From the Jan. 1, 1942, issue of American Nurseryman, we find that our enthusiasm for "networking" isn't quite so current. In his column, "This Business of Ours," Ernest Hemming writes:
Kitibzers and Selling.
Of course, it is only true in a small town, but a member of our firm can hardly walk uptown without receiving a small order. In fact, one said that if you stood around on the sidewalk on Saturday morning you could probably do more business than you would in the office.
On the other hand, every business has opportunities of selling that are possibly overlooked. Whenever a planting job is done in a conspicuous location, such as in parks, about public buildings, etc., there are numerous kibitzers. Quite often a number of these kibitzers are potential customers. It is likely that it would be worth while that, in addition to the supervisor or foreman on the job, a sales man just hang around and talk to the interested spectators that saunter up to ask foolish and sensible questions. If a genial salesman is around to answer, "How to you prune this?", or, "Have you any of that kind of plant?", he will soon find that there will be invitations to "come around and fix my garden" or "take care of my dooryard planting" or "put me in a rose garden." Of course, the rush of the planting season and the desire to get on to the next job makes this difficult, and while the foreman may be civil and polite it is difficult to run the job through efficiently and at the same time follow up interesting leads. A salesman could easily do this.
I wonder if we realize how much chance and opportunism has to do with many of the orders we get. For instance, with the vague idea in the back of his mind that he will someday plant an outdoor living room in his back yard, a customer who sees a gang of men doing a workmanlike job uptown may stop and ask a few questions. If someone is there with the time to give him, that man might decide to go ahead with the work. If not, the job may never be done, or it might be done by the next nurseryman who comes along at the right moment.
There is another point about kibitzers and our business. To us our business is work, even though beautiful and unusual plants give us pleasure and we enjoy our work, but to many of our customers our profession is their hobby. And, poor man or rich man, they all like to talk about their hobby, and people indulge in hobbies only as the spirit moves them, which is too often only when it is called to mind.
Pay attention to your kibitzers and you will probably get more business than you would from a newspaper advertisement.