My relationship with sales began when I was about 14 or 15 years old. Needless to say, it’s been a rocky one.
In my high school, we used to have a yearly farmer’s market-esque event where every student came up with a business idea, developed it, and eventually sold it to the market. Ah, the Business Fair. Brings back so many fond memories.
I always really enjoyed developing my business ideas but year after year, I struggled with putting myself out there and actually selling my products. From cupcakes to personal image consulting, to bracelets. You could have given me the coolest product ever and I wouldn’t have been able to sell it.
Like the year I tried –and failed– to sell Z Palettes; the original patented empty magnetic makeup palettes with a clear window. I was excited to introduce a product like this to the Guatemalan market, so naturally, I ordered a bunch of them. I used Z palettes in my everyday life and I loved them. Surely other people would too, right?
On the day of the Business Fair, I was very nervous and, I’ll admit, not particularly excited about putting myself out there and selling. Even though I was selling a product I loved and used. Being in front of a bunch of people for hours on end, regurgitating the same words over and over just to be rejected was not the way I wanted my weekend to go. That’s exactly how it went.
I sold about 15 Z Palettes out of the 60 I had in inventory, and I felt like crap. It was then and there that I decided sales just wasn’t my thing and I would avoid it as much as possible. Little did I know sales isn’t something that can be avoided.
Looking back at it now, I can see how four years of Business Fair failures helped me. Sure, I still have my Z palette inventory in the basement, but I learned many valuable lessons. But today I’ll spare you and only share my three biggest lessons from being a terrible saleswoman.
You have to believe in your product or service.
If you don’t believe wholeheartedly that what you’re selling will add value to the world, you’re not gonna be very good at selling it. Never take a sales position if you’re not authentically excited about the product or service. You’ll just be setting yourself up for failure.
Take my Z Palette example. I liked my product and personally thought it was useful, but I didn’t believe people needed it. I knew a lot of people didn’t need it, but I still tried to sell it to them. The rookiest of mistakes, and essentially what led to my downfall.
Bottom line is, if you don’t believe the product or service you’re selling could change the world, you’re probably not gonna have much success selling it. Successful salespeople believe in helping others through what they’re selling. It’s that genuine belief that drives successful sales.
Fall in love with rejection.
Ok, maybe don’t fall in love with it. But if you wanna be in sales you need to learn to get comfortable with rejection. It’s a big part of the job and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Rather than taking the rejection of my Z palette sales personally, I could have taken it in stride, understanding that it takes a few no’s before you get a yes. Ok, maybe it’s not just a few no’s but they pay off in the end. Whether you get a yes or become immune to rejection, it’s a win no matter what. And that’s all part of the sales process.
Good salespeople have –and continuously build– really tough skin to be able to handle rejection. They brush it off and do it all over again until they’re successful. They see rejection as an opportunity, not a threat. If you can’t do that then sales are probably not for you.
Sales is a creative role.
I know. I was surprised when I recently figured it out as well. As a creative myself, I never thought about sales being a creative field. But it is!
Sales is a mix of acting and psychology. At least that’s how I see it. Allow me to explain:
Much like a psychologist, you have to be willing to listen and understand your customer’s problems and needs when you’re in a sales role. That’s how you learn to pitch your product/service in a way that hits those pain points and adds value to your customers.
As a salesperson, you get to come up with new ways of selling constantly. If you think about it, you’re customizing your sales strategy and pitch depending on who you’re selling to. So it’s like you become a new character for every client you interact with. It’s not necessarily acting, but it’s a pretty fun way to look at it. And I can’t think of anything more creative than that.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell my teenage self that sales are a much more complex role than we are made to believe.
It’s not just cold calls and emails. It’s not annoying people who want to shove what they’re selling down your throat. Sales is about connecting solutions to problems, adding value to people’s lives, and interacting with other humans. Maybe if I knew then what I know now I would have been more successful in my sales adventures.
Oh well, I might have been a terrible saleswoman as a teenager but as I reflect on the years past and learn more about sales roles, I’m one step closer to becoming an average saleswoman. And that gets me one step closer to being a good saleswoman. And that gets me even closer to becoming a great saleswoman.