We write so much in our industry about stuff. Stuff like technology, politics, data and other topics dominate our blogs and daily reading but today I want to share a few thoughts about a person that many of you may not know, Chris Warner, who was very important to me, and others, in our early days in our industry. Chris recently passed away. Chris and I, like many of our cohorts in our industry, worked together at PRC Realty Systems in the 80’s when the whole MLS industry was in the process of becoming computerized. I actually learned of Chris’s passing through a PRC group we all belong to on LinkedIn from his wife Pat, which shows how strong that early connection still is. It was very sad to hear about Chris’s passing and our deepest sympathies go out to Pat and Chris’s whole family. Today, though, I want to share something I learned from Chris that has always stayed with me that I have shared with others through the years. It was a simple lesson really but like many simple things that are true it has stood the test of time for me. I pass it along as a gift from Chris.
Before I tell you the advice that Chris gave me you should know that Chris was one of the early, great MLS system sales managers in our industry. He was selling MLS systems in a day when not all MLSs had computerized MLS yet. Chris was the consummate professional. From his dark suits, starched shirts and cufflinks to his preparation and diligence during the sales process, when I put myself next to Chris I felt like a total amateur. But, like many really good mentors Chris was more than happy to help anyone he came in contact with. I got to work with Chris when I was promoted to Regional Sales Manager at PRC Realty Systems. Chris was the top salesman in the company at that time. David Charron (CEO MRIS) our fearless leader in MLS system sales back then, put me under Chris’s wing for guidance at one point, so I got to go along with Chris on some sales presentations to get my feet wet. I remember being totally in awe of his command of the material, his ability to manage the presentation and ultimately close the deal. I had no idea at the time how I was going to get anywhere close to his ability and like many young sales hopefuls, I was pretty nervous about whether I could do it or not. As I was getting ready for one of my first presentations on my own, I must have shared some of my nervous thoughts with Chris and his immediate reply really pulled me out of my self doubt and has helped me in many ways since. I am paraphrasing here, but what Chris told me was this. He said, “If you are nervous and worrying about things during a presentation or any situation, that means you are focusing on “you” and that is not where your head needs to be. Your responsibility is to do the best job you can for the people that have taken time out of their day to let you do a presentation. You need to focus on them and their needs and their questions and you can’t do it if you are worrying about yourself!” Well maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing and maybe this struck the “guilt” chord for me but it really worked. From then on, if I started feeling nervous or anxious about a presentation, I used to thing about what Chris told me and it made me realize I was thinking about myself and that I needed to get my focus in the right direction, on the people that had given me the time to be in front of them. I think this is great advice for anyone and I have passed this on to sales people that have worked for me over the years. We all need to be less self centered and more outwardly focused in whatever job we do. What this little lesson also did was made me realize the type of person Chris really was. He thought of other people, even those he wanted to sell things to. He took his responsibilities seriously. He was a pro. He was generous with his time and his help, as he proved to me during those early days with PRC. He was one of the good guys that helped make the industry what it is today and he will be missed. Thanks Chris.