Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 | 3 a.m.
It was at the North Las Vegas’ State of the City luncheon Jan. 21 at Texas Station that a longtime business associate walked up and shook my hand with a familiar question.
“How’s business?” he said.
Not so long ago, this was a great conversation opener. Back in the day, the answer from any of us often was full of record sales and booming profits.
But how times have changed — even in North Las Vegas. You know things are tough when the invocation for what has traditionally been a pleasant luncheon begins with this depressing opening comment:
“Our city is hurting.”
Clearly, suburban frontiers like North Las Vegas and Henderson have felt the pain as much as anywhere.
In North Las Vegas, the number of active business licenses has declined about 30 percent since 2006. Building permits are down, unemployment is up and one in a dozen homes is in foreclosure. Sigh.
Every economic indicator is in the dump, and we all know it. It stopped being news long ago. In today’s information age, we all know what’s going on within moments. The news we want to know about today is in the things that are going right, but those stories are farther and fewer between than they used to be.
Which is one of the things that makes “How’s business?” an awkward conversation opener. Especially for anyone in sales or who is prospecting for business.
In fact, according to renowned sales guru Steve Giglio, who writes for Sales & Marketing Management Magazine and has his own strong Web site, “How’s business?” is at the top of his list of Top 10 Dumb Sales Questions During a Bad Economy.
Giglio said the basic problem with “How’s business?” is that it’s “a lazy question, especially given the economy.” He feels you have to be pretty out of touch these days not to know how difficult business generally is.
“What you really want to know is, ‘In what areas has the economy impacted your business the most?’ That question shows you already understand their situation and want to find out where it hurts most, so you can help with your company’s products or solutions,” Giglio said.
“What are your goals for this year?” is another one that made his list of dumb questions. The reason is that projections and forecasts are continually being adjusted and changed as a natural result of this economy. Instead, he suggests smart business and salespeople make sure they let the customer “know you’ve done your homework and came ready to help them set their goals — not just react to them.”
Now, this doesn’t mean you or I have necessarily done anything wrong by asking these sorts of questions during the current economic cycle, Giglio is simply saying we probably can do better when we’re out looking for business.
After the North Las Vegas event, I returned to the office to shovel e-mails for a few hours. But soon, I was headed to the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas for the annual Henderson Economic Awards. This event is a collaboration of the city, the chamber of commerce, and the Henderson Economic Development Association. Like the North Las Vegas event, it has a real “community” feel to it.
But what sets it apart from our popular State of the City speeches or the successful Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce “Preview” held Jan. 28, The Henderson Economic Awards don’t focus on the future; instead, they reward individuals and businesses alike for past achievements. And by acknowledging the positives of 2009, the program ends up giving an optimistic outlook to 2010.
It’s a top-flight recognition program in which numerous awards are given to big and small enterprises alike. Business, development and tourism awards were announced, before two individual awards closed the formalities.
A man who has given his time, labor and compassion to Henderson since 1972, District Judge Kent Dawson was bestowed the O’Callaghan Public Sector Award. Ben Brown, director of corporate real estate for American Pacific Corp., was given the Private Sector Award for his personal and professional contributions to Henderson.
The traditional reception followed. It’s always a time to connect with old business and community acquaintances. One such person headed my way with a warm conversation opener.
“How’s business?” he asked me.
Don’t get me started, I said. Don’t even get me started.