You know the thing with memories - they are created, they are saved and they can be “reloaded”. On a recent trip with Pipedrive to Mountain View CA in the Unites States (Y Combinator interview), I had a chance to relive some of my own memories from the year 2000. That year, I was working in San Jose area as a door-to-door salesman with Southwestern Company for 3 months over the summer. I showed (and sold) books that were designed to help kids with homework.
My work schedule for 12 weeks in Los Gatos CA was the following: wake-up at 5:45 am, cold shower, 7:00 am breakfast at Denny’s, 7:59 am knock on the first door of the day, and 9:30 pm I left the last house. I got back to my “headquarters” (knocked on doors to find this before the first week) around 10:15 pm, had a late dinner and crashed into bed at 11:00 pm. That’s 13,5 hours of selling and 7 hours of sleeping per any given day, 6 days a week. Oh yeah, Sunday was sort of a “day off” - we had a sales meeting at 10:00 am and had an hour or two to hang out with our team-mates.
Going Hard after Sales, Emotions Always Run High
I have strong glimpses of memories from this period:
- bursting into tears in the morning shower before the first week started and I realized fully what I am about to undertake (“Why did I choose to come here?!”);
- sending three fastest ever knocks on the door of my very first house … and running away from the house 3 seconds after, justifying to myself “they were not at home”;
- being surprised to the bone when one woman decided to buy and became my first customer;
- feeling so tired when the alarm-clock “gently” shocked me up at 5:45 every morning and … instantly becoming tense, knowing that it takes my absolute best to get into any kind of shape to be able to knock on doors of complete strangers;
- getting somewhat stronger (or number?) day by day in order to deal with “not interested, whatever it is” and “no soliciting!” - and feeling quite good about the achievement, actually;
- discovering my habit of staring at the planes flying over, imagining that one day I am on one to take me home and assuring to myself that “this will be THE BEST DAY EVER!!!”;
- rolling down the windows and putting the radio to the max (Sting’s “Desert Rose” was played) at 9:45 pm - screaming from the top of my lungs to celebrate the sales result I had been after for 4 weeks;
- and some more :).
Let me take you to one episode I remembered while driving around Los Gatos streets in May this year. It was year 2000, second week of August, Monday, and I was 6 weeks into the summer, so I already had gained some experience and confidence, and made a number of sales.
It’s 12 at noon and I am having my regular 10-minute lunch break. I am sitting at the curbside on an ordinary street and having a toast with crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam. But this time, I am really really down. I struggle to find a reason to stand up and get going again. The reason? Yesterday (Sunday) I made a decision to move from the area of lower middle class people to noticeably richer area of higher middle class people. Well, it was somewhat necessary since I was running out of lower middle turf, and sooner or later, the change to higher middle was inevitable.
I had made sales and become confident in lower middle area - people did not always have money to buy, but I could make contact with them and lead a conversation. That ability brought me to people who decided to buy. Now, for 4 hours I have been knocking on very heavy doors (my knuckles are really aching and I needed to change hands to keep on knocking) and I have only 2 people that I could start any kind of conversation with! In lower middle, by 12 am I had at least 10 solid conversations behind me and 1 or 2 customers in my pocket! What am I going to do?! I have absolutely no idea what to do or how to change what I am doing so that I could get back to winning ways. More than this, I absolutely hate everyone I met this morning for being so snappy, and outright angry to me! I hate the fact that might have to push myself back to these doors. Rghhrrr!!!
A Booklet with a Kick
Feeling depressed, I decide to open a small booklet I have not read yet, but it has been travelling with me in the side-pocket of my bag. It is called The Common Denominator of Success and it is written by Albert Gray. I dive into this, feeling I can not get myself together. I read and read, and then suddenly I feel that … this is written for me in this situation!
“… the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful, lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do …”
Am I on the edge of not doing what failures don’t like to do? I think I may be…
“But if they don’t like to do these things, then why do they do them? Because by doing the things they don’t like to do, they can accomplish the things they want to accomplish. Successful men are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do.”
Damn! Damn! I am looking for a more pleasing way to top here!
“Every single qualification for success is acquired through habit. Men form habits and habits form futures. If you do not deliberately form good habits, then unconsciously you will form bad ones. You are the kind of man you are because you have formed the habit of being that kind of man, and the only way you can change is through habit.”
I know, I have already experienced this. I know! And then came the punchline…
“… unless you have deliberately formed the habit of contacting people who are able to buy but unwilling to listen, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of contacting people who are willing to listen but unable to buy.”
That’s it! Enough said. I close the booklet, grab my bag and start storming towards the next house. In the heat of the “battle”, I simply could not see that I was slowly but surely becoming a failure. If there is a point in road for me to make a quantum leap in my skills, then this has got to be it! Come on - nobody is listening to me, but they have the money! This is the right place for me to be. There has got to be a way to contact them, connect with them, find the people who want to buy these books and find more customers here than I had found in the lower middle class area. One thing is certain - I am not going to stop until I will find this…
It was not easy nor straightforward, but I found a way to sell to higher middle class people living in this area. Eventually, I tripled my weekly sales results and I finished the summer with the result that was more than enough to make me the best producer in our team and in fact, put me in the top 1% of the whole organization (consisting of more than 2000 rookies like me).
Honestly, if there is a ‘secret’ on sales and sales success, this is it. And The Common Denominator of Success is a great book(let) to learn about it. First, it is super thin :). Second, it does not to try to tell you about everything in sales - it just goes straight to the point and puts this bluntly in front of you. Third, it talked to me, a salesman, when I had reached a low point and did it in a way I could understand, and I consider this to be the strongest value of the booklet.
So, what is the thing you don’t like to do? Maybe it’s something that the top guns of your team or business or industry do (even though they don’t like to do it either). Maybe this is what makes THEM get the results YOU would die for. Maybe you need to “die” a little on the way there, too, and come out victorious at the end and get that pleasing result you deserve.