17 years ago, I worked from a hospital for 4 hours a day.

My mom was fighting cancer.

She had such ferocity and resolve to win that she was asked by the hospital personnel to share a room with an older lady.

The doctors were hoping my mom's courage is contagious.

I was struggling to close a deal with a client, but when the lady entered the room I had to end the call.  

The old lady looked around and smiled brightly.

"Good afternoon ladies, pleased to meet you. I come from a small village in the North near the sea. I can see that you're from the capital, aren't you?"

That picked my curiosity. How did she know?

"Well, you people from Sofia turned the night into a day and the day into the night. You're running, running, running, always busy, always on the phone, always chasing something. My son moved here and he changed like that as well."

Later it turned out that her son is one of Bulgaria's famous composers.

"That's why I don't like this city. I make my own living in the village. I sell my apples and am the village's largest seller." There was a warm pride in her voice.

"You're also trying to sell something, right?" she asked.

This charming lady was getting more and more interesting by the minute.

Did she speak English as well?!

"No, I don't know the language you were using. But I can tell you're selling." She chuckled happily. "I am also afraid you are lacking a big thing there. Do you want my advice?"

There are some things in life you don't do.

You don't refuse the wisdom of a charming old lady on chemo, especially when your mom who was adamant about manners, is around.

I nodded.

"First, what are you selling?" the lady brightened even more.  

I gave an explanation of the IT service I was offering to the best of my ability.

"So, it's essentially people and skills?" She probed.

My mom's face denied my intention to explain it's more complex than that.

I nodded again.

"Hmmm... lend an ear to a foolish old lady here. I will briefly explain apples. My trees require daily care - I water them, tend to the soil, and do everything I can to make them stronger to survive the storms coming their way. They pay me back with sweet fruits. People are similar, don't you think?"

Frankly, I was young and stupid.

Though I believed it was a beautiful metaphor I didn't understand one bit what this had to do with my client.

On the other hand, my mom's approving smile (she was a CFO, after all) inspired me to listen closely.

The lady continued:

"So, here's my secret:

The daily effort you put into apples or people is your love for growing them. And that love sells more than any quality, quantity, or price you can offer.

"And here's what I think you miss (I might be wrong as I don't speak the language)". She said.

I hear your willingness to help and the confidence that you can - it's good. But until I hear the love for your people while talking to the client, I don't think you're going to make that deal.

Maybe because of the great kindness in her voice or perhaps because my mother was wearing her "Did I raise an idiot?" face, it finally hit me.

The lady was spot on.

How come I missed telling our client that our people held internationally recognized credentials that very few people in the world could brag with?!

How come I didn't even think to position the team?!

Of course, 5 mins after I did, the client sent a contract request with a deal twice the scope we initially discussed and the relevant sweet new price.  

Not only that, I rushed into the HR office and we organized the mess of certificates our team held, so we can use them later as a backbone of our sales strategy in a majority of deals.

I got promoted.

I went on countless pieces of training, and read tons of articles and books.

Every time I read "reciprocity", "empathy", "listening to clients," and "emotional decisions," I cannot help but think about an old lady.

The one who taught me I can never be too busy to show love for people, apples, or products if I want to close a deal.

Keep learning from every person you meet,


Share this post