“Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”
The origin of this quote remains unclear as it has been attributed to many different people.
I was reminded of this one day last month when I met with a friend who confided in me he was seriously contemplating walking away from a business venture and going back into the workforce as an employee in a large corporation.
This was a very different “Tony” from the one who had come to see me two years ago to excitedly share his decision to pursue what had long been a dream of his – to have his own business.
At that time, I had known Tony for several years and he had expressed many times his desire to leave his job and become his own boss. He had spent more than 20 years working for two different companies, had risen to a senior management position and had this burning desire to run his own show.
His excitement was palpable, his energy enviable and his determination unstoppable.
A very different Tony from the one I met with a few weeks ago. This Tony was de-energized, despondent and seemingly defeated.
There is no question his timing in starting a business coincided with the beginning of what has become a deep and ongoing recession in Alberta and building a successful business in the industry he chose has been made more difficult by this economic climate, but what seemed to have gotten to Tony more than anything else was a growing belief within himself that constantly reminded him, “I’m not a salesperson.”
He has most certainly experienced some success since he began this venture, but it has come at the expense of his own growing uneasiness in asking for an order.
He explained he feels extremely uncomfortable in his role as a salesperson. He really enjoys all other aspects of the business and if there was only a way in which the need for sales could be eliminated, he would gladly weather the storm of the recession and continue on.
Like so many of us, Tony has entirely missed the point. The opening quote is as true today as it was when it was first spoken, and all of us who, for a nanosecond, believe we are not salespeople, have missed the role that selling plays in all of our lives.
Not too long ago the comedian Jeff Foxworthy reminded us that if:
- You think a subdivision is part of a math problem, you might be a redneck.
- You ever cut your grass and found a car, you might be a redneck.
- You take a fishing pole into Sea World, you might be a redneck.
- You own a home that is mobile and 5 cars that aren’t, you might be a redneck.
- You think the stock market has a fence around it, you might be a redneck.
Jeff reminded us that what we do is also a big part of what we are, and at the risk of not being nearly as humorous as he, I would like to point out that we are all in sales and that nothing happens until somebody sells something, is indeed an inescapable part of life.
- You have ever argued an opposing viewpoint; you are a salesperson.
- You have ever enthusiastically told friends about a great restaurant experience; you are a salesperson.
- You have ever gone to a job interview; you are a salesperson.
- You have ever defended your own actions; you are a salesperson.
- You have ever asked someone out on a date, you are a salesperson.
- You have ever harshly criticized a movie and recommended your friends not wasted their time going to see it; you are a salesperson.
- You have ever tried to convince anybody of anything, you are a salesperson.
Whenever we present anything that requests a call to action from others – “please take your seats, the show is about to start” – we are in a sales role which means, whether we acknowledge it or not, being in sales is a part of all of our lives
Tony recognised that the discomfort he had described earlier in our conversation was not at being a salesperson. He admitted to experiencing a real high each time a customer said yes and that if every customer always said yes, he would not be contemplating closing down his business.
His disillusionment was being built up by the cumulative effect of all the customers who said no.
The truth is, nothing will ever happen until somebody sells something and the moment we grasp that a) we are all in sales and b) sometimes our thoughts, ideas and suggestions will be rejected, becomes the moment we can plan for, and expect, great things to happen in our world.
Ask Tony if this is true. You see, he realized that by convincing himself it was time to close his business, he was selling himself on that idea.
Before we ended our meeting, he sold himself on a different idea. He convinced himself that he was going to make his business work and sold himself on the notion that each customer that said no to him would just strengthen his resolve to try even harder with the next one.
And the catalyst to today’s blog was the call I received from Tony on Wednesday telling me that he’d just closed the biggest sale he had made since beginning his business two years ago.
Oh, and by the way, the customer was the very same person who had been repeatedly saying no to him for the past two years.
There certainly is a lesson to be learned there, isn’t there?
Till we read again.