In November of 2009 my younger brother, Sean, died suddenly. He was 26.
The day it happened remains the most surreal day of my life. It involved making hasty travel arrangements for myself and my parents to get to Florida immediately to handle everything. We were simultaneously dealing with the shock, the grief and all of the details that come with the sudden death of a family member, all while doing mundane tasks like booking flights, renting a car and checking into a hotel.
The next morning In my hotel room in Hollywood, FL my phone rang. It was an unknown number and, given the circumstances, I answered it. On the line was someone from an organ donor program. He needed to speak to a family member immediately and given my parents’ grief, these things fell to me. The representative explained that, given my brother’s young age, he was the perfect candidate for organ donation and, although he wasn’t a registered organ donor, the family could still opt to make that pledge. In particular, his cornea was particularly valuable and the decision to remove those needed to be made very quickly.
I recall thinking – and even commenting to him – that his job was an unenviable one. He needed to ‘prospect’ death records and make cold calls to grieving family members during what was likely the most difficult moment of their lives.
Yet, he did it. He expressed his condolences, recognized the difficulty of the situation and made a clear argument for why he was calling and the enormous, life-saving benefits of organ donation. He obviously believed strongly in what he was doing and represented a great organization.
There are lessons to be learned in everything – even tragedy (some might say especially in tragedy). Here are some things I’ve taken from this experience related to sales:
Do your research. He was obviously dialed in to sources (though I don’t know what they were) that allowed him to contact the right people at the right time.
Be fearless. Picking up the phone or contacting someone cold can often be nerve-wracking. But, if you believe in what you’re doing you must overcome any hesitation. And, you must do this again and again and again.
Earn trust. It is essential to establish a relationship and he did so through empathy.
Get to the ask. He understood the need to get to the point quickly and outlined the benefits of organ donation and the incredible amount of good it would do.
I think of this often. The next time you’re hesitant to pick up the phone or make a new connection think of that representative and the difficult work he does – as well as the work being done by Gift of Life and so many other great organizations.
Incidentally, the decision was made to donate my brother’s organs – and it is a small consolation to know that there are people out there alive today because of that difficult decision.