I looked down at my tankini (guys, if you don't know what this is, ask a woman) and started to laugh. What else could I do but carry on? I acknowledged the situation, continued our engaging conversation, and left with their business cards.
Despite finding myself in the unsettling position of discussing business with just a few microns of fabric covering my birthday suit, I didn't crumble because I have heart and hustle -- two qualities that are essential for selling success. I have tremendous heart in my ability to help organizations sell more. I know that my sales experience, education, and instinct can't be beat. If you want to sell more, you need to believe, deep in your heart, in the value of your offering. Maybe your line isn't the fastest, cheapest, or highest quality, but you've got to truly believe that the combination of its qualities makes it the best solution.
MAKING A PLAN. It's said that before you can sell something, you must first "buy" it yourself. There are many folks selling life insurance who will tell you that once they bought a million dollar policy for themselves, it was easier to sell them to their customers. The same concept applies to most products, tangible or intangible.
Here's a quick-fix for the faint of heart: More than 20 years ago, when I first started selling and was unsure of myself, I embraced the advice of sales guru and motivational speaker Brian Tracy, who urges preparing for a sales call by reminding yourself, "I am the best. I am the best. I am the very, very best." If you do this, it will pump you up and give you heart too.
Robert Harris, a Houston reader who was between jobs, has heart to spare. When he heard of a job opening, he took the time to study and understand his potential employer's situation, structure, and strategies. Instead of sending over a standard resume, he produced a painstakingly detailed, three-page document he titled "Revenue/Profit Generator Proposal to Become Sales Manager." Robert sent me a copy, and impressive isn't the word to describe it. His five-year plan for the company, broken down into seven individual timeframes, was a tour de force of logic and concision. If I needed a sales manager, I'd hire him on the spot.
That's what I mean when I talk about heart, and the same approach can work in just about any sales situation. When a customer calls with an inquiry, why not take a few minutes, identify problems and potential, and send the client a revenue/profit analysis of your own. Obviously, that approach won't always be appropriate, but when it is, and when it clicks -- fasten your seat belt, because the sky's the limit.
ROOTIN' TEUTON. At 46, Margaret Johnson showed she had heart when she tried out for the Houston Texans cheerleaders and made the first cut. Hey, she can still do the splits -- and she really believes she has the stuff to make the squad. As Margaret knows, no matter what your age, if you have heart, you can accomplish amazing things.
Having heart is not enough, however. You can't just sit at home and believe you're the best. The second ingredient, hustle, is every bit as important. It's what pushes you to make one more call, suggest one more potential solution, call a new customer, check out the sales potential in a different industry. Hustle is the reason I found myself talking business in a bathing suit.
And don't make excuses, ever. So what if your language skills aren't terrific? Neither are Arnold Schwarzenegger's, yet folks now address him as Governor. Why? Because he had the heart and the hustle, and if you possess those attributes, a rough accent becomes irrelevant. Another movie-star with heart and hustle is Jackie Chan. I love his movies, not only for the great choreography, but also the outtakes as the credits roll. He lets us see his mistakes, both physical and pronunciation. Despite mishaps and mangled language, Jackie keeps filling movie theaters.
TAXI TACTICS. Nigel Brown, a reader, wrote to share one of his methods for finding sales opportunities. When he travels, he always takes a cab. In the line at the airport, he asks if anyone wants to share the ride, since he figures that whoever climbs into the back seat with him will be a captive audience, and it's not unusual for that person to be an executive of potential customer. Often, before they part company, his companion will have agreed to a telephone appointment. Plus, Nigel saves on half the cab fare!
What's the worst that can happen if you have the heart and hustle, but still don't end up with a sale? You walk away with experience, maybe a good story, and the comfort in knowing you tried your best. You will also be that much wiser when you do try again. No matter whether you sell in your business suit, or even your bathing suit, if you sell with heart and hustle, you close more business. Happy selling! Michelle Nichols is a sales speaker, trainer, and consultant based in Houston, Tex. She welcomes your questions and comments. You can visit her Web site at www.verysavvyselling.biz, where her new CD, 72 Ways to Overcome the Price Objection is available. She can be contacted at Michelle.firstname.lastname@example.org