By Charlie Sacchetti
As I look back, it must have been in the early ‘70’s. I was still living home in Philadelphia and it was a long hot summer. Not only was it hot but there was a severe drought in Pennsylvania. The drought was so bad that KYW radio decided to provide the public service of having an official from the Philadelphia Suburban Water Co., based in Bryn Mawr, come on the air and give daily updates and advice as to how we could all cope with the situation.
Now, these facts are interesting enough given the rarity of the events, but they were doubly intriguing to me because the guy who was giving the updates was named Jerry Sacchetti, vice president of public relations for the water company. He was quite thorough in presenting the bad news daily but still projected a friendly personality and an optimistic viewpoint. Once he came on the air while I was with my father in the living room and I asked Dad if Jerry was related to us. Dad gave a quick “no.” Up until that point I hadn’t seen very many people with our surname who weren’t related to us, so I was even more intrigued. Who was this big shot and where was he from? I never found out, the drought eventually ended and life went on.
About 10 years later, in 1983, I began my sales career. Being an outside, commission-only salesman of industrial chemicals, it was my job to go out and turn non-customers into customers! That meant making a lot of “cold calls,” which involved my walking up to perfect strangers and using techniques I was taught to find the buyer, present and demonstrate my products and close the sale. Not an easy task and certainly not for the faint of heart or for one who takes rejection personally. My territory was Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I lived in Drexel Hill at the time and my territory would take me as far west as Pottstown, some 30 miles away. Some of the other towns in my territory included, Norristown, Limerick, Collegeville and part of the “Main Line” area, which included Lower Merion, Gladwyne and yes, Bryn Mawr.
I had been at it for about six or eight months and in planning my sales calls for the next day, I would ride into the area and list what I considered to be calls of good potential. As I drove down Lancaster Avenue, I saw a nice building with the sign, “Philadelphia Suburban Water Co.” To me, this had some potential since I noticed company trucks outside, and a maintenance shop. I had several products that could be used here, so I listed the water company as a stop for the next day. The following morning, as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a sign on the wall that read, “Reserved Sacchetti.” Now it all came back to me from 10 years earlier. This must be for the guy who I heard on the radio that summer.
As I pulled into the visitor’s spot an idea hit me that would be a big gamble and could prove to be either a disaster or a bonanza. In sales, it is most important to get to speak with the right people who can help you. The higher up a person is in the organization, the more difficult it is to get to see him. With these facts in mind, I decided to take the plunge!
I entered the building and looked at the directory. It said that Jerry Sacchetti’s office was on the top floor in the executive suite. I took the elevator and upon exiting I saw the large circular desk that accommodated three receptionists for the executives of the company. Please realize that receptionists are trained to get rid of salespeople who just walk up on them and do not have appointments with their boss. I knew these girls were good. For a moment I thought I saw notches carved on the desk that represented each salesman that they vanquished! However, the attractive brunette that I approached and smiled at was more than happy to accommodate me when I approached her, handed her my business card and said:
“I’D LIKE TO SEE MY UNCLE JERRY, PLEASE.”
She looked at my card and said, “Oh, certainly.” By now my adrenal glands were on afterburners. She asked me to wait as she entered Jerry’s office.
Soon the words rang out: “Who the hell is this?”
I walked over to his door and said, “Uncle Jerry!”
“Who the hell are you?” he asked.
I gave him a big smile, sat down and related the whole story to him, from when I used to hear him on the radio to my spur-of- the-moment idea to see him. He burst out laughing and congratulated me on being able to get to see him. We spoke for about an hour, cross-checking to see if we were related somehow, talking about his being a musician, telling him about my baseball career. It was great. He was great.
By the time we were through, he had given me names of people I should see in the company, at different locations, all potential buyers. I had no trouble at all regarding my initial contacts (They all got my business card too!) Jerry had given me permission to say that I was sent by him and I used that tactic to the fullest. Suffice it to say that I started doing business with many of the locations. In 2004, the company became a division of Aqua America.
Sometimes hunches pay off and a drought can become a steady stream. Jerry passed away in 2006, may he rest in peace. Thanks to his graciousness and willingness to help a struggling salesman who took a bit of a chance, the company and I are still doing business today.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org