Q: I know it's important to sell, but I'm no good at it, and I can't afford to hire a salesperson right now. How can I develop the "tough skin" that I need to be a successful salesperson for my own company?

A: Welcome to the wonderful world of running your own business! You're in the same situation most small-business owners find themselves in. The great news is that you don't need armor for skin to make your business a tremendous success--all you need is to break a few stereotypes that have been established over the past several hundred years or so!

There are a number of potentially dangerous misconceptions that surround the sales profession. There are always people who are "down in the mouth," complaining that business is down, constantly making excuses as to why. If you believe these cynics, you can sabotage your own business. An attitude of self-pity can be contagious, so get things straight in your own mind first. Let's address the most damaging myths associated with sales and how you can overcome them. Before long, you'll actually have fun whenever you engage in selling activities.

Myth #1: Only Someone Who Talks a Good Game Can Sell
In reality, fast talkers don't really do very well in the world of sales. They have a bad reputation because their prospects can sense the pressure, the insincerity and the lack of concern and compassion. A good listener will outsell a fast talker any day of the week. When you don't listen, you don't learn about the individuals, the companies and their priorities. You won't be able to address their needs, hence your chances of making the sale are greatly diminished.

Myth #2: Sales Is a Numbers Game
Actually, sales is a numbers game--the harder you work, the more money you make! Lots of sales managers are obsessed with numbers: how many cold calls on the phone, how many in person, how many appointments, how many sales. I've even seen tons of forms that salespeople have to fill out and hand in at the end of the day. That's how the sales manager monitors the salespeople. Does this sound like elementary school homework or what? Sales work is about people, not numbers. It's a lot more like brain surgery than bingo. It's about research, information and relationships. No, sales is not a numbers game.

Myth #3: To Succeed in Sales, You Must Have Thick Skin
Yes, we all have to (graciously) call on internal reservoirs of strength to deal with inevitable setbacks. But that's not the same thing as developing an outer persona that is offensively aggressive.

In the name of thick skin, a lot of salespeople have adopted a persona that is, in a word, insufferable. Their attitude seems to be, "I succeed, you fail, see you around!" Professional sales result in win-win situations.

Myth #4: Sales Has Its Unavoidable Ups and Downs
Sales only becomes a roller coaster ride if you let the process drive you instead of the other way around. It only has ups and downs if you don't have goals. Almost every industry is vulnerable to seasonal shifts. Like most other inconveniences, these shifts can be avoided with proper planning.

No matter what you hear anyone else say, there really is no "bad" season. There is always opportunity for salespeople who are committed enough to find it. Picture this scenario: While your competitors moan about everyone being on vacation in July, you target people who are less likely to be away on holiday--and you get through to them more easily, because there are fewer gatekeepers to contend with!

Myth #5: You Have to Be Good at Handling Rejection to Be in Sales
Out of the millions of sales professionals in the United States, I'll warrant that every one of them has heard "no thanks" much more often than the average individual. If they took it to mean that they themselves were somehow inferior, we'd probably need special psychiatric hospitals just for salespeople with bruised egos.

Rejection is a bad thing only if you make a conscious choice not to learn anything from the situation. Otherwise, rejection is an opportunity for growth!

Myth #6: Sales Is a Dead-End Career With Little Promotional Opportunity
Did you know that 85 percent of the company leaders and entrepreneurs in America today were once salespeople? They carried sample cases, made cold calls, dialed for dollars, did product demonstrations and handled objections. Today, they're the majority of corporate presidents, CEOs and the like. Sales is a dead-end job, all right--especially when you consider that the end may be at the very top of an organization.

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.