BIRTH OF A SALESMAN ON AMAZON!
Here, without interruption, is the introduction and first chapter of BIRTH OF A SALESMAN, my first novel. Please comment, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
BIRTH OF A SALESMAN
Carson V. Heady
© 2010, Carson V. Heady
Copyright notice: All work contained within is the sole copyright of its author, 2010, and may not be reproduced without consent.
Cover design by Madeline Gorton
“If you have an area of excellence, you’re the best at something, anything, then rich can be arranged. Rich can come fairly easily.”
—Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felsen in The Color of Money
“Always set your goals higher than you could ever possibly reach. That way, when you barely fall short, you’re still better than everyone else.”
—Vincent Thomas Scott III, author The Selling Game
This book is a work of fiction and any similarities between real groups, corporations or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Light slowly began to encroach the darkness that enveloped the apartment room. Asleep on the couch, covered in a blanket lay Vincent Thomas Scott III. For that moment, and that moment alone, there was calm.
Vincent is a man whose astounding attributes vastly overshadow his glaring weaknesses. He is a showstopper; a game-changer. His bloodstream flows with the perfectly balanced cocktail of adrenaline, vodka and caffeine, each taking turns running his engine. He is exceedingly intelligent, witty, boyishly handsome, occasionally arrogant, and yet sentimental. Jaded and cynical from his experiences, yet so full of love for his 2-year old princess of a daughter. A bachelor by trade, Vincent is scarred from a few that mattered of the many women that had crossed his path. Numbed by numerous letdowns of life and the antidepressants his chaotic existence had driven him to years ago, he seldom let himself feel much of anything anymore.
Vincent is a man; flawed yet redeemable in many ways. He is not indestructible, not bulletproof, yet puts up a front of both.
His greatest joys: the smell of his daughter’s hair, her hand in his, the way she calls his name and runs to him when he arrives to pick her up at the sitter’s and the way she would just come up to him for no reason and hug him or declare her love.
There were the cheering crowds and ovations. A basketball player in his youth, Vincent chose work over pursuit of that dream and has had to settle for the adoration of his workforce.
He took pride in the fact he was able to touch so many people in a positive fashion on a daily basis. He truly made a difference and changed lives for the better, even if it was on a small scale – for now.
His greatest weaknesses: vast insecurities that are deeply buried – a fear of not being loved, wanted or of being abandoned or taken advantage of – and he masks them with the guise of an inflated ego. He regularly uses alcohol to supply antiseptic to his incurable pain; it is the ache of a man who had spent the sum of his 31 years attempting to find solace in a world he was coming to realize was cold and brutal. The measure of this man is that the things that have not killed him have made his ambitions stronger.
The meaning of life according to Vincent: working hard so the people you love know you love them and having a positive effect on as many people as possible. Our lives are a mere blip on the radar, so you had better make it memorable.
* * *
Emerging from a sea of crayons and a pink hairbrush, the alarm from the phone on the nearby table sounds the James Bond theme, signaling daybreak. Vincent ends the riff with the press of a button, blinks a few times and basks in the silence for a moment. He focuses his eyes, takes Elizabeth’s picture from the table and looks at it and smiles before kissing it and tossing aside the blanket.
Aside from several pictures of Elizabeth, movie posters adorn the walls; it is a blatant jab at the existence he was forced to live when Abby called the shots. He was not good at feeling constricted after years of bachelorhood, so after all the fighting, the tens of thousands of dollars he shelled out against his will, the court battle over Elizabeth and the anger, Vincent laid bloody and bruised in the ruins.
Vincent had always been the picture of health, perhaps being hit with debilitating flu every year or two. Outside of physicals for basketball or a sprain after being thrown from a bicycle when he was 8, the man had never seen a doctor. However, life with Abby proved far more than he could take. Anxiety attacks are a powerful thing and Vincent reached a point he could disregard them no more. After not being able to make the 100-mile drive to his hometown of Mankato, Minnesota, because of overwhelming fear and shortness of breath, and experiencing this on a smaller scale on daily drives, he finally confronted them with a doctor visit on his 29th birthday. A few months later, Vincent and Abby were no more.
Vincent flips on the bathroom light and looks at his reflection in the mirror. The short blond hair is just slightly out of place; his face covered in the stubble of a few days’ growth. He sees the emotionless stare he has grown accustomed to seeing staring back.
The silenced phone starts vibrating with incoming calls as soon as he nears the shower. It always does. But this is the life he chose and the responsibility that tags along with the power.
Vincent runs a sales department of 220 people. While the frustrations and calamities are never-ending, the adulation of his subordinates keeps him going. While the sales arena is sometimes the bane of his existence and he has contemplated seeking a vocation that does not require this level of overwork and heartache, he would have a hard time turning his back on his calling. He would miss it too much.
These early morning calls are his managers running late, “sick,” hung-over, pulled over, “in traffic” (behind a train – that was his favorite). It’s all just another metaphor for “I’m not at work when I’m supposed to be.”
The water pressure in the shower has never been enough, and the temperature fluctuates every time the faucet or toilet in the apartment above is touched. No matter; Vincent is not a complainer. He will not send back food in a restaurant. He will not ask for help. He will take the beatings, big or small, whether he brought them on himself or not, because he has learned to cope and adapt through years of his independence. That is how he succeeds – by rolling with every punch of every kind and not complaining. Vincent has mastered this trait. Over eight years ago he was an reserved 22-year old college graduate thrust into a sales job with no experience. He got a look because he knew somebody, proving an old adage about “who you know” and made the most of it. When that introvert was interviewed by Shelly Cheekwood for his first management position, she was fair to ask, “You keep to yourself and don’t have a lot of interaction with others on the floor. How will you react to having to manage and motivate a team?” His reply: “You have, until this point, seen Vincent the rep. You haven’t seen Vincent the manager. I will become whomever I need to be to be successful.”
And he did. He was loved by his followers and despised by jealous peers. They tried to figure out the secret to his success but the concept was beyond them. Vincent is not someone you want to compete with because if you try to step on his toes, he does not play nice and he will beat you, no matter what. And, unfortunately for him, no matter the cost to himself.
He is a contradiction in that he can apply so much discipline to aspects of his life but his professional life is a devil-may-care battlezone. He throws himself in front of so many buses to stop injustice facing his people that he is lucky to still be in one piece.
A snippet from his appraisal: “Vincent is difficult to control. His ego occasionally clouds his judgment and causes him to make poor decisions.” Of course, this is inches from, “When it comes to driving results, Vincent is without peer. He is one of the best motivators and innovators this company has ever seen.”
Vincent’s passion and work ethic equate to him making 1,000 decisions or actions – many of them brash or half-cocked in an attempt to fit them all in – in a given day to someone else’s 100. Where another person can make 100 decisions and make 1 mistake, he will make 1,000 and make 5 mistakes. One could look at it and say he did 995 things correctly to someone else’s 99. Of course, most powers that be will say he made 5 times as many mistakes as the average worker. Sadly, those are the ones with all the real power and who constantly beat him back down. Take heed, reader: Corporate America does not like renegades or crusaders.
Vincent is the champion of the people; they flock to him like the Pied Piper. The same man who flaunts an unabashed ego to motivate the masses is
actually humbled by the standing ovations that erupt when he arrives for a morning meeting. His employees trust him, emulate him and they know he would fight until the death for them.
He is the Robin Hood of All Brand Marketing. He robs attention from the rich and showers it to the poor. Unfortunately for Vincent, however, those who dislike him typically know where to hurt him.
He has won more than he has lost, knows he is guaranteed for greatness and will not stop until he gets it.
Now you know Vincent Scott. Now you can witness the birth of a salesman.
* * *
The drive to work can be tedious through traffic and annoyingly long, but it is where some of the best ideas are born. Any time Vincent is left alone with his thoughts, his mind is aflutter with activity. The combination of music and ignoring most of the calls that keep his phone buzzing all morning are the only other constants.
Today is a critical day. Christmas comes once a year for the rest of the world, but the last day of any month is Vincent’s holiday. Not only that, but his department is caught up in a whirlwind of political chaos that only he can carry them through. It has been 8 years, 2 months and 2 weeks since he started working for ABM. At the tail end of 2000, he graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with his business degree, bummed around for 6 months with his best college friend Ted and newfound love Julie…and suddenly it was time to go. Julie got a volleyball scholarship to play in Minneapolis. Ted was moving his family to Minneapolis. Vincent’s antics of showing up at his parents’ house at 3 AM after a night of partying were getting old for all. Logic dictated that it was time to move out and forward.
Unfortunately for Vincent, he has a penchant for staying in a situation until it is undeniably clear it is time to move on, if not longer. It explains why he suffered through the effects of Abby for so long. The saddest decision in the world is having to decide not to see your daughter every day because being with her mother is killing you.
He cannot have a platonic relationship with a woman or a friendship with many people because he won’t trust his insecurities with anyone. He has made that mistake in the past –getting close to a few people – but it has almost always ended in him being burned.
The euphoria of making-out-at-stoplights puppy love turns into them snooping through your stuff or not understanding when you just want to be
alone…it always blows up. That spark may turn into a flame but life extinguishes it every time. And that’s what happened with Julie.
Julie was 3 ½ years younger, which at that point was a difference of light-years. She was gorgeous, traded stares with Vincent often and worked in the deli at Cooke’s grocery store while he worked several feet away in the meat department.
They spent a lot of time together at her house watching movies, playing video games with her little brother and chasing around their family dog Dax. It was the first semblance of a normal relationship for Vincent and he enjoyed every early minute.
It was off to Minneapolis after the summer of 2001 and Vincent finally put distance between himself and the only home he had ever known: Mankato.
After a seemingly endless month in the deli of Cooke’s in Minneapolis, the call came: All Brand Marketing. Vincent’s Godmother’s sister-in-law was a director of communications with ABM and scored Vincent the interview as she was a longtime contemporary of the hiring manager.
Vincent was expecting some type of customer service role, but what the heck; this would end his life path towards being a permanent meat-cutter.
ABM was typically heralded as a prestigious company to work for and he was open to seeing what it had to offer.
Very shortly into Vincent’s ABM career came an unexpected event that rattled his soul: the suicide of his grandfather. Vincent’s parents had revealed just a year before it reached fever pitch that his Grandpa Tom, from whom he inherited his middle name, was an alcoholic. The addiction had polarized the family, consumed conversations amongst relatives and prompted multiple interventions.
Vincent found out about this ordeal when it became clear his grandparents were headed to divorce. The day it was finalized, his Grandpa waited for her to leave the house to go to the grocery store before taking his own life with a shotgun to the chest.
After decades of working on a farm and living a life he was happy with, Grandpa could not do the things that made him feel whole. Once gone, only the drink erased the pain. Grandma was the strongest woman Vincent had ever known but, unfortunately for all, Grandpa shut her out as a lifeline and the story ended in tragedy.
Vincent’s inability to share his feelings about the tragedy was another dagger to the volatile relationship with Julie. In turn, she did not discuss her issues with her father. The lack of communication spelled disaster for their coupling.
Of twelve to be hired into training, two made it out: Elise Barnett and Vincent. They were not coincidentally the only two from “off the street” who could not retreat to intra-company positions from whence they came. Vincent was also taken aback that 40% of the payroll was on “disability” for varying things like stress leave. In hindsight, that probably should have told him something.
It was near the end of training where the mantra, “This may not be the job for you” was first heard – addressed to the group. Behind closed doors, Vincent was assured he would be a star, by trainers and managers alike. Time would tell, but in his mind, he had no choice but to stick it out.
In the end, of course, Vincent passed training with flying colors. He found himself relating to new teammate Jake Stallings, the best male sales performer on the floor. He found himself chasing Bambi Jennings, the top rep on the floor. Rumors always circulated that she was dirty. Whether she was or not, it was the age old thing: tearing down top reps so you have an excuse for why you cannot beat them. Vincent never bought into excuses. He just beat them.
Darren – the final trainer to teach Vincent’s class – was assigned to them once they graduated to the floor. He goaded on the friendly competition between Vincent and Jake.
Vincent Scott, at this point, was just a small town boy living in a newfound world. Yet, unbeknownst to Darren, Jake and the onlookers in this office were about to see the birth of a salesman.
“The Selling Game” by Vincent Scott Chapter 1
THE ART OF CONFIDENCE
If you are reading this, let me lead off by saying congratulations. Chances are you are serious about selling. You will find, if you haven’t already, that many techniques can add up to the same equation of success. One of the challenges of success is determination of your own equation and your own path. My objective is to open your eyes to things you may have never considered to make your path an easier one to tread than mine has been.
But all the books, the scripts, the coaching and counseling in the world mean nothing if you do not begin by believing in yourself.
Everyone, with the right application, has the ability to be a star. It takes brains, guts and tenacity to get there and my goal is for you to attain that glory so you feel like Rocky at the end of Rocky IV when they hoist him up and drape the American flag over his shoulders. Trust me, I know that at the conclusion of some days you feel like you just went fifteen rounds with Russian powerhouse Drago; you take such a beating that you’ll almost be forced to wait five years for the underwhelming sequel that should never have been made. But seriously, always remember that Rocky won that fight. You can too.
You may be asking yourself if I have ever read a sales manual or book. I have not. My methods are what I have learned over years of doing exceptionally well. I learned by trying a lot of things and applying the principles I will outline on the pages to come.
There are a lot of opinions out there – everyone has one. You will not agree with everything I say, but hey –that’s what America is all about.
Sales ability, like oxygen, exists in every living being but like the talent to build bridges, play an instrument, or speak a foreign language, its expression varies across the species. Some people reek of the ability – an illustrious scent of confidence exudes from them – and it dominates everything around them. Others’ ability or application in the area reeks – an odor that contaminates their playing field. But, for that, there is a cure.
The day will never arrive where you are no longer called upon to sell something to someone. It can be selling yourself in a job interview, selling your spouse on where to have dinner or selling your child on why to use the potty rather than their diaper to do their business. Sales deals in the tangible and the intangible. The lucky ones get paid for being good at the skill. It’s a science and a psychology and, if mastered, it can make all the difference in your world and the worlds of others.
I have crafted this book to cover how to master them all. For I, like you, once sat in a position where I had no idea I could dominate the trade. I once was fresh out of college with no work experience, and when placed in a sales job because I had a high-quality referral, I was at first overwhelmed. No more.
If you are great at something, it is your responsibility as a part of the human race to impart that knowledge to others. We are all here for a short time and should strive above all else to be remembered for excellent and honorable things. I hope above hopes you find what you are looking for in the pages of this book. If not, it would make a great gift. Or, let me know what I omitted and I’ll save it for the sequel.
I encourage everyone to keep a journal. Keep a log of what you attempt daily: the challenges, choices, experiences and disappointments. You cannot advance in life if you do not learn from these things. Knowing where you came from is the only way to know where you are going. Mistakes have to occur for any kind of growth. Repeating mistakes will lead to continued failure, but modifying your approach to sales or, anything for that matter, and finding the best method of attack is what will lead to positive consistency. Positive consistency breeds success. And that quest for success is why you’re here.
Sales, like poker or paper, rock, scissors, is playing the person across from you. It is not about spouting benefits and crossing your fingers that the listener will cave. It is a psychological tug-of-war where you put yourself in your customer’s shoes and realize and utilize what they need to hear before they cave. It is getting in their head by lowering their defenses so you can determine what they need to see before they buy.
Too often I have heard sales reps showcase their knowledge of various products and services their company offers in hopes the customer will eventually hear something they latch onto and just jump up and down and beg to be sold to. This is not going to happen. Rather, your mission is to target a customer’s weakness, find if and why they truly need your merchandise and find five unique ways to explain how it is going to cure what ails them. Period. You have to drill that point home until they cave. And if they don’t, after you have given them everything you have, know when to pack up and move on.
People are a lot of things, but they are (1) afraid of change and (2) not going to be bullied into it. You have to make the fear of not changing outweigh the fear of changing. You have to hammer home the weaknesses they possess or the undesirable outcome you want them to avoid so they will make the decision to change. You cannot make up their mind for them. You can, however, make them fear that the parade is passing them by and that they are missing out on something groundbreaking. You can show them their competitors that are thriving off what you have to offer. You can cater to their greed (Gordon
Gekko’s favorite sin), desire for success, and their will to win. Doing these things is what will lead you to your win.
It all starts with ATTITUDE and confidence. The most important part of becoming someone who can infiltrate the customer’s mind, needs and weaknesses is having the mindset that enables you to barrel through any obstacles that present themselves. This does not only take into account the ones your customer throws at you; it can encompass morning traffic, the gas station only having decaf or being saddled with a manager that has no business being in the business. Obstacles will be everywhere, but you cannot be deterred. If you have a set mission, a clear-cut initiative and a drive to achieve that objective by any means necessary, there is nothing that can stop you. You will fall, you will hear “no” frequently, but these temporary setbacks will start to roll off your back. You will welcome them.
I liken this evolution of a salesperson to the movie The Matrix. Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, started as an average Joe with no belief in what he was being told by newfound friends: that he was “the one” referenced in a prophecy. However, he latched on with people trying to show him his capabilities and as time went by, he became so ahead of the curve he was able to dodge bullets, outsmart digital agents, and do things mere mortals could only dream about. You can reach that state as well; stick with me and I’ll make you a star.
Repetition of a heightened sales strategy, a perfectly laid out call flow (not necessarily a script) and belief in yourself will lead to a high level of achievement.
If you are in sales, someone at some point saw the potential to put you in that post. Personally, sales experience means zilch to me when I interview candidates. I am looking for a personality. People will buy from those they take a liking to or respect. And the fact you sold furniture for thirty years does not mean you can convince someone to change their way of life. Personality, charisma, wit, and charm do.
No two people are going to do something alike, so why would we tackle sales the same?
A lot of sales mastery boils down to the choice and timing of words. Saying, “We have this XYZ program that would be great for you. It does this and this and this,” will not work, yet I have heard this approach thousands of times. This methodology is nothing more than throwing yourself out there and hoping the customer says yes to something.
Read this: “Thank you for the information. Based on what you told me, you clearly are very serious about your business and I applaud you for that. That said, I am going to give you something that will actually free up your time to delve more into the business and is going to take care of the fact that with your
current strategy you are putting yourself in a position of weakness. I want to put you in a position of strength.”
That statement achieves several things. Clearly, information about the business was obtained. The customer’s ego was stroked. A benefit was immediately given, but not just any benefit. Most salespeople quote random benefits in hopes the customer will take a liking to one. They sometimes get lucky that a customer asks about one of them, but it’s just that: luck of the draw. The skilled salesperson will find distinct, fact-based benefits that are used to purposely entice the customer to think the way that you think. The power of the words used is vital: no customer wants to gamble with their business or personal property. They do not want to be in a position of weakness. As illustrated in the example, you must shift the statement to a positive one as quickly as possible and look into the optimistic future.
To delve into your customer’s psyche is about fooling them that you know everything. The fact of the matter is, you do know everything about what you are talking about, but you want to keep most of that information on reserve. This customer is on a need-to-know basis. They need only know what you have that will cure their weakness and how that treatment will benefit them. Period.
If you want someone to be impressed by everything you know, tell your boss or significant other. Stick to specific basics with the customer. Do not over-complicate sales. You get in, you introduce yourself, state your purpose, and go into fact-finding before you even give them an opportunity to shut you down.
In the early going you are merely on a quest for answers. Do not get over-eager and blow your cover by aborting your mission and trying to “pitch” too soon. Get people talking about themselves, for they have a tendency to open up about their favorite topic. Whether you are trying to sell financial services, advertising, insurance, pharmaceutical services or equipment, health needs or appliances, get your target talking about their situation. It’s near and dear to their heart. Find needs and weaknesses and, all the while, drop little bombs of weaknesses in their current approach that plant the seed for what you are going to do later.
Much of the selling game is using strong words, like “we have to take care of this problem immediately.” It’s about generating emotion in customers, enticing them with your solutions and showing them the power of the future.
Once you have the facts, recommend what is going to fix their problem, show them how it fixes the problem, and close. Salespeople also make the mistake of spending too much time recommending and asking questions again after they recommend. You are on a destination from point A to Z and the line is a lot straighter than most people make it.
How you handle the setbacks defines you as a salesperson. It defines you as a person as well. Life is no picnic. But everything, the joys and sorrows alike, is temporary. Maintaining consistency in yourself and staying true to your values and approach is what will lead to what you deem as happiness.
Act like you have the world by the balls. No one will know any better.
Hesitation is an enemy. It’s like they say in Top Gun: “If you think, you’re dead.” Sometimes you have to take a flying cannonball into the deep end of the pool. Risk is part of the game. And sometimes you have to be willing to risk everything just to achieve something.
I will let you in on a secret: being confident is often an act. For, even in times of strife, you cannot shed your cape and armor. You cannot let anyone see you bleed. And, let’s face it, in a sales game, your enemy is the fear of your customer. The only way to drive through that fear is to break down those walls with your charisma and charm. And, if you don’t have much of either, you have to fake it.
Throughout a sales presentation a customer will show their trepidation. They will throw up obstacles here and there (known as objections) and it is up to you to acknowledge them, politely but assertively put them down in their place and move forward to your next agenda item. Every single time.
A lot of putting up a confident front through all of that is bluffing. You will have no idea what a customer’s reaction to something will be until you try it. From there, like a pinball wizard, you must be ready at a moment’s notice to process new information and answers from them, respond appropriately and move forward.
The reason someone like me is qualified to speak about sales or about life is because I have fallen down – many times. I have made what some would deem as mistakes, but have learned a great deal from every single one of them. And I would imagine that many people reading these lines feel the same about themselves – they work hard but, for whatever reason, are looking for a different approach to selling themselves or their goods.
The greatest sales job in the world is to sell a country on electing them to the highest office in the land. You think those guys don’t make mistakes?
Many variables exist in this game of confidence. Namely: what are you selling? Does it have any value? You may be really good and really smooth, but even the best have a hard time dressing up a sheep into wolves’ clothing.
Unfortunately, a lot of sales positions tie you to a product or service that has little to no value or flat out does not work. Some managers and companies have no integrity or care if your soul has to be sold to Satan to turn a profit. Others require you to cross the line. Any job that forces you to compromise your beliefs is a waste of your time on this Earth. Find something else. If you
can’t look yourself in the mirror, that’s a sign. If you take too long of a look, that’s probably another. But it’s also probably a start in the right direction.
You want to be in a position where you can look back on everything you have done and say you would not do it differently. If you can look back and you know you did everything possible to win with the arsenal you brought from within, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Be it a solitary sales call, a presentation, a job interview or even ten years of your life, stand tall with no regret.
Confidence exudes from the way you look, talk and walk. It amazes me; I have hired hundreds of people in my career and they go through various phases of showcasing their degree of confidence. In the interview, they will be at their most brash. Personally, I am looking for someone who knows they cannot be stopped and shows it. Interestingly, once they have gotten their face kicked in by a few belligerent customers, they are at their most timid. They come in, go about their business and leave at the end of the day. But that cocoon is shed upon the completion of the transformation into a closer.
That state, however, is a delicate one. Any wavering of confidence or deviation from the tried and true method that took them to the top can send them into a slump worse than an athlete could experience. It is unwise to drastically alter a batting stance during a hitter’s slump yet salespeople who were once great make the mistake of undergoing big changes to their approach in hopes it will take them back to the top. It will not. Stay the course. Do what you know is the right stuff on each call. You have to play the odds in everything. Sales is no different.
Those who take longer to ramp up into that confident closer are more long-lasting than those who emerged from the gates at full speed. The latter horses tire and once they lose that initial momentum, they often find themselves lost and unable to recapture the magic that surrounded their first sprint.
However, do not be so quick to judge that someone’s confidence is real. Especially if you are a sales manager, you must learn to discern the disparity between those who talk the talk and those who are able to walk the walk.
It is possible to bottle confidence like a perfume and release it with one quick burst like hot air from the mouth of a buffoon. It is entirely another scenario to produce the scent with one’s own adrenaline. If you fall for the futile promises of the buffoon, only you suffer. Some people’s motivations are harder to find and those who are not provoked by the usual ingredients like money and family are hard to drive.
Real confidence is like magic; it can be an illusion but if done properly, it can capture the minds and hearts of its witnesses. It is an art form because it is a personal expression and the finished product can be beautiful and life-changing.
Confidence will lead troops into a battle they never thought about fighting and inspire people to do things they never previously imagined doing. It changes the cultural landscape, can eliminate fear and it gives people hope.
But beware: it has many synonyms with negative connotations that you want to avoid. Arrogance. Narcissism. Vanity. Self-absorption. Conceit. Those words can turn a warm character profile cold. Or maybe these don’t faze you. They never fazed me.
However, if you are going to present yourself as something grandiose and better than the average bear, you have to be able to back it up. A couple of false moves and you are the boy or girl who cried “wolf.” Once you outlive your usefulness, many companies and people eliminate you. You are a number. The trick is making your number greater than everything and everyone around you. And if you can’t, fake it with confidence.
One of the greatest lines in motion picture history is “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” from 1985 classic Back to the Future. And it’s so true. If you want to get to work on time, you will. Sure, if you dilly-dally getting out of bed, traffic might be more of a factor and you may use that as the reason for tardiness when you come face to face with your boss. But you are well aware that laziness was the reason for your delinquency. Now, of course, there is always the unforeseen emergency or family situation, but I have yet to meet someone who has been picked on or terminated solely based on a slew of emergencies. I would venture to guess you haven’t either.
In addition, it has never ceased to amaze me the sometimes two drastically different versions of a person that coexist in the same body. One person comes to the job interview. An entirely different one shows up after a string of frustrating days. A big part of confidence maintenance is reminding yourself who you are. Go into your next call, day and week with the determination that you are going to win.
Meeting expectations is a decision. You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. If you’re smart, you will find out what the best are doing and do it better. Nothing they do or don’t do can stop you from fulfilling what you set out to accomplish. Stealing winning concepts from others that are ahead of you in an area is brilliant; finding your personal way of doing it better is more so. The fact you are reading this book and others you are in competition with may not has already given you a leg up, right? Nonetheless, a referral of this book, if nothing else, should be the gift you keep on giving.
You are in control of your destiny. Don’t ever forget it. Sure, you will hit some bumps along the way but you determine what you learn from them and how you proceed. The tricks and tips to follow are going to guide you to sales success. Consider this book like the limousine taking you to prom; you could
attempt to take a beaten up car and arrive in less style if you arrive at all. However, with these tactics you will head to the top of the charts in style.
Being confident and exhibiting confidence is not easy, especially when factors will throw themselves or be thrown from all corners multiple times a day in an effort to tear you down. That is why only a handful of people claw their way to top spots in any arena: they were the ones still standing. It is survival of the fittest out there and if you do not have what it takes, you will be swept aside by those who do as they scramble past you to the finish line.
One of my best friends, a man I have known for over twenty years, gave me some of the best advice I have ever received about seven years ago after a tough breakup. Getting used to the newfound freedom I had actually prayed for pre-breakup and the negativity over an uncertain future were eating me alive. His advice that I will never forget: when a negative thought enters your consciousness, acknowledge its presence and dismiss it.
You are thinking, “That’s it?” I know it sounds easier said than done. However, after seven years of following that advice and perfecting it I now have the ability to pick and choose which emotions I allow myself to feel. Your thoughts will only be inundated with negativity if you let them be. You must acknowledge that a negative thought has entered the picture and eliminate it. Simple dismissal of negativity may not come easy the first time but it is second nature to me now.
Think about it. Like anything else, negative thoughts or beliefs or occurrences will bombard you. That’s life. Keep plowing through. Maintain the confidence in yourself. You are great at something – probably several things – so who cares what other people think about you? Nothing is permanent and you will find over time that a lot of the very things you held dear, believed in, or put your faith or stock in were nothing but illusions. It is in those times you find out what is important and what you should be living and dying for.
Everything in life is some form of sales, whether you are closing business or asking someone to prom. Each maneuver starts with confidence burning from within and willingness to be told “no.” You can’t care about the end result or be afraid of that rejection. We make things out to be greater or scarier in our heads than they are. Fear is in your head. You put yourself out there so you can look back without regret.
If you set your expectations for any given situation high you are only poising yourself for massive disappointment. Go into everything, be it a date, holiday with your family or even a job with nothing but realism. Call it apathy, but whatever is going to happen will happen. Give it your all, enjoy the successes along the way, but realize something is going to chip away at and erode your good fortune. Just be prepared for it and know how to handle it.
That’s what life is about, right? Finding some semblance of happiness that carries us through the murkiness of miseries until we find our next semblance of it. Some people subscribe to artificial highs rather than the natural ones, but the natural high of happiness is what we want so desperately. Moping and complaining about what is unfair and that you did not get this or that is not going to accomplish anything. Keep going. Keep moving forward.
Nothing is certain until it is done. Practicality and keeping yourself grounded is important to being able to take the hits success and life will delve you. Your favorite team may have been picked to finish first in the preseason poll but, guess what? They still have to play the regular season.
All of the greats in the sales game have one main thing in common: confidence. Be it in the product they sell, the words that come out of their mouths, their company or especially themselves – it is there. It is in the ability to get someone to pay attention to something they had no inclination to pay attention to. It is not necessarily convincing someone to do something; it is putting something in the language a customer understands and making the decision a no-brainer for them to make on their own.
It is not the ability to explain and analyze everything under the sun; it is not backing down when you are challenged. Customers want to feel like they are getting a deal, which makes it important for you to have enough confidence in putting everything together so you make them feel they are.
Sales is a mind-set; it is not closing with a gimmick or freebie or being able to talk until you are blue in the face. It is picking and choosing the right combination of words that gets the job done. You have to command respect and not whimper away when you are met with opposition. If you anticipate your customers’ moves and use the same tactics to overcome their objections and show (not tell) them how they will make back their investment by tangible or intangible means, you cannot help but be successful.
You handle so many visits or calls in a day that you should have a pretty good idea of how they are going to go. Use that to your advantage. Like Mr. Miyagi pointed out to Daniel-san in the dreadful conclusion to the Karate Kid series, it is like the banzai tree growing from within; you have to grow and adapt based on what the nature of your sales presentations yield for you, good or bad. Adaptation and rolling with the punches of life are just as important as brimming with self-confidence. It’s the confidence that will get you back up every time you get knocked down.
Before you start patting yourself on the back for a habit of closing your first offer, ask yourself why that seems to be happening. Typically, the cheapest and least effective solutions are the ones sold most often. The reason is they require the least skill. They also yield the least results and those who fall victim to them fall victim to last place spots in sales results and standings.
Being a better salesperson is not about making sales. It is the method and quality of those sales. It is about perseverance in the face of uncertainty and defeat. It is about being the best you can be in every area. Walk away from every visit or call knowing there was no money left on the table and why. If you can say – with confidence, of course – that is the case on every call, it was a job well done.
The selling game is like the game of politics. After a long day of calls or scouring the countryside, you are seeing stars – and probably stripes, too – but you have to remain steadfast in holding certain truths to be self-evident. Give the people what they want – results. You have to eliminate the shadow of a doubt that yours is the campaign they should lend their dollars to. Show them how to balance their budget – give them a cost that is justifiable. Prioritize health care – namely, the health of their family or business. Electability is key and no one is going to vote for you if you fold under pressure, can’t collect your thoughts and are unable to beckon them into your camp based on a platform of truth, justice and the American way. Take a deep breath before every call, gather your campaign trail persona, make an effective preamble and ask for them to put their John Hancock to contract every time. It takes cooperation and delicate negotiation to form that more perfect union for all.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have laid the groundwork with introduction of the playing field of the selling game. Now it is time to learn the rules and how to be the best.
* * *
Vncent Scott can still vividly recall his first sale.
Her name was Mrs. Robinson, from Hereford, Texas. Vincent was fresh out of training and had no expectations of this particular pitch. He used benefits, quoted the price and asked for the sale like they described in training. He even closed his eyes in the seconds that seemed like eternity between the moment the words trickled from his tongue and the unexpected “yes”. It clicked then and resonates today: you can’t close the pitches you don’t make. The road ahead would be strewn with far more “no’s” than “yes’s” but he had to start somewhere and this was the first of thousands of sales to come.
A month into the gig, Vincent was #1 in the office – ahead of Jake, ahead of Bambi.
People would walk by and marvel while he was on the phone or look up every time he made the stroll to the dry erase board to chalk up another sale. Getting that first taste of success and first commission check changed Vincent; he was no longer satisfied with the small time money he made at Cooke’s. That
change continued like an avalanche over the years until it became an unstoppable force and an insatiable hunger for more and more.
Also a month in, Vincent’s assigned and practically absentee manager Ashley Flowers pulled him into her office, showed him call scores and flunked him on offering “per sales strategy” because he had not offered a $40 per month bill increase to an 80-year old woman and instead had sold a $4 per month wire protection plan to increase her $18-per-month bill.
“You’re kidding, right?” he asked in disbelief.
“No, Vincent, I’m not,” Ashley said. “This is the job you were hired to do. We have policies and procedures that must be followed.”
“You do realize this customer has never had a service on her account in her life and I sold her the Wire Protection Plan, which is a major coup, right?” Vincent asked, pleading his case. “
“Vincent, you’re good. But the company wants you to offer the Everywhere and Everything Plan to every customer no matter what. Future instances of failing to do so will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Do you understand?”
“I comprehend the meaning of the words you are saying,” Vincent said slowly, trying to take it all in. Was this really Corporate America? “But this is ludicrous.”
“I will continue to coach you on how to improve in this area,” Ashley finished before dismissing him.
Those last words were a joke.
Looking back, Vincent would struggle to conjure up a memory of any valuable coaching he had gotten in his 8 ½ years with ABM. He has learned all of his lessons by doing, making mistakes, being reprimanded and being passed over for promotions in favor of someone not qualified.
Vincent only made the mistake of going to Ashley for advice once. With free trial disks for Internet service showing up daily in mailboxes around the country, Vincent had to sell ABM’s pricey service and was having difficulty reaching the level of performance he expected from himself. It was when he went to Ashley to seek counsel on how to aggressively position this cost-inefficient service that he learned who he was dealing with.
Standing outside her cubicle, Vincent knocked on the framework to announce his presence. She wheeled away from her online shopping and clicked over to some corporate system before facing him.
“Ashley, these customers are just not biting on our Internet,” Vincent said. “I can’t get past the fact that everybody gets those free offers from Online Solution. They don’t want to pay more for our service.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s tough out there,” Ashley cooed, trying unsuccessfully to sound sympathetic and not continuing with anything constructive.
“Right…” Vincent continued. “Anyhow, what do you recommend?”
“Well, you’re not the first person on the team that asked that.” Her voice then lowered. “I mean, like I told Deb, if you just can’t get past their objections, just send off some disks anyway at the end of the month. That way they won’t be able to charge back in time.”
“What?” Vincent coiled in surprise.
“Come on, Vincent, everybody does it,” Ashley assured him, sounding like your typical high school peer pressure speech. “Just send a few out. It’s no big deal. I’ll cover for you.”
Vincent has also learned over the years that those who tell you they can be trusted are typically the ones who cannot be. In this situation, Vincent knew he could not show drastic shock so he accepted this answer and thanked Ashley for her time. Not then nor ever did he add something to someone’s account unauthorized. The thought probably entered his mind at some points, but it never happened.
It was also around that time that Vincent’s speculation began that ABM purposely made its bills so difficult to understand in an attempt to force customers to call in. It made perfect sense; they could have easily put in an addendum answering all of the frequently asked questions, cutting out one of the ten needless pages of bill inserts so as to not waste paper. But no, they were banking on customers calling in about their confusing bills so the company could add items to their account with some one-size-fits-all $60 package. Vincent had to come to the realization that while what he was doing may or may not have been in the best interests of the customer it was what he was being paid to do. Anything he was being paid to do he was going to do better than everyone else for as long as he was doing it.
Dealing with the public on this scale was extraordinarily rough at times. On the flip side, sitting through ten minutes of computerized prompts while you are on your break at work or you just got home and want to be with your family is enough to turn anyone into a jerk. When that world collides with the world of a lot of corrupt or simply dim-witted salespeople, mass hysteria ensues.
Vincent will discourage anyone from calling ABM and refuses to this day to call most companies for much of anything. He has seen too often how people maneuver rates and quotes and verbiage in an attempt to “sell” (read: screw) someone and something. Sad, but true, that ABM’s superiors endorse this
behavior by not doing anything about it and, in many cases, praising the “results.” A line was drawn in the sand. Vincent eventually learned to straddle that line while he never crossed it. You can’t hate that player; you have to hate that game.
Sad to say, when Vincent finally escaped from this over-mechanized, shady part of the business he was at first unsure if he could legitimately sell a product without reliance on manipulation of sales statistics and just swapping around phone packages. However, after further wild success in his next incarnation he could put that fear to rest.
In a call center there are two types of people: those who want to use this experience as a way to better themselves and those who are using it solely as a source of income. It is little more than a human laboratory: putting a diverse group of animals in a building and watching them interact, breed and fight. This is why you see everything and experience everything in a call center. If any of them would open up its security stance, the greatest reality show in television history could be born.
In April 2002 a noteworthy moment transpired, but the significance was unbeknownst to Vincent at the time. A morning meeting in the lunch room was when he first laid eyes on Stacey Worth: a girl so perfectly crafted that when God created her He undoubtedly had to sit for a moment and feel pretty proud of Himself. She wore a purple dress and had a bow in her flowing golden hair. Everything about her was mesmerizing and she lit up the room, looking as out of place amongst this riff-raff as a movie star in a crowd of commoners.
Aside from these occasional breaks in the action, the end of April saw another climactic duel between Ashley’s style and Vincent’s desire for right and good.
Whether Ashley was really this cruel or the system made her this hell-bent on using process as a weapon remained to be seen.
The conference room where these meetings took place was ominously dubbed “The Aquarium.” It was a small room with windows and blinds on multiple sides that was centrally located in the two-story building so it could be seen from many vantage points, hence the name. Its unique positioning made it easy to observe activity there unless the blinds were drawn and this was one of those meetings. Ashley led Vincent into the Aquarium and they took seats on opposite sides of the table.
Ashley set down a folder of papers and pulled out a couple documents that appeared to be call grading forms.
“Vincent, first I have to let you know that this meeting is disciplinary in nature. Would you like to have a union steward present?” Ashley asked.
“I don’t need anybody knowing my business,” Vincent replied tersely.
“Okay.” Ashley shuffled her papers and began to reference them. “This is in regards to a call I listened to from yesterday. Do you remember Adam Meyers?”
“I do,” Vincent nodded coolly.
“Is there a reason you didn’t offer anything to him?”
“You mean aside from the fact he was screaming at me to disconnect his
“Vincent, you know that our contact strategy says that you go into your fact-finding questions on every call.”
“Right, and if you recall correctly, I started asking him about his current Internet service and he started cussing me out saying he hated our company and did not want to buy anything.”
“You have five questions that you must ask on every call. They include current Internet service, current television service, their amount of long distance usage monthly, what their favorite calling features are and if they make international calls. You asked one of them,” Ashley said, mostly reading off another sheet of paper.
“OK, Ashley, in our last meeting you committed to coaching me,” Vincent interjected, seeing this was going nowhere. “Yet this is the first time we have talked since then. How would you suggest I should have handled this customer?”
“I don’t like your insubordinate tone,” Ashley spat, clearly frustrated with Vincent’s point. “Following the call flow is not an option. I have made that clear before, yet you continue to not follow the contact strategy. Effective immediately, you are being placed on performance warning, the first step of our constructive discipline coaching plan, for failure to follow call flow.”
“Over one call? I’m serious – how should I have asked him all of those questions? Aren’t I doing the company a service by not wasting time on someone who is screaming at me and moving on to another opportunity to actually sell something? I’m the top rep in the office!” Vincent fired back.
“Vincent, I don’t care how you ask the questions, you just do it. And if you fail to do this in the future, it could lead to further discipline up to and including dismissal,” Ashley continued.
“You would fire your best rep over not asking questions to a confrontational customer?”
“If you’re not doing the job properly, you are not the best rep.”
“Is this going to impact me becoming a manager in the future?” Vincent inquired.
“If you are on a step of discipline, you cannot be promoted,” Ashley responded. “This warning will last for six months. Do I have your commitment to follow our mandated call flow going forward?”
“Absolutely, I’ll do the best I can,” Vincent spat, with sheer and utter
Vincent returned to his desk and proceeded to cautiously go through mandated call flow for the next 24 hours, resulting in drastically decreased sales. As Vincent was the top player in the office by far, this slide severely impacted Ashley’s sales standing in just that 24-hour period.
Ashley pulled Vincent in the following day and removed the performance warning.
BIRTH OF A SALESMAN ON AMAZON!