Having an Approach to Having an Approach

Roughly 97% of my readers appear to have stumbled upon my material thanks to a recommendation from Eric Cressey. With this in mind, I'm certain you will all appreciate the guest post he put together for me today. Enjoy!

When our twin daughters were born, I realized that – above all else – parents of newborns really need four things: diapers, wipes, prepared meals, and guest posts. Our girls were born on November 28, 2014, and I only published three pieces of original content that December – and this is coming from a guy who posted at least 2-3 times per week in the 12 years prior to that life-changing event. Fortunately, though, I got some help from a few guest authors to keep the content rolling.

Given that Pete’s blog last updated a shade over three weeks ago, I thought it was time to pay it forward – and below, you’ll find my contribution. Get some sleep, Pete.

Back in the summer of 2012, I presented at the Perform Better Summit in Chicago. After finishing up my second presentation of the day right before lunch, I stuck around to answer questions and take pictures with attendees. Truth be told, my wife and I were actually headed to Wrigley Field for the first time that afternoon, as CSP athlete Bryan LaHair was having an All-Star year and he’d left us some batting practice passes to have the “true” Wrigley experience.  As I recall, it was a 3PM game, meaning BP was going to take place around 1PM – and that was a 20-minute cab ride from the hotel after changing. So, to some degree, we were in a bit of a hurry.

Still, as I always do, I stuck around and answered every question. The last one in line was a super energetic attendee with a big baseball background, both as a player and coach. His name was Joe Yager, and his company is Perform Every Day in Illinois. We chatted about his career, the players with whom he worked, and some questions he had on arm care and weighted baseballs. It was a conversation that lasted 20 minutes or so, and actually spanned the walk all the way back to the hotel from the convention center. As the time came to say goodbye, Joe commented, “You know, I’m surprised. I thought you were going to be a jerk.”

Surprised, I asked why that was the case. Had I come across that way in my writing or presenting? Joe answered that I hadn’t, but he just assumed that it was the case because it had been his experience with a lot of fitness industry presenters over the years. Joe specifically mentioned Todd Durkin as one of the few really approachable guys he’d encountered – and commented on how Todd had become a great mentor to him in large part due to that friendly demeanor.

Since that day, Joe has become a loyal customer. He’s attended our Elite Baseball Mentorship (our highest priced offering, at $899-$999), and attended my shoulder seminar in Chicago this past July. He’s purchased The High Performance Handbook, Show and Go, Everything Elbow, Art of the Deload, Optimal Shoulder Performance, and multiple Cressey Sports Performance t-shirts. In short, he’s spent over $2,500 with me – and that doesn’t even include what he’s devoted to flights and hotels for these events. It doesn’t speak to the time he’s spent away from family to attend those seminars, or to watch our DVDs and read my articles. And, it can’t even possibly begin to quantify how many people he’s “turned on” to my work. 

Joe’s also become a good friend. In fact, he texted me earlier this week to get the inside scoop on a college baseball program that just offered one of his players a scholarship. We busted one another’s chops when Vanderbilt Baseball (lots of CSP guys) faced off against the University of Illinois (lots of Joe’s guys) in the NCAA super regional a few years ago.

Truth be told, though, Joe probably taught me more in that one conversation in Chicago than I could teach him in an entire career full of shoulder and elbow seminars and DVDs.

Think about it: he assumed that I was going to be a jerk. The onus was on me to prove that I was, in fact, a respectable human being. We can learn several invaluable lessons from both sides of this exchange.

1. You always have to put your best foot forward when it comes to first impressions. You have absolutely no excuse to not do so.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a public speaker, a coach, or the office manager of a gym. Your best bet is to assume that everyone begins your relationship with some pre-conceived negative impression of you, and that you have to overdeliver and win them over.

2. Pronounced extroverts probably have a leg up when it comes to most first impressions.

Joe cited the example of Todd Durkin being a mentor. Todd is one of the most outwardly positive and personable people you’ll ever meet. It doesn’t matter whether he’s exhausted and jet lagged, and giving his fourth presentation of the day; he is always upbeat and friendly. Dave Jack and Martin Rooney are other guys with whom I’ve interacted who always bring that positive energy and friendly demeanor on a whole other level.

Before people see any of these guys in seminar, they’ve usually seen them online in videos – so their “rah-rah” reputations precede them. And, before seminar attendees have a chance to interact with them, they’ve usually already watched the presenter deliver an enthusiastic presentation. They’ve been warmed up before the first impression.

You likely don’t have that luxury in the majority of your first impressions, and you may not be the kind of person who can put on the unconditional energy hat like these guys can, anyway. So, you’re got to just go out of your way to position yourself as a quality human being.

3. People who play the “contrarian” or “I don’t give a crap” card online are often behind the 8-ball when it comes to first impressions.

Here’s something you might not know about me: I refuse to swear in my writing. And, I won’t link to articles where authors curse. Why?

My daughters might read these articles someday, and I don’t want kids who think it’s okay to swear like a drunken sailor. Major League Baseball general managers or agents might come across them and think I’m not the right guy for their players.  There is absolutely nothing to be gained from dropping a F-bomb.

You might get some short-term notoriety from being a loud, negative contrarian, but you won’t build a lot of lasting long-term relationships. If you need proof, just try to think up how many successful companies you can name that spend a lot of time bashing their competition.

4. The people you think are jerks might just be really busy and not good at managing that stress.

Flipping the switch a bit, if you’re trying to approach someone you perceive to be an jerk – either to build a friendship or ask a favor of them – try to walk a mile in their shoes.

Sure, there is no excuse for them to be rude or unapproachable. However, try to consider why they might be that way. Perhaps they’re insanely busy and just haven’t learned how to manage the chaos yet. Or, maybe your inquiry was long-winded and unclear. Maybe they are like Pete and have a newborn and 2-year-old at home, and just need a good night’s sleep to recharge a bit.

To that end, if you really want to get in touch with someone, you need to have an approach to having an approach!

I received an 859-word random email inquiry this morning. That’s almost as long as this article! Reading and responding to it would likely take 15-20 minutes out of my day when I simply can’t spare it.

I have over 90,000 people on my newsletter list. If every one of them called our office for random advice (and some folks will do this), it would cripple our business.

The point is that you need to be succinct in your inquiries, and direct in your requests. And, be polite. I’m a firm believer in “respect reciprocity;” if you want them to do you a favor, at least say please and thank you.

About the Author

With a 3-0 record, Eric Cressey is currently in first place in the East Division of the Cressey Sports Performance fantasy football league. Apparently, he writes blog posts at www.EricCressey.com, too.