Sales and Art of Private Investigation
BY LEROY E. COOK
A high pressure salesman is exemplified by salesman who sold two milking machines to a farmer with only one cow and took cow in payment for machines. Sales, like any other powerful tool, can be misused. The necessity of marketing and selling your services though, is acknowledged by anyone in business except extremely stubborn and foolish. Being in any business without selling is like trying to clap with one hand. Ironically, some very good private investigators who feel "sales" is below their dignity are unwittingly practicing sales daily while doing investigations. The same skills and tools are used by sales professionals everyone admires and high pressure salesmen none of us wants to be identified with. These skills are also used by professional private investigators and by slick con artists. Some people seem to have natural sales and or investigation abilities but, skills separating professionals in both fields from rest must be studied, learned and practiced.
When I went to work with General Adjustment Bureau many years ago, I was taught, how to read and interpret an insurance policy. Over next eight years, through continuous courses and on job training, I learned about taking statements, photography, casualty law, rules of evidence and many other areas of knowledge that have served me well. During my 8 1/2 years as an adjuster and manager, I was taught nothing about sales. Selling was believed to be something done only by agents. Most people who work in law enforcement are probably also taught many technical things and very little about sales. A badge can effectively eliminate need for salesmanship. Police officers who develop and use good salesmanship in police work find transition to private investigation much easier than those who relied solely on their authority.
Only after leaving adjusting with a well earned ulcer and going to work for Field Enterprises did I learn what I had been missing that had contributed to ulcer. During my three years with Field Enterprises Education Corporation, I first sold door to door and then trained and coached others to sell door to door. What an education. After "graduating" from Field Enterprises, I started my own investigation agency and enjoyed eleven years of business success. I attribute my success as a private investigator more to my sales training than to technical training I received as an adjuster.
Yes, I prospected for potential clients and I gave sales presentations to some of ones I successfully contacted but that isn't way my sales knowledge helped me most in PI business. It made me a more effective investigator.
Let's talk about using sales tools in investigation. When you work a case and need to find a piece of information, you turn over every stone, right? If you don't, what are clients paying you for? Turning over every stone is another way of describing "prospecting", an essential sales tool. When you make contact with an important witness or keeper of records, you must gain their cooperation to get information you need. You must sell yourself or making contact doesn't do anyone any good.. When you take a statement, you need subjects signature on it to prove you didn't make information up. That requires a process called "closing" in sales world. Whether you use them while investigating or while getting more work, sales skills are worth learning. Here are a few examples.
The next time you need to get into a building past someone standing in doorway, try wiping your feet as you say: "May I step in?" You might be amazed at power of kinesics. The next time you secure a statement from a reluctant witness and need a signature, try leaving whole bottom line empty and instead of saying: "Sign here." Say: "Which side of page do you prefer to sign on, left side or right?" and hand them pen with paper in a comfortable position for them to sign. Many people resist following instructions (Sign here!) when they still aren't sure you are both on same side and many more have a terrible time making decisions. ("Gee! Should I sign this?") Everyone makes many choices daily so choices are easy and comfortable for them. (Left side or right?) Handing pen and positioning paper is another use of kinesics.