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Developing a Taste for the Unnatural

March 8, 2005
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Some of life's greatest (not necessarily the healthiest) pleasures are just plain horrible the first time you sample them. I challenge even the most addicted tobacco smoker to say he truly enjoyed that first cigarette.

And while today I love a cold draught beer, in my teen years it was only peer pressure that made me choke down those nasty-tasting brewskies.

So it is with business tasks that we hate, and therefore sadly avoid. These unpleasant duties, however, are invariably the exact same chores that will either make your business a success or an abject failure. You must develop an "acquired taste" for these necessary tasks so that you not only endure them, you actually come to look forward to each one.

So, what do you dislike doing in your company? My guess is your list of "essential but distasteful" tasks includes paperwork of all kinds, bugging people that owe you money, routine maintenance and, maybe most commonly, face-to-face selling. That's right, probably the most avoided task in business today is getting out there and selling "belly to belly." It's just not natural. And yet nothing is more important for your long-term financial success than selling your services. Here are some ideas on how you can develop an acquired taste for sales:

Recognize your enemy. That's right, as Pogo stated many years ago, "We have met the enemy and he is us." So analyze what it is about selling that you don't like. For most people it is a combination of poor self image and fear of rejection. There are some excellent books and audio programs out there on improving your self-esteem. Want to save time on reading and listening? Just keep repeating this mantra: "I am a business manager, not just a rug-sucker!"

Change your appearance. Sure, I know, you can't judge a book by its cover. But people do it every day, and so do you. So when you make sales calls, try dressing like a business professional. For men this means, at the very least, a dress shirt and a tie. For women, a dressy outfit with a blazer. Who are you dressing up for? Oddly enough, you are dressing up mostly to impress yourself. However, research has proven time and again that when you are dressed as least as well as, or better than, your prospect, you will receive more respect and sell more as well.

Equip yourself with the right sales tools. You wouldn't clean a large residential carpet with an upholstery wand. And yet we routinely go out on sales calls with nothing more than a beat-up tape measure and some crumpled business cards. (The next "To Your Success" will give you complete list of recommended tools for selling carpet-cleaning accounts.)

Get organized. The sales time you have painstakingly carved out of a hectic schedule is precious; don't waste it with poor planning. Remember, drive time is dead time. So route your sales calls into an efficient geographic itinerary. You will also be more effective if you organize your work by industry. It is much easier and more effective to call on 20 doctor's offices in a row than mixing them up with different accounts.

Set firm yet reasonable goals. When we dread something, we invent a million "displacement activities" that keep us from our appointed rounds. You must change this habit with self-disciplined, practical goals that you can maintain over the long haul. For example, set every Tuesday and Thursday morning as sales days where you must make at least 12 new contacts. Doesn't sound like much, yet if you stick to this schedule you will have contacted well over a thousand new prospects over the next 12 months!

Get back on the horse that threw you. It's not all peaches and cream out there. You will encounter lots of apathy, inertia and rejection. That's why you hate selling, remember? But when a prospect curtly dismisses you, just politely leave your card and (this is important) immediately move on to the next one. It's extremely important that you maintain your momentum during your dedicated selling time and not let one curt refusal (or 20, for that matter) derail your goals. Far too many people hit the wall after a few rejections and never continue.

Strike while the iron is hot. While it is essential to set aside dedicated time for sales calls, that doesn't mean you can't just pop in on a likely prospect. When I saw a new office complex going up or a restaurant under new management, I would stop by and introduce myself. More likely than not I would be invited to write up a proposal and many times get a signed contract, just by popping in before my competition got there. Business managers working under pressure to get a business open make hasty, impulsive choices all the time. Your job is to make sure they choose you.

Always carry your business cards. I got some of my very best accounts just by asking to see the manager after finishing a nice dinner or buying a dress for my wife. After all, since you are a customer they have to be at least nice to you - even if they don't sign a contract.

Reward yourself. All of us respond to positive reinforcement (I don't like doing dishes, but Sioux always gives me a kiss when I come through. Smart woman.). So when you sign up a long-term account, or land a juicy commercial account, reward yourself. Sure, your bank account will appreciate the "positive reinforcement" of the extra money. But you need and want immediate gratification. So whatever you really like, but don't often do - go for it! You have earned it. A nice dinner, a round of golf or that new worm drive circular saw you've been craving, whatever. Now you're motivated to sell even more. Many years ago I was a partner in a computer systems house. I hated selling computers but I loved target shooting. So every time I closed a big computer sale I would buy myself a new rifle or shotgun. When we sold the business several years later, I was the top sales producer and I owned a virtual arsenal of magnificent firearms. After all, I had to reward myself every time I triumphed over my fear of the very unnatural act of selling something I hated!

Desperation helps. All of these tricks will help you maintain your selling momentum. But when all is said and done you must ask yourself, "Do I have the fire in my belly?" Remember, it is OK to admit that you don't like face-to-face selling. Few people truly enjoy the "unnatural act" of sales. Yet there is no doubt that, down in the trenches, one-on-one selling is the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way to supercharge the growth of your business and your future financial success.

As the owner of the company, you are the logical person to lead this sales charge. All you have to do is develop a taste for the unnatural.

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