I love sales stories. All of us in sales are basically loners. That shocks a lot of people because they stereotype salespeople as back-slappers and extroverts. However, most of the top salespeople I know don't really fit that criteria. Some are even on the shy side. Remember, salespeople spend a lot of time by themselves. They're constantly thinking about how they can give a customer better service and how they can sell more of their products or services. Most top sales jobs also require a lot of travel, sometimes even overseas. While it might sound enticing, after a while every town and every hotel room starts to look the same. The travel soon becomes a grind. But there isn't a better profession as far as I'm concerned, and I love being around people who have made sales their vocation.
When I spend time with a bunch of peddlers, invariably sales stories get told. These tales help illustrate how resolute salespeople can be. For instance, one of my favorites was told to me some years ago by a man who ended up being one of the most successful publishing executives in the business. Even though he was a legend in his company, there was one major advertiser in Wisconsin he could not sell. All his competitors won business from that company, but not him. Still he persisted. He called on the company regularly but was always told by the receptionist that the buyer was "not in." This went on for a couple of years, and he just knew that the person he wanted to see was on the premises when he was turned away. One day he had had enough. Because he believed he had nothing to lose, he was ready to do something daring. As luck would have it he spied a ladder that would reach high enough to climb to the buyer's office in the back of the building. After being turned away by the receptionist for the umpteenth time, he borrowed the ladder and started climbing. He reached the window and looked in. Then came the moment of truth: Either the fellow would be furious with him or he would invite him in. My friend told the story this way: "He looked at me in disbelief, smiled and told me to get off the ladder and come in. We had a great chat; I pitched him and got the business."
Recently a friend told me another sales story that I'll always remember. This is how he told it: "I heard we were going to lose one of the biggest accounts we had. I was mortified. I called the CEO of the company and asked for an appointment. When I got there he told me we had lost the business to one of our competitors. I didn't know what to do, and the only thing I could think of was to go to my knees and ask for another chance. I did go to my knees and asked for forgiveness. It was a long shot, but it worked. The client told me to get off my knees and he would give us another six months to prove ourselves. That account is still with us."
Selling is a tough business. Competition can be fierce. It takes a lot of ingenuity and courage. It's not for the overly sensitive or those who aren't self-starters. Success in sales requires learning how to strategize and analyze situations and then knowing when to take action. It also means being creative and taking risks. That's what separates the achievers from the also-rans. Yes, gambling is part of the business as well. It also means being fearless, as was the case with my friends-the one who climbed the ladder and the one who got down on his knees. I don't think anybody gets anywhere in any pursuit without taking a few risks. But that's what makes life so darn exciting.
Try something new,
Charles S. Lauer