Vanessa Merit Nornberg is the owner of Inc. 500 winning company, Metal Mafia, and a member of our Board of Experts here at Birthing of Giants. Vanessa is an expert at sales amplification and at guiding sales teams to their greatest synchronization and success. She’s also a columnist for Inc. Magazine, and recently shared an experience that she witnessed on her way to work that perfectly illustrated how to close the most sales.

While on her usual, look-straight-ahead or down subway ride to work, Vanessa’s attention was caught by a panhandler with a different approach to asking for money than the hundreds of others that one encounters in the city. Usually, they’ll approach a person, explain that they’re homeless or down on their luck, and ask for any help that the person can offer. This time, the panhandler skipped the typical lead-in, and simply asked if the person had a quarter that they could give him. The result was surprising. The person found a quarter in his pocket, and gave it over. Vanessa watched the panhandler use this tactic with great success, obtaining a single quarter each from about ten people inside of two minutes. That’s about 80% better results than she usually witnessed from the more generalized approach. Vanessa could see immediately why this particular panhandler had such good results.

“What made the panhandler successful at selling the idea that he needed money to the “target prospects” on the train was the fact that he was specific in his ask.”

He didn’t ask for whatever each person could give. He didn’t spend any time explaining his situation. He simply asked for a single quarter – a very specific request that most people were comfortable granting. Vanessa saw a lesson there that every sales team should internalize.

“Salespeople have to be specific in the same way. They need to be clear with their prospects in what they are asking the prospect to do. Calling and sharing a lot of benefits, but leaving the conversation without a specific ask at the end is the same thing as getting on the crowded subway car and telling your story to everyone within earshot, and then hoping that someone will decide spontaneously to support your cause. It might get you the buy-in you are hoping for in a few situations, but it will never drive your sales systematically.”

If sales amplification is a chess game, then specificity is the knight – your most agile tool for connecting with your prospect and making them a specific offer that fits their needs. Vanessa pointed out the parallel between the panhandlers’ approach and the best sales team strategy.

“If your whole sales team can do this on every call, every day, your customers, and thus, your company will get what they need.”

You can read Vanessa’s article in its original form at Inc. Magazine’s website.

Article originally posted on

Lewis Schiff is the author of Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons, the executive director of the Business Owners Council and the co-founder (with Norm Brodsky) of BEN Global Mentorship that helps business owners transform their companies into scalable enterprises and, eventually, enduring institutions with help from rockstar entrepreneurs from around the world.