Joe Girard. Dale Carnegie. Steve Jobs. What did they all have in common?
They were great salespeople.
Back when cars were still a luxury, Girard made a name for himself as a car salesman, going on to become arguably the greatest car salesman of the post-war era. He realised while selling subscriptions to the Detroit Free Press as a young boy that sales operated according to a unique law of averages - the more doors you knocked on, the more money you made. Later, he graduated from subscriptions to cars, and in a 15 year period beginning in 1963, sold more than 13,000 Chevrolets for a local dealership, on one occasion selling 18 in a single workday.
Carnegie's career began on a ranch where he sold products and correspondence courses to ranchers. His landmark book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which instructs people on becoming effective communicators and team players, has sold over 30 million copies since it was first published in 1936. In 2011, it made #19 on Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential books ever published.
And Jobs? Well, besides being universally acknowledged as one of the greatest salesmen of all time, his 1997 advertising slogan, Think Different, featuring a black and white roll call of some of the most influential minds of the 20th century, is still one of the most successful and widely referenced campaigns in the technology industry almost twenty years later.
But there was another thing (at least one) that Girard, Carnegie and Jobs all had in common, and it was this: they didn't believe their sales pitches.
TIP 3 - DON'T BELIEVE YOUR SALES PITCHES
Now, before you rise up in arms and protest this statement - But of course they believed their pitches! You don't think Jobs believed fully in the Apple brand? You're crazy! - hear me out.
No good salesman believes his or her sales pitches. Why? Because the pitch is the dream. It's the destination. It's the rose-tinted, gold-plated, halcyon summer holiday that you looked forward to for weeks and immortalised in polaroids and even now remember as the "best holiday ever" (although in reality it rained every day and you didn't speak to your family for 90% of it because you fell out before lunch on the first day). That's what a sales pitch is.
Am I saying that good salesmen don't believe in the dream? Aren't committed to the dream? Wouldn't sacrifice everything for the dream? No, I'm not, and they are and they would, but, they also acknowledge the dream as precisely that - a dream. Highly sellable, less practically navigable on a daily basis.
There's a little known saying by Greg S. Reid, an American film-maker and "motivational speaker" (a title that generally makes me run for the hills), that goes, "A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan". There's a third part to the quote but I refuse to acknowledge it on the basis that it's unbearably cheesy - if you want to know what it is, you'll have to Google it. My advice to entrepreneurs is this: pitch the dream, focus on the goal. Goals have deadlines and deliverables and a bottom line. They're not what you sell but they are what you work towards, and they are the difference between companies that fail and companies that succeed.
In your sales pitches, you will find endless comfort - they will rejuvenate you, reinvigorate you; they are the reason you're doing what you're doing after all - but life is uncomfortable, plans and goals are uncomfortable.
Get used to discomfort.
I'd like to say "it" gets easier over time ("it" doesn't) but you can change so that things feel easier; you can become stronger, more resilient. It is this that you must work towards.
My osteopath in Cambridge, a wise, middle-aged Russian who is as tough as she looks, said to me once, "Sophie, there are four things in life that you must accept, and once you accept them, you will be happy. They are: life is hard, you are going to die, you are not in control, and it is not about you." Nowhere is this more true than in the great game of entrepreneurship. I pass on her advice to anyone who will listen (and to anyone who won't).
Don't believe your sales pitches. Or, at the very least, acknowledge them for what they are - the Dream.
Coming up next week: TIP 4 - GIVE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD TO GIVE.