August 8, 2013 fm

When The Wall Street Journal Called

The other day a determined lady took me by surprise. I was just helping to prepare a family BBQ at my mom’s place when my phone rang. It was that determined lady who said that she was a journalist with The Wall Street Journal Europe.

She began to talk. I’ve found you on the web. I’m currently looking for a speaker’s coach who’s helped European entrepreneurs pitch for funding in the US. I’d like to conduct an interview with such a professional, and from what I’ve seen on your website you might be the right person to talk to.

Wow, the WSJ, I thought. First I was surprised. Then, I hesitated to answer… honestly. Finally, I revealed to her the truth. That I’d successfully worked with European entrepreneurs in Europe, but that I had no experience with American investors.

The call entered a dead-end road. We superficially agreed to stay in contect. Bye.

As I was putting down the phone, I thought, Are you stupid? WTF’s wrong with you?? The WSJ calls you and you don’t make the sell??

But – was I really stupid? During that moment of hesitation in the call four letters popped up in my mind – K-P-M-G.

For 3,013 days I worked for KPMG, the global advisory firm. In a hard world of finance, tax and law I was the soft guy. My marketing background and passion for communication never really surrendered to the expertise required in one of the Big 4. Yes, I was good at relationship building. For four years, I was a business development manager in Spain. I organized top events, I established contacts, I promoted the brand. But did I make one single sell? Did I sell one single hour? Nope. None. Zero.

Why? Because I lacked the necessary know-how. I couldn’t talk about discounted cash flow methods. I had no clue about transfer pricing. And I only knew liability issues from my college days when I broke stuff from others. At KPMG I was extremely weak on the logos side.

I was also weak on the ethos side. I lacked credibility. Was I a CPA? No. A tax advisor? No. A lawyer? No. I was a business guy with a soft spot for words, not numbers or paragraphs.

I was great on the pathos side. I know how to appeal to the emotions of people. That’s why I’ve always been a good relationship builder.

But again – not one single direct sell!

During my time with KPMG I learned a gigantic lesson: DO NOT SELL, WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW!

So – was I really stupid when I told that journalist the truth?

I don’t think so. Yes, I would’ve had the credibility as a speaker’s coach (ethos) and, for sure, I would’ve been able to transmit passion and emotions (pathos). But would I’ve been able to perform on the logos side? What arguments, what facts, what personal experiences of dealing with American investors could I’ve shared with that lady?

Today, I’m glad that I didn’t sell, what I didn’t know.

And, by the way, with or without an interview in the WSJ, the BBQ at my mom’s place was a great success!

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