By Barry Maher
“Do you want to buy some magazines?”
If you stood on a corner and asked passersby that question, how many people do you think you’d have to ask before someone said, Yes? Or even, Maybe.
The first real job I ever had—where they gave me a paycheck and took out taxes—was selling magazine subscriptions door to door when I was 16. They’d ship a bunch of us over to some distant neighborhood and set us loose on the poor souls who lived there.
I can still remember the first line of my pitch. “Hi, I’m Barry one of the boys in the neighborhood.” Well I was Barry, and I was a boy and I was in the neighborhood. But I certainly didn’t live there. Not the way to sell, and even at 16 I should have known better.
In the neighborhoods we worked—on Saturdays and early evenings—people would occasionally come to the door whom we didn’t want to waste our valuable sixteen-year-old time pitching. They’d be drunk or crazy or underage or so obviously impoverished they’d never pass the credit check. (We sold large, expensive packages of magazines.)
In order, to get rid of one of these people as quickly as possible, we only had to ask one question, “Would you like to buy some magazines?”
The answer was always immediate, and it was always, “No.” No one ever even asked what magazines we were selling.
It’s like the old saw about a guy standing on a corner propositioning every passing woman, figuring that sooner or later one would say, “Yes.” Maybe. But by the time it happened he might be too old to do anything about it.
David Oglivy, founder of the Oglivy & Mather ad agency said, “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesperson.”
“In my thirty-five years or so of observing people in organizations,” organizational expert Thomas L. Quick notes, “I’ve concluded beyond question that the people who get things done and who are most effective in getting the results they want are those with superb selling skills.”
You and your ideas and your vision are your products. How well have you been selling them to those you need to reach? Have you been keeping your own strongest selling points hidden, hoping that they’re self-evident, or figuring that the upper echelon of the company should be able to puzzle them out on their own? Are you even sure what the most effective selling points to them might be?
If you want one of your people to reach new heights, how well have you sold that vision to her–in a way that she’ll understand not only intellectually but emotionally and motivationally? Are you even sure what the most effective selling points to her might be?
Besides being CEO of the company of you, you’ve also got to be the national sales manager and the number one salesperson. If you aren’t selling yourself and your ideas, who is?
Too frequently when we want something in business, we simply ask our bosses, our subordinates, our co-workers or even our customers, “Would you like to buy some magazines?” Without doing any selling. You need to ask; if you don’t ask you don’t get. But if all you do is ask, you’ve got about as much chance of getting satisfaction as that love-starved guy on the street corner.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Los Angeles, California.