”


“Even though Richie thinks he can sell anything, he wasn’t optimistic. I pressed him for some tips about what he does when he has a difficult product or a new service to sell. I once heard him refer to these toughies as ‘grudge’ products. I jotted down a few suggestions he mentioned.”

I gave an eye roll, “Now, this sport is a grudge product?”

He pulled out his phone and began to read off his screen, “The first idea he sent was not a surprise. Use data, targeted data, to dial back the difficulties. Keep leaning on data to pitch a difficult product or service because data always makes the process a lot more straightforward. Dig into the data, look for things like the ideal time when a customer might be more willing to invest. Find data, and you find possible entry points.”

“Where is this sport going to get data?”

“You may have more than you think. Buy it or dig for it. Trey, in the new world, data information will be king.”

“Maybe for the new kids on the block. For me, the last time I asked Alexa to turn up the volume, the fireplace went on.”

“Here is another idea from Richie for a peculiar product — make it cool. Make the product or the service unique. Try to reposition as a big secret, something where only a small segment of smart customers are in on the fun. Do a lot of showing and telling. Make this feel like something that only the cool kids do.”

I opened my hands, “Nobody does cool like Trey.”

“The next suggestion he passed along is my favorite. He said to find a higher purpose behind the product or service.If you do, you will come from a genuine place. Higher purposes, such as supporting a charity, will make it easier to find people to invest in a difficult product or service.”

I did a little TomTom rift on the steering wheel and shouted, “Dude, that is one of my ideas. I’ve mentioned this to you. If we had some owners with deep pockets, you know, the people who could not get rid of all their money if they tried, it would be awesome if they raced their horses for charities, homeless people, or sick people. It would make buying horses, owning horses, and racing horses more fun. Owning a stable of horses could be a new way to give to charity. One famous, wealthy person involved in this sport for charity could be a tide that raises all the boats.”

He went on, “Calm down, here is the last idea Richie sent me.Always tell stories. Focus more on stories. Relating stories always drives higher engagement. Tell stories about common characteristics or aspirations the customers have about some successful role models or peers they might know.”

“Stories, charities, and make it cool. The only thing I’m missing is data. Speaking of data, Google the blue book price on my 2016 Prius.”

He pecked around on his phone, “About $1,600.”

I nodded. “Relevant data. I think I still owe about $600. So, if I dump the Prius, I’ll have a grand to pay a stud fee and staking of my 2-year-old.”