I’ve got a secret weapon in life, do you? So, what’s my secret weapon? I started my career selling Kirby vacuum cleaners on the streets of Cleveland in 1983. It was a tough job, the sweepers were $1,000 each and I had to find my own appointments. We had a marketing campaign, if you wanted to call it that. The central distributor would set up between 5-10 appointments per week for our sales team. We were paid a several hundred dollar draw if we were able to get 15 appointments a week. In this job, you learned to sell and close quickly. We also had to repossess the equipment if a payment was missed.
This was a tough sales job, but not for the reason you think. It was tough because you had to learn to cut your losses quickly or you’d spend several hours of your time with people who had no intentions of buying, but wanted you to clean and shampoo their house carpeting and furniture for free. People were always willing to say what they needed to get you to do what they wanted. At times, some would say things that just lacked all remnants of the truth. Growing up in a small town, I had a problem. I trusted people. Where I grew up, we thought if someone said it was true, they would make good on their commitments. Not so easy to count on in the big city.
One of my early mentors saw that I was struggling and recommended a book for me to read. I read and reread it as I went selling door to door. The book was by Robert Ringer and it was called “Winning Through Intimidation.” I bought a copy of the book and carried it with me as I went out selling in the neighborhoods. I thought the book itself would take my selling to new levels. I would become intimidating on my sales calls, the champion of my neighborhood, “The King of the Kirby Sales Realm.” I knew just having the book in the front seat of my old broken down car would intimidate even the toughest old lady.
What I discovered from Robert Ringer was the world of human psychology. Robert had funny stories and characters in his book and he shared his experiences of breaking into sales in the big city. He shared common sense ideas on how to deal with others throughout the sales process. He warned of hidden pitfalls and chuckholes along the path of selling in this world. He talked about the different people you might encounter in your sales careers and how to deal with them. He was a real lifesaver. I found myself embracing many of his beliefs as my own and improving them where I saw the opportunities. I would sneak off between appointments to read his material and evaluate my sales failures by his criteria, not my own.
Over time, I got good at selling because of his one simple principle that changed my life forever. What was it? Respect yourself. Don’t allow others to intimidate you into doing what’s not in your best interest . . . ever. It’s the foundation of how I’ve done business over the past 29 years and it’s never let me down. When you allow others to take advantage of you, you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping others. Learning to cut your losses is critical to your long term success. People don’t treat you better because you’re their lapdog, they just keep taking and taking. If someone asks you to do something that is only in their best interest, but act like it isn’t, be wary. People will always hide behind their causes, their beliefs, and their values, but act like they’re looking out for the greater good. I’m not sure why this is true but it is and knowing it could become your secret weapon. I know it’s mine.