One of the best managers I’ve ever had once gave me some wise advice. “Don’t specialize; you’ll get stuck.” Since then, I’ve found this to be one of the most crucial pieces of knowledge for any man looking to assume sovereignty over his life. As another friend said once, ‘you want to become a human Swiss Army Knife.’
One of the most important tools I’ve added to the handle of my ‘life knife’ is sales. I’ve learned to grind away as a stone-cold ‘cold-caller,’ spearheaded event marketing for a small education startup, and pounded the pavement and the stage as a recruiter and presenter for an international volunteer organization. I’m no shark, but I have managed to internalize many key lessons, all of which I apply in my daily life. Here are a few of the most important ones:
- Learn to spot, and get people to open up and express, genuine pain. It’s fun to talk to happy, successful, completely satisfied people. It SUCKS to try to sell them anything. People transact because they lack something, something they need so badly it hurts. But they don’t let you know right away. It’s not attractive walking around with open wounds, physical or otherwise. If you can get them to open up, to reveal that pain, you’ve made a huge step forward in closing the deal.
- Tell stories in which you help others play the hero. Humans live via narratives. We’re wired to see, think, talk, and act in stories. And the most motivating, powerful story imaginable is the one in which a man is the hero, the protagonist who slays dragons, vanquishes invading armies, rescues and/or boinks the princess and lives happily ever after. You don’t just want to alleviate pain; you want to give others the things, knowledge or capabilities to win. If you can weave a narrative in which they crush it, you’ll smash your goals, as well.
- Go out and get rejected. A LOT. Then repeat. No matter how great your product or service is, and no matter how totally awesome and charismatic you are, the VAST majority of people out there either not a good fit, or just aren’t ready, for what you have to offer. The sooner you internalize this, the sooner you’ll see every so-called rejection as either a learning experience to improve your pitch, or a way to develop your ability to not care what others think. Go out. Get punched in the face. (Figuratively, not literally). Still alive and healthy, right? Job and personal life are still fully intact, aren’t they? Congrats! You’ve just discovered for yourself that others’ opinions of you are completely, utterly irrelevant.
- Control the conversation, maintain frame. As you go forth to battle through the rejections, you still need an efficient way to find people who actually ARE a good fit for your offerings, make them understand the value, and compel them to sign on the dotted line. That way is your process, the structured conversation that YOU HAVE with THEM. Let me repeat that: YOU have the conversation, i.e., YOU control the frame and decide what gets discussed and what does not. Otherwise, the conversation, and the prospect, will HAVE YOU. A real bruiser in the batter’s box doesn’t swing at every crappy pitch thrown their way; they wait for THEIR pitch, then it hit out of the park. Let others decide whether or not to be part of your conversation, your frame; don’t change the conversation, or shift your frame, to become part of theirs.
- Don’t chase. In one of my sales roles, I got a prospect on the phone who sounded PERFECT: too busy to handle the side of their business I was targeting, knew it was an actual problem and claimed they wanted to fix it, but were too busy to handle things on their own. I set a time for a demo of our service. Demo day rolls around, I call and prepare to dive in and… they had to reschedule. “Something came up.” “No problem!” I said. “This is why professionals like yourself work with my company; you just don’t have the time.” We reschedule. I call again. And again, another conflict came up. I repeated this process not twice, not three times, but FIVE TIMES. The result? No sale, no commission–just hours of my time, wasted. Moral of the story: if someone keeps blowing you off, cut bait and look elsewhere. There are plenty of fish in the sea. There is NOT unlimited time to fish.
- Treat every day like it’s the last day of the month. Why do most term papers get written the night before? Why are almost all athletic records set during competitive events? And why do many sales pros hit or exceed their targets in the final days—or even hours—of the month? Because they have URGENCY. It’s do or die, now or never. But the fact is, there’s absolutely NO difference between the 1st day and the 31st day of the month. Bring that same sense of urgency to whatever you want to accomplish, every day. Approach the small wins, the little daily tasks, with the same sense of urgency as the main event—because THAT is how you kill it at the main event. Bonus: the beer will taste a LOT better without the added stress hormones.
- Attitude is EVERYTHING. Many things in sales, and indeed in life, are outside of your control. You want to really focus on, and completely DOMINATE, those few things you CAN control, you CAN influence. What’s the biggest one, by far? Your MINDSET. (And yes, this goes fist-in-boxing-glove with not giving a rat’s ass about what others think about you). Your attitude impacts EVERYTHING about the sales process, and just about every interaction and relationship you have. Approach every situation with an IDGAF, yet ridiculously positive, mindset. Your prospects—and your friends, your colleagues, women, everyone—will be MUCH more likely to join you on whatever ride you’re inviting them to. Do whatever it takes—I repeat, WHATEVER it takes—to protect your mindset. Completely cut out, or block out, negative people and negative thoughts from your life. Regularly listen to music that puts you ‘in the zone.’ Get your nutrition dialed in. Get plenty of sleep. LIFT WEIGHTS FOR GOD’S SAKE. Your mindset is your most powerful asset. With the right attitude in your arsenal, you can get whatever other tools and weapons you need to succeed.