It was a hundred degrees in the shade, and I was out knocking doors selling security systems in a small town just outside of Austin, Texas. Six days prior, I had just graduated from High School and was chasing a dream of making thousands of dollars in the next three months. Up to this point, I had little to no experience in sales. The only thing close I had done was managing a small lawn mowing business, which my clientele consisted of senior citizens in my grandparent's neighborhood. Though I lacked experience, I was confident in my people skills and determined to prove myself. I thought I was ready but let’s face it…I was in over my head.
One of the four wheels of sales is perception. It is how our experiences, emotions, and thoughts shape how we see something. That hot day in Texas I learned all about perception and the importance it has in sales.
It was a Saturday, and I had a big day planned. I had set up three follow up appointments that showed great promise. This was going to be the best Saturday ever! Especially, since it was going to be very hot that day but not for me! I was going to be inside all day, chatting with my customers drinking sweet cold lemonade. After today I was going to be rich! I was so naive and confident that I did not even pack sunscreen or water…Well sometimes in sales things don’t pan out. I had every single one of those appointments fall through, and I spent all of that long Saturday out in the blistering sun. It came to a point where I stopped talking about the product and would ask for water or even possibly sunscreen. It just was not my day as I was turned down again and again. In this one day, I was yelled at by at least five different people and chased by two dogs. The day ended with no sales but one nasty sunburn.
I wanted to quit. It was too hard, and people were too cruel. I got trapped in thoughts about how unfair life was and that everyone else was the problem. My perception focused on only the negative, and it showed as the rest of that Saturday became worse and worse. It wasn’t until the following Monday that I learned how much my perception could influence everything I do.
That Monday began with little hope of anything spectacular. However, I made sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and water this time. As I was knocking doors, I noticed some kids setting up a lemonade stand. They were filled with excitement as they prepped all of their materials and prepared for a day full of sales and fun. I wanted to go over and tell them about disappointment and sadness that awaited them based on my own experiences. I chose to observe them from time to time between knocking doors. Throughout the day they faced similar experiences as me. They didn’t have a single person stop. It was getting late and my day was about done when I noticed how sad the kids had become. One of them began to cry. This was when I learned what empathy means. (Empathy being another big wheel of sales which we will discuss at another time.) I understood exactly how these kids felt. For once I stopped worrying about my situation and focused on others difficulties. I decided at that point that I was going to forget myself and serve someone else.
I went over to the lemonade stand and purchased a cup of their lemonade. They were so excited to help me as they offered me some of their many products. I bought a couple, but when I went to pay them, I had the idea to do something special. The total was two dollars. I handed them a twenty. The little boy went to grab some change, but I told him to keep it instead. I said to them that sales are tough but to never give up, and things will work out. Twenty dollars to three little kids is like winning the lottery. I can’t even begin to describe their excitement as I walked away with my lemonade.
Their perception of sales changed immediately, and so did mine. While I walked farther and farther down the road I passed by a community pool. A man there started yelling at me to come over. Thinking he was going to harass me for my job I was a little reluctant but I was on cloud nine, so I went over to meet him. He said, “I have been watching you the last couple of days. Are you one of those security salesmen?” I nodded yes. He then said, “Well that’s all right, I just wanted to see if you needed any sunscreen or water?” This was the moment when it all clicked for me. Everything had come full circle. My perception dictated my success in sales. It wasn’t until I focused on the positive and went about doing good that I started to see progress. That experience led to the beginning of a very successful summer and beginning to my sales journey.
In sales, there are many lows, but there are also many highs. What we choose to focus on can determine our overall happiness and success. If you are struggling in sales, change your perspective. Make the most out of the opportunities you are given. Look to be the positive influence instead of waiting to receive it. Focus on the needs of your customers and the results will come.
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