When I first started in sales working for someone other than myself, it was with 3M Company and I started out by selling copiers in an impoverished county in Western PA. Most of the industry in the county, which was comprised of steel making and all of the supporting companies, had shut down or were almost closed when I moved there. It was not considered to be a prime territory. Nobody wanted it or had worked it for a good while.
I was determined to work for a large company since I had just spent 7 years working for myself and I wanted to see how a Fortune 500 company operated. I didn’t know what was the right way to do anything so I listened to my sales manager and did exactly what he said. I knew what I didn’t know and I set a goal to learn all I could. And, then I could use my creativity.
My manager gave me a stack of D&B cards on all the local businesses and told me to start at ‘A’ and start setting appointments to tell them about our latest copier. One of the first persons I called was the president of a large local company that was involved in construction, strip mining, and few other things not all of which were necessarily kosher. His first name was Carmen.
When I told my manager I had an appointment and had actually talked to this man he started laughing and asked me to tell him how that phone call went. I told him I asked for Carmen and I got put through to him. Carmen didn’t quite know the company I was with until I used 3M’s full name of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Upon later review I think he thought I wanted to talk mining.
My manager and I both went on – this – my first appointment. About 15 minutes into the meeting, Carmen realized I wasn’t talking mining and instead wanted to talk about selling them copiers. At that point he said I needed to really see Joe his office manager who made all those decisions. So, I did just as my manager had taught me and asked Carmen if he’d mind introducing me to Joe. Carmen laughed and said, “No, c’mon with me.”
We went to Joe’s office where Carmen said, “Joe, I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is Bob Poole. He wants to sell us some copiers. Take good care of him.” Joe bought a copier that day and several more for other locations over the next few months. He also referred me to other friends that did business with Carmen and they all bought copiers.
Over the next couple of years I broke all the sales records for the company. I made what was pretty good money and I won some great contests including my first trip to Las Vegas and another to the Winter Olympics.
Here’s what I’d like you to take away from this story.
Sales creates a lot of cognitive dissonance for many people. For many it is so far outside their area of comfort that just the idea of selling leaves them cold and wanting to do anything else but sell. Often they turn to marketing ideas hoping they don’t ever have to actually sell. They think (wrongly) that marketing will eliminate the need for sales.
I was successful at 3M because I first listened to someone who had experience and wanted me to succeed. Then after learning his way, I learned what I personally could and couldn’t do. I couldn’t use manipulation which lots of sales books still teach. They won’t call it manipulation but they teach techniques which feel that way. And, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – you get the idea.
I read books with titles like 101 Ways to Close the Sale and found it all a bunch of BS. Selling is like dating. Sometimes you hit it off right away and go on to have a wonderful relationship. Other times you know that no matter what you do it isn’t going to work. Those two things happen about 10% of the time for each one. That means that most selling takes place in the big gray 80% area in the middle. Just like dating.
Many daters give up after having unsuccessful experiences. (If it weren’t for the human sex drive I’m sure more would.) One of the primary reasons they give up is because of the fear of rejection. “If I never ask – they can’t say no to me.” It’s the exact same fear that causes a lot of the bad gut reaction you have to selling.
When you don’t know what you’re doing and you want to be successful at that particular thing I suggest you find someone who has already been there and done it SUCCESSFULLY and then listen to them. Look for someone who can and will tell you exactly how to do it. If you’re not selling as well as you’d like (or maybe you’re actually starving and thinking of giving up and going back to work doing what you hate) then find a mentor, coach or author who will give you actual “How To” advice. You need to start with step one and work your way through a process.
And, here’s the most important part for you to remember. If the process, the tactics, the system conflicts with your values – you will fail. You won’t do it. Or, if you try, you’ll end up so stressed you’ll still fail and then you’ll convince yourself selling is something you’ll never do again.
So, if your gut says ‘no’ listen to it and find another teacher or book. And, don’t hesitate to ask me for help. I want you to succeed.