I felt like I was the invisible man
A few weeks ago I found myself out on the streets in Sydney selling The Big Issue Magazine. I only spent 1 hour selling. It was one of the toughest hours of work I’ve done for a long time. As a friend of mine said, - “If you ever want to feel invisible, pop on a red Big Issue hat and a luminous vest”.
After the hour of selling I reflected on what I believe you need to succeed in sales:
Here are 5 things I think any sales professional needs:
- Selective Amnesia - During my 1 hour of selling on the streets 95% of people ignored me. It reminded me of being at home with my family. Often people didn’t even look up and acknowledge my greeting or smile. I realised very quickly that I shouldn’t dwell on this. The ability to quickly forget the fact that I was forgetful was very important. The next sale was never that far away, so there was no need to dwell on the fact that I had just had 14 people in the past minute completely ignore me.
- Have a plan and stick with it – Before we went out on the streets of Sydney to sell the magazines we spent some time as a group working out our plan. We had some targets in place and a strategy for selling as many magazines a possible within 1 hour. Like you, I’ve often found that it’s relatively easy to set a plan. It’s much harder to stick with it. It would have been very tempting to give up on the plan when after 20 minutes the only feedback I had received was from some moron in a cheap suit yelling at me “Boofhead, get a real job”.
- Use your time wisely - When I wasn’t having any luck with a prospect I could tell using my instincts that no matter what I said or did I wasn’t going to make the sale. Successful sales people have what I call a Sadar, “Sales Radar”. They can often tell, within 20 seconds, if the person they are speaking with is a genuine prospect or a time waster. If they are a time waster, they move on quickly to the next prospect. If their Sadar says that they are a strong prospect, they maintain their communication with them. I have often found that successful sales people seem to know (instinctively) whom to spend more time with and whom to spend less time with. They use their Sadar very wisely. All you really have in sales is your time. Allocate it wisely and you’ll spend more time in front of better prospects.
- Luck – The most under rated concept in sales. I had 2 magazines left to reach my target of 10 in an hour. I had 2 minutes left before we had to wrap up. All of a sudden I recognised a guy walking towards me. It’s Justin. My seven year old son’s football coach. Unbelievable. I tell him what we are doing and why and politely ask him if he’d like to purchase my last 2 magazines (give one to a friend). He says. “Sure Steve. Seems like a very good cause to me”. There are a lot of theories about luck. Being more of an optimist than a pessimist definitely helps. You can probably make some of your own luck. Keep going and watch how lucky you become. Give up and I can assure you, you won’t get lucky.
- Charisma - I tried to get people to laugh or at least crack a little smile. When people are smiling they tend to be more receptive to helping others. Most people tend to like people who are like themselves. By adapting my words and my body language to match the prospects I found that I was more likely to be able to engage them. In the 1960’s in Detroit, Joe Girard, who was known as the world’s greatest salesman, used to send signed thank you cards to his customers that just said “I like you”. You may well laugh. He received more referrals than any other salesman in his dealership and successfully grew his business through word of mouth referrals.
After my one hour of selling The Big Issue I was knackered. I had picked up some of the best sales training I’ll ever receive. You can read all the books, attend all the courses and watch all the You Tube clips on how to sell. For me, nothing was more useful than getting out on the streets, for a great cause and working hard to engage people and trying to turn lookers into buyers.
When I reflect back on that hour on the street, I had learnt that as the famous saying goes, “You can’t sell a secret”.
I had to keep going, smiling and nodding my head. I couldn’t allow myself to take any knock back’s personally. My instinct kept telling me; hang in there, I might be about to get lucky.