A few months ago, I had the good fortune of spending 3 hours with my eight-year-old daughter at the local mall. This trip was different because our mission was to sell Girl Scout cookies.
I have sold many things in my life but never Girl Scout cookies. What happens before we arrive is where the story gets interesting. I could not help but notice her preparation for the day. She got up early, did a quick inventory of her supplies and then proceeded to pack the car. In many ways, it was remarkably similar to my early days as a wide-eyed rookie sales rep. I was going to light the world on fire! At least, I thought so.
During breakfast, she discusses her strategy for selling 40 boxes of cookies. WOW! At this point, it hits me like a sledgehammer. My eight-year-old is laying out a plan for the day that includes her strategy, tactics and goal. I could not help but wonder where all this was coming from as I had not seen her so focused.
We proceed to the mall to set up our table directly in the centre of the mall. I find myself a bit uncomfortable standing directly in the path of would-be shoppers. I feel exposed, as I am not sure what to expect. I have been in sales for over 15 years and I am actually nervous about selling Girl Scout cookies. Ouch! I notice that I am tapping my right foot on the leg of table as I feel my anxiety level rising. I experienced a similar feeling on a consistent basis my first year in sales. It was how I felt when I made sales calls on that “buyer” who had a reputation for berating sales reps in public. I am sure many of you can relate to that feeling of helplessness.
In this case, I was lucky because my sales manager (my daughter) was there to provide a much-needed pep talk. She came over to me, gave me a hug and told me to relax and just do what she does. A sense of relief comes over me and I settle into a nice rhythm. We anxiously wait for shoppers (prospects) to walk by so that we can ask them to buy a box of cookies. I am struck by how rude so many people are as some do their best to avoid making eye contact. Ouch! Again, not much different from how many prospects treat sales people. My daughter keeps plugging away and just keeps asking people if they are interested in supporting the Girl Scouts. She keeps a smile on her face and stays at it to reach her goal. At certain points, I feel dejected until I look over at her and see that she is still smiling waiting for the next person.
The day was a wake-up call of sorts for me; it was a reminder of what it often feels like to sell a product, concept, idea and/or your brand. For many of us, we cut our teeth by making cold calls, which was not that, much different from selling Girl Scout cookies in terms of our approach. Instead of standing in the mall, we strategically placed ourselves in the hallway, outside an office or anywhere else so that we could see when “that buyer” was on their way and headed in our direction. We just happened to be in that particular area so we could introduce ourselves. It is funny what sales people will do to make contact with a prospect. In this case, we proceed to discuss our solution, its benefits and see if they would be interested in meeting with us in their office. I am not so sure it was the best way to facilitate a conversation, but it certainly seemed to work more often than not.
I suspect that there are plenty of brave souls out there right now waiting to make one more cold call. The uneasy feeling, unsure of what to say and when to say it is quite an experience. It certainly tests your psyche. Like my daughter, just keep smiling, keep asking and you too may reach your goals!
Devin Hughes is a former college basketball player, sales and marketing aficionado, professional speaker, part-time academic and frequent eclectic thinker. He draws on a variety of ideas, disciplines and trends to inspire “Big Thoughts” and facilitate conversations. He is an avid storyteller who has the unique ability to connect with audiences by inspiring them to be the change they wish to see in the world. A graduate of Colgate University, he lives Carlsbad, CA with his wife and four daughters. You may contact him via e-mail at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter. Connect with him on Facebook and Linkedin. His website is http://www.devinchughes.com/