Asking For It

Collecting for a good cause may be the sales training your company needs.
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A number of years ago, I was asked to host a telethon to raise money for PBS. Priding myself on being pretty good at raising money from investors and customers, I accepted the position.

When the first part of the program was over, the cameras were turned on the hostess and me, and we began asking viewers to donate money. We smiled, we talked and we tempted viewers with great bonuses. We did our best... but the phones sat silent.

Cold sweat began trickling down my back, and it wasn't from the bright lights. It was from terror--a terror I had felt before in business and was feeling now because the phones were not ringing.

On the second pledge break, I abandoned my cockiness and began to speak heart-to-heart to the viewers. Slowly but surely, the phones began to ring, and by the third break, we had raised a small but respectable sum of money for PBS.

The ability to raise money is the best skill an entrepreneur can have. If a business is struggling, it's often because the entrepreneur cannot sell or has stopped selling. It's possible the entrepreneur has hired sales staff who claim they can sell, but can't. As my rich dad often said, "Just because someone has the title 'sales executive' or 'vice president of marketing' after their name does not mean they can sell."

When I was starting my career as an entrepreneur, my rich dad suggested I take a job in sales. When I asked him why, his reply was, "Because that is what entrepreneurs do. Never forget: An entrepreneur's success is not measured in college degrees or corporate titles. An entrepreneur's success is measured in OPM [other people's money]."

In 1974, I took my first sales position with the Xerox Corporation. For two years, I could not sell. I asked my rich dad for advice. He suggested I volunteer to raise money for a nonprofit group. For the next year, I worked at Xerox by day, and three nights a week, I dialed for dollars for a charity. Asking for OPM for a worthy cause was my best sales training. There was no exchange--I was asking for money without offering a product or service. I needed to become stronger in my sales and communications skills, and selling over the phone is tougher than selling face-to-face.

If you want to increase sales, donate your sales talents to a worthy cause. If you have salespeople who need to improve, suggest the same to them. After all, a business' success is measured in OPM.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dadseries of books, is an investor, entrepreneur and educator whose perspectives have challenged and changed the way people think about money and investing.

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