Just because they're experts now, that doesn't mean they didn't have the nervous jitters the first time they did sales. But check out how they impressed their first clients.
I was 11 years old, selling soap door to door to earn my way to YMCA camp. I'd say, "Hello, my name is Brian Tracy. I'm selling Rosamel beauty soap. Would you like to buy a box?" People would say, "No, don't need it, don't want it, can't afford it," etc. I was very frustrated-until I rephrased my presentation: "I'm selling Rosamel beauty soap, but it's strictly for beautiful women." People who had been completely uninterested would say, "Well, that's not for me. It wouldn't help me. How much is it?" I started selling the soap like hot cakes.
I had been asked to speak before groups and had been paid to do so, but I had never personally gone after a speaking engagement. I wanted to do business with a software company which was having an annual convention for its resellers, but the meeting planner was hesitant to book me. He felt that, although my information was good and I knew what I was talking about, I would not be entertaining enough for his group. "Call any or all of the meeting planners on the list of references I gave you," I told him over the phone. "If even one of them says I was not the most entertaining speaker they had within the last few years, I will come and do your event for free." He called all of them, and they confirmed that I gave engaging talks, and I got the job.
After college, I sold advertising for a start-up fashion magazine. I was excited and thought it was the greatest product in the world. The magazine was a great place for local high-fashion retailers to attract a local market. I made 145 door-to-door calls in one day, and sold all the advertising space for that issue. I didn't have the skills, knowledge or experience, but I overcame those deficiencies with a tremendous amount of work. I believe 99 percent of a business owner's success is based on his enthusiasm, faith, passion for what he does, and the commitment to work hard to get his name out in the marketplace. Those ingredients can beat any other combination for success.
I had formerly been a teacher and had done corporate training before I started my own company that designs custom-tailored sales-training systems for corporations. The first four months, I had no clients. I told myself to practice what I preached: "The next sales call, I'm not going to mention my product until the meeting is over. I'm going to build rapport and spend time on the client's needs so I can position my product." I braced myself and did it. At the end of the meeting, the man said, "You knocked my socks off. When do we start?" The major difference was in asking for the client's needs, probing deeper and deeper, and really understanding what the organization was about, what they wanted to achieve and why.
When I introduced my audio-tape series at a trade show, I negotiated for a larger space so I could have room to conduct informational seminars on my product. I invited several of the entrepreneurs featured on my audio-tape series to speak on how they started their businesses and to answer questions from the audience. These informational sessions, I believe, were one reason I sold so many tapes at the trade show. Giving out information is a strong statement that you care about your prospective customers and are willing to give them something for free, whether or not they buy your product or service. Giving out free information also sets you apart from your competitors, most of whom focus strictly on a heavy-duty sales pitch. When you host an informational session, select a speaker who can make a dynamic presentation, and who can articulate the benefits of your product or service.
This article first appeared in the April 1997 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine.
Former corporate public affairs executive Carla Goodman writes on a wide range of business topics.