The Sales Profession Saved My Life -- and Made My Company Millions

From a homeless shelter to a home in Maui, I went from a life of poverty and desperation to a life of wealth and prosperity.

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By Weldon Long

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In January 2003, I was living in a homeless shelter for wayward ex-convicts. I had no place else to go. I was broke and desperate. For 20 years, my life had been defined by poverty, desperation and incarceration. Then, I landed a job in sales and my life began to completely transform.

Related: 7 Key Selling Habits All Sales Professionals Must Develop

A year later, in 2004, with just a year of sales experience under my belt, I started my own business on the foundation of a powerful sales process. Within 60 months we grew to $20 million in revenue.

In just a few words, the sales profession saved my life. Here's an overview of my story and, more importantly, the sales principles that made my success possible. These powerful principles can transform any sales organization, no matter what industry.

From 1987 to 2003, I spent 13 years walking prison yards over three separate trips to the state and federal penitentiary systems. Halfway through those years, on June 10, 1996, my life changed forever when I learned that my father had died. At the time, I was 32 years old with seven years left to serve in prison. I had a 3-year-old son I had abandoned. I was a ninth-grade high school dropout, a punk and the epitome of a three-time loser.

When my father died, I was devastated by the realization that he went to his grave knowing me as a thief, a crook and a liar. So, I made the decision to change the course of my destiny and become a man my father could have respected.

I spent the next seven years reading and studying the words of successful business and sales leaders and dedicated my life to following their example. I also created a "prosperity mindset", which I honed and trained to prosper in the face of any adversity. I learned that "if it is to be, it's up to me."

Related: The 15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

Seven years later, I was released and got that sales job. When I started selling, I was amazed by how many decent, hardworking people would look me in the eye and promise, "I'll call you next week," and then never did. I soon realized the "call backs" were about as real as the tooth fairy.

I also realized that people don't like to say "no" to your face. They like to say "no" by not returning phone calls or emails. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that, more often than people think, requests made via email end in negative outcomes while requests made in person result in more positive outcomes. So I put two and two together and realized if I could get people to make a final decision about me and my company while in my presence (face-to-face or on the phone), I had a much better chance of getting a "yes."

The key to getting prospects to reach a final decision in your presence (again, whether face-to-face or on the phone) is to head off the excuses and justifications before the prospect raises them at the end of the presentation. Then you simply hold the prospect accountable to what they said earlier, which creates cognitive dissonance for the prospect when they contradict their previous statements.

For example, early in your presentation share an industry article with your prospect stating that price should not be the most important factor when buying ABC widget (these articles are incredibly easy to find -- you simply google "things to consider when purchasing 'insert your product/service here'").

Once you review the article with your prospect, simply ask, "Ms. Prospect, would you agree or disagree with ABC industry experts that there are other factors to consider that are as important, perhaps even more important, than a cheap price?"

In the face of a credible industry expert or article the prospect will almost always agree.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings With Prospects

Now imagine later in the sales process when you ask for the order, your prospect says, "Well, I love your company, but you are $500 more expensive than your competitor."

At that moment you can use the three most powerful words in sales by responding, "I understand we are a little more expensive, but earlier you said price was not the most important factor in your decision. Has that changed in our time together?"

When your prospect is confronted with their previous declaration that "price is not the most important factor," she will experience one of the primary drivers of human behavior, cognitive dissonance.

To alleviate this internal conflict, the prospect will feel inclined to take actions that are consistent with their previous statement that price is not the most important factor. At that moment you'll have a better shot at them making a final decision in your presence, which more often than not will be a "yes."

Related: 11 Ways to Boost Your Sales Performance

Prospects who refuse to make a final decision even after being held accountable to their previous declarations are politely telling you "no." And keep in mind, "no" is a perfectly acceptable answer because "no" will not kill you in sales -- "I don't know" will destroy you with false hopes of commissions that will most likely never materialize.

This selling method can be applied to any number of excuses you are likely to hear at the end of your sales presentation. By addressing "I want to think about it" or "I don't want to change suppliers" or "I need three bids" proactively, you will be in a very strong position to get a final decision about you and your company.

Never be caught flat-footed when it comes to objections and stall tactics. Proactively anticipate and prepare for whatever excuses may come up.

The key is to combine basic psychology and sales fundamentals to proactively eliminate the inevitable excuses prospects will raise to postpone making a decision. By removing the excuses ahead of time, the prospect will be more likely to make that final decision in your presence, which will dramatically increase the probability of a successful outcome.

Learning and applying these simple sales skills transformed my life from poverty and desperation to a life of amazing success and prosperity. Imagine what they can do for you and your company.

Weldon Long

CEO of

A sales professional and corporate consultant, Weldon Long, MBA, trains the sales teams at major Fortune 500 companies including FedEx, Farmers and Home Depot. He built a multimillion-dollar business and is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

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