“Go and sign them up, Bob, and when I come to pick you up you can tell me how many sales you have.”
This was the mission as relayed by the Divisional Manager, Lewis. He was actually not quite the overall boss, being only second in command in the UK, second to the MD. But, as far as the sales department was concerned he was ranked slightly above of God. And he was taking me out because I was going through a bad spell and he had to 'sort me out' before I could continue to harbour hopes of becoming his right-hand man.
We were selling Book Club membership door to door to householders in 1980’s Scotland. We showed our prospective customers a club magazine with over 300 books to choose from in it. I guess we were like a mobile Amazon. They had to choose one per quarter, or we’d send them the dreaded Club Selection. Actually, it was usually a good book, the Club Selection, so as catches go, it wasn’t the worst catch.
See, in contrast to the MD, who was a very nice chap, Lewis could sell. And he could teach sales. So, when he spoke we listened. At least, that was one reason we listened. The other reason was that he was a psychopath who it was fair to say preferred to be listened to rather than not. He also was quite keen to be taken literally.
So, when Lewis said, “Go and sign them up, Bob,” I didn’t have any notion of debating the issue, or in pointing out the obstacles. Perspective is all in selling. If your mind-set was one of expecting success then you tended to dig deeper. And when Lewis more or less ordered you to succeed, you tended to dig to the earth’s core rather than come up short.
He’d just dropped me off on the territory. I looked at the street. It was soaking. So was I after just a minute standing outside the car, looking at it.
See, Lewis, hadn’t said, “Go and see if you can get some sales, see how you get on,” as if it was some speculative exercise, as if success would be a wee bonus, and failure, while discouraged, might be tolerated. Indeed, a sympathetic manager might point out how difficult it might be to achieve sales while resembling a drowned rat, in a street with few cars in the driveways, indicating that everyone was out. No, what Lewis had said was, “If you don’t succeed you are the world’s worst waste of time ever. You will know it and if you somehow don’t, I will point it out, and with great relish too.” Oh yes, I know he used different words. But, that was actually what he said. In my mind at least.
So, I thought to myself, “Well, then. I’d better go and get some sales.” Everyone who answered my knock on their door looked like a prospective customer, sounded like one and behaved like one. See, that’s what perspective does for you. Because, the day before, these very same people would have looked, in my slightly despondent mind, as if they were the last people to want to speak to me, never mind join a book club. But my mind-set that day was all about being determined to show everyone who opened the door the benefits of the product, no matter what.
This didn’t make me superman. But it did ensure that I dramatically upped the odds in my favour because the previous day I couldn’t be arsed bringing out the magazine from my folder unless I had received the obvious buying signals. But this day, the magazine was out at every single door. My presentation was practised every single door. I was presenting, closing, objection handling, all at every door. You didn’t need to be superman to get sales. You just needed to do your job the whole time during the working day.
“How many?” Lewis’s car had pulled up.
“Good. Same again this afternoon.”
No rest for the wicked.
Obvious, huh? Next time your day is less than super, just ensure you at least work.
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.