“Success in sales is contingent upon the attitude of the salesman,
not the attitude of the prospect.”
—W. Clement Stone
I wish that I had a professional sales coach standing next to me back in the day when I first got started in sales. It would have saved me tons of frustration and a whole lot of money.
People like W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill were actually my first external mentors. Even though Mr. Hill had gone to the great beyond nine years before I started my sales career he coached me from a distance. When I read his groundbreaking classis book, Think and Grow Rich, I became clear on how to think. I also followed a guy named, Brian Tracy. Mr. Tracy whispered in my ear through his books and tapes, teaching me how to manage my time and become more competent. Those guys weren’t personally available. I simply had to settle for what wisdom I could extract from their books and cassettes.
If I did have a super group of entrepreneurial gurus personally advising me, I believe they would have told me to take the 4 steps I’m going to lay out in this article.
When I began my commission sales career I was eighteen years old, bright-eyed, bushy tailed and confused. I didn’t know what I wanted. Basically, I was an Alice Cooper song. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing by jumping into commission sales. I wasn’t sure what type of organization or vehicle to look for. I was second-guessing myself at every twist and turn of my journey. I was a bit of a hot mess. But somehow (probably because I was too stupid to quit) I made it in commission sales. I survived long enough to figure out how to thrive, and eventually I made millions, retiring from full time work at a rather young age.
If you are considering a commission sales career or if you are in your first year of your venture, you are probably overwhelmed. I know, because I interact with people like you (and your managers) every day. Many people jump into direct sales without the clarity of what it actually takes to start, build and grow a business. To assist you with gaining clarity (and to help you shortcut a few faulty thought processes) I am going to channel Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins and whoever else I read or listened to way back then, and I’ll cover the 4 steps that I believe are necessary if your goal is to build a sustainable sales career and business.
Step 1 – You need the RIGHT business model (asset-based)
I coach many salespeople and entrepreneurs through our group and personal programs at www.joebuzzello.com. A lot of the people I communicate with tell me that they feel “trapped.” They say that they are doing okay, but they can’t find the time to do anything else. Sometimes they’re stuck working 50 – 60 hours a week. The problem is that they have adjusted their lifestyle way up so they can’t work any less, and they can’t charge any more for what they are selling or offering, so their income is flat.
They’re stuck in an invisible jail cell!
So, here’s what you really need to understand. There are two types of business models. There are time-based businesses and there are asset-based businesses.
What’s the difference?
A time-based business requires you to keep working to keep making money. We also refer to this model as trading time for dollars. For example, a service provider, freelancer or consultant charges by the hour or project. Bottom line he or she has to keep hustling up gigs to make a living. By the way, I trade time for dollars when I agree to engage in a personal coaching program with somebody or I go on the road to consult or train an organization. However, I’m a multi-millionaire with a large passive income and I get to pick and choose who I decide to work with.
I don’t HAVE to take on a coaching, consulting or speaking gig and I make sure that the ones I do choose are fun. But if you absolutely HAVE to take on any and all gigs just to keep the bills paid it kind of sucks.
An asset-based business is quite different. This type of enterprise is where you build or sell something one time, and then you get to draw profit from it for years and years. Allow me to give you a few examples.
In the late 80’s I became aware of a company in the insurance industry that had a very strong residual income and stock bonus program. At the time, the company was known as American Family Life Assurance. They eventually re-branded and became known as Aflac. Prior to me joining Aflac in 1987 I had sold insurance products, but none of the companies or organizations I represented had offered vested renewals or residuals. Some of the companies had trailing commissions, but none of those companies’ compensation plans ever became vested—became MY actual asset.
My point being that, up until I joined Aflac, I had been trading time for dollars and not building any assets. After I joined Aflac, and as the years went on I began to reap the benefits of selling or building something once, and then drawing income from it for many, many years. Subsequent to this, I dabbled in income producing real estate, dividend producing stocks and other forms of passive income. More recently I have written a coupe of books, which are available through Joe Buzzello on Amazon.
It’s fun to know that you can sell, build or create something once that will be of benefit to others and that you (and your family) will also be able to benefit from the work for years to come. However, the scenario above will never be a reality for you if you anchor yourself to a time-based business model, (trading time for dollars) so you need to be careful to choose the right business vehicle(s) and model(s).
Step 2 – You need to find a REAL organization that will support you
Simply having the will to jump into the commission sales game, combining blind faith with hard work is fine, but even if you selected the right business model you still might fail if you don’t choose a REAL business organization with REAL training capacity.
A lot of people have genuine PASSION for things. I have noticed lately that there is no shortage of entrepreneurial gurus out there that will tell you to “follow your passion and the money will come.” But I have a news flash for you, if you don’t somehow tie your passion to a solid organization that will support you, then you aren’t gonna’ monetize that passion.
Don’t miss my point, passion is important. In fact, passion is why people like us do something crazy like work on 100% commission. Taking a 9 – 5 job is easy. You show up in the morning, they tell you what to do, they give you the same pay every day and then you go home. But when you start your own business—a commission sales career—you find yourself working ALL the time. Even when you aren’t working, you’re thinking about work. When you are out socially with co-workers you wind up talking about work and boring the heck out of your spouses. So, passion gives us the strength to take the plunge, but a solid organization that’s going to train you and support you gives us the courage to keep swimming upstream.
The other benefit of selecting a REAL organization, with REAL training is that it automatically answers a faint question we have in the back of our heads…can I actually succeed at this? Does this business work? Sometimes the potential of a business is not clear to us…it’s a little muddy. So, how do you know if your chosen vehicle or organization has potential and will support you—how do you know it works?
Here’s the question I want you to ask:
Are other people (people just like me) doing the same thing that I want to do inside of this organization?
If the answer is “NO,” then turn and run…fast.
If the answer is, “YES.” then perfect!
That’s your proof…people are pursuing a sales career in the same organization, in the same geography with the same demographics and they are getting it done. Now, you may be inclined to say to yourself, “Hold on, there’s competition internally and externally—there’s too many people out there. That concerns me.”
This is a common thought process. Most people think competition in their market is bad, but actually competition is very healthy. Think about your internal and external competitors as living proof that people are buying the kind of products you want to start selling.
On the flip side of this…
If you can’t find anybody doing what you want to do, you should probably consider selling something else.
Step 3 – You need an audience that WANTS to buy
Picture yourself standing on stage giving this wonderful pitch. Your presentation is captivating, even spellbinding, but the auditorium is empty. In sales, we sometimes spend a great deal of time learning about all of the intricacies of our products, or about the technology that can facilitate it. We spend hours working on how to ask a prospect for their time and even more time crafting a flawless presentation.
You can do all of that work and if you are not completely clear on WHO buys your products and WHY, you won’t sell a darn thing!
We need to know who would want what we are selling and I am convinced that we don’t spend enough time on this. It’s a problem that sinks a lot of salespeople that should have made it. Here’s what I suggest you do to solve this problem.
I want you to simply ask yourself:
“Aside from the commission dollar, what’s the reason I’m selling these products or services?”
Get really clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and then simply attract people who will readily identify with those same reasons.
Let me give you an example. For many years I sold voluntary employee benefits on a B2B basis. That means we primarily approached small business owners and asked them to consider making our plans available to their employees. I was clear on what our products did and what the value was for the consumer (employee) and the employer. I could have spent a great deal of time expounding on the virtues of our company, the features of our many plans and all of the benefits to the employer.
However, I was clear on why I was selling the products I was selling. I knew that if a rank and file employee (or one of their family members) suffered a serious accident or illness and they didn’t own our coverage, it could be devastating to them financially. Most employees don’t (or can’t) save enough money for these challenges and major medical insurance doesn’t address all of the non-medical related expenses. It could really damage a household or even wipe them out.
That bothered me.
So I went out looking for business owners that would also be bothered if they were educated on the facts. When I identified a prospect that didn’t care the way I cared, I tossed their name in the garbage can. Everyone else was still a prospect.
My thinking was as simple as that.
Step 4 – You need to learn how to sell SOLUTIONS not products
After you recognize WHO your audience is, you then have to learn how to communicate with them on a basis they understand.
I have had people tell me that I could probably, “Sell ice cubes to Eskimos.” I imagine that I could if I really wanted to, but then again, Eskimos don’t NEED ice cubes so I wouldn’t really be offering them a solution for anything, so I wouldn’t even try to sell them ice cubes in the first place.
Does that make sense?
In sales, almost since day one, I’ve never been the least bit interested in selling someone a product that they didn’t need or one that wouldn’t solve a problem for them.
It’s not in my DNA, and I hope it’s not in yours. I am, by nature, a problem solver and I believe that most super-successful sales pros and business leaders are the same way.
In fact, I have never made a “sales call,” but I have made thousands of calls to … targeted and qualified prospect to see if I could help them.
Do you see the difference?
When you are making a “sales call” it’s all about you and YOUR NEEDS, it’s not solution based thinking at all. Solution based thinking should sound like this in your own head:
“I want to see if I can truly help this prospect. If I can, then great…I’m going to do my best to educate him or her on what that will look like for them and what the result will be. If I learn that I can’t help them, then they shouldn’t buy and I shouldn’t waste their time or mine.”
If you can help them, then you need to convince them to offer you the courtesy of a few minutes so you can explain what the solution may look like. It’s no more complicated than that and it’s NOT about selling your products. I say this confidently because I know the truth.
They don’t want to buy a product; they want to have a positive outcome—a beneficial result.
You can represent a company that has great products, and be part of an organization with great training and support, but if you miss this point you will not thrive and you may not even survive!
So these 4 steps are great…
Step 1 – Find the RIGHT business model, an asset-based model
Step 2 – Get with an organization that will train and SUPPORT you
Step 3 – Build an audience that WANTS to buy
Step 4 – Sell SOLUTIONS not products
And here are two last things I want to dissect out of this article and I want you to give extra attention and focus to:
Identify five people that are already doing what you want to do. Every time you begin to question things—will this work? Can I make it?—I want you to picture them and say, “YES it does work, YES I can make it!”
I want you to keep sharp focus on WHY you’re doing what you are doing—why you are selling what you are selling. Then I want you to picture the seats in the (make believe) auditorium. I want you to picture them all filled up with the very people you want to have in those seats—people that share your passion.
I hope this blog article was beneficial to you. Whether it was or not, I LOVE comments!
Please give me a shout out below…an “atta’ boy” or “this sucked.” Also…if you know of somebody in sales or leadership that can use this, PLEASE SHARE it with them!
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Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on direct selling and sales leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his platform, www.joebuzzello.com and The CAP Equation©. Please visit Joe at: http://www.CAPequation.com