Door-to-Door Selling as the First Step to Billions

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This article is by Gillian Zoe Segal, the author of Getting There: A Book of Mentors.

Before you shell out $160,000 on a business school education, you might want to consider spending a couple of years as a door-to-door salesman instead. That’s what I learned as I researched and wrote my new book, Getting There: A Book of Mentors, in which 30 leaders in a broad range of fields tell about their rocky road to the top. I was surprised to find out how many of them credited early shoe-leather sales jobs for equipping them with the skills they needed for their ultimate success.

 John Paul DeJoria (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems, called his three-year stint selling Collier’s Encyclopedia one of the most formative experiences of his life. “If that job existed today,” he says, “I would make every one of my kids do it.” DeJoria went door-to-door persuading strangers to buy a set of encyclopedias. This forced him to both hone his powers of persuasion and overcome rejection. “After you’ve had 15 doors slammed in your face,” he explained, “you need to be as enthusiastic at door number 16 as you were at the first door, if you want to make a sale.”  When DeJoria launched John Paul Mitchell Systems, he relied on the same skills, going from beauty salon to beauty salon getting people to purchase his hair care products. He recounts that at least four out of every five salons turned him downbut he knew better than to let that discourage him.

Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of the shapewear company Spanx, had a similar experience in her eight years working for a company that sold fax machines door-to-door. She recalled, “I would wake up in the morning and drive around cold-calling from eight until five. Most doors were slammed in my face. I saw my business card ripped up at least once a week, and I even had a few police escorts out of buildings. It wasn’t long before I grew immune to the word ‘no.’” When she started Spanx, she needed to find someone to make a prototype of her product, and she began by telephoning local hosiery mills. Without exception, they turned her down. So she drew on a lesson she had learned from cold-calling: Face-to-face makes a huge difference. She took a week off of work and drove around North Carolina, popping by many of the same mills that had already rejected her on the phone. She sat in the lobby and waited to speak to the founder or owner. It eventually worked, and the Spanx prototype was born.

From cold-calling, Blakely also learned that you have about 15 seconds to capture someone’s attention—but if you can make them smile or laugh, you get an extra 15 to 30. With no money to grab people’s attention the conventional way, through advertising, she decided to infuse her product with humor wherever she could, from naming it Spanx to writing “We’ve got your butt covered!” on the package. She ended up turning Spanx into something people love to joke about. Her product has been mentioned everywhere from The Oprah Winfrey Show to Gleefor free.

The artist Jeff Koons cut his teeth selling candy door-to-door and then moved on to hawking everything from soft drinks on a local golf course to memberships at the Museum of Modern Art, and mutual funds. “Selling is kind of like fishing” he explained. “To be successful, you have to be persistent and patient.” He is now the most commercially successful artist alive, but it took him nine years after graduating from art school to make enough money from his art to give up having a second job.  Calling on the persistence and patience he had perfected as a salesman, he slowly broke into the art scene by saying yes to any invitation that might give him the opportunity to network, showing his work to anyone who would look, and never refusing an opportunity to exhibit.

During her early modeling years, Kathy Ireland sold herself door-to-door. She explained, “Back then, agencies would send models on ‘go-sees’ to get jobs. The people in charge of hiring would look us up and down and dissect us right in front of our faces. I was rejected a lot. It hurt at first, but I soon learned that it was just part of the process.” She eventually became a successful Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, but as she got older she wanted to pursue a career that was not dependent on her looks. After years of failing with various start-ups (a microbrewery, a skin-care line, and several art projects), she finally launched her own brand, kathy ireland Wordlwide, with a line of socks. It is now a $2 billion enterprise with its name on more than 15,000 products. Ireland frequently advises others, “If you never fail, it means you are not trying hard enough.”

Writing my book, I learned how much success in any field depends on persistence, not fearing failure, and getting others to follow your ideas. What better way could there be to acquire these essential traits than by actually hitting the street?

Why You Don’t Hit Your Goals

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James Clear has a great article up today that my friend Robin Stemberg just shared with me. It’s amazing timing, really – since I just finished laying out my goals for this next quarter!

His point is excellent and I’ll let his words speak for themselves:

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Imagine, for a moment, that your life is like a treasure hunt.

It’s not much of a leap, really. Like any good treasure hunt, you have a map to guide you. In life, the map is your corner of the universe. Some of the areas on the map you know quite well. These areas are the places and people and things that you’re familiar with and that are part of your daily life.

Other areas of the map are foreign to you. These yet-to-be-explored regions are home to the milestones in life that you can imagine reaching, but that have eluded you thus far. This undiscovered portion of the map is where your hopes and goals and dreams live. These goals are like little pieces of buried treasure that are hidden somewhere out on the map, somewhere that you hope to get to soon.

One day, a particular goal grabs your attention and you decide to set out on a treasure hunt.

Searching for Buried Treasure

You begin the long hike toward your treasure and encounter a challenge or two along the way. Already the actual path is starting to look different than the buried treasure that you had been imagining. Things get worse when you finally arrive to the spot of the treasure.

This whole time, you had been imagining a chest filled with gold. After uncovering the treasure, however, all you can find are a few scraps of silver and some antique relics. These items are valuable in their own right, for sure, but they were not what you were thinking about this whole time.

You say to yourself, “This doesn’t look like the treasure I was envisioning! I must be on the wrong path. I wasted all this time!”

After thinking for a few moments, you wonder, “Hmm… maybe I should switch goals? I bet there is bigger treasure elsewhere.”

Theory vs. Practice

I’ve certainly experienced situations similar to the treasure hunt described above. Perhaps you have too.

I’m talking about situations where the goal we were excited to pursue—getting a degree, starting a new exercise routine, making a career change—turns out to look very different in practice than in theory.

It’s natural to feel a sense of disappointment or confusion or frustration when this occurs, but I think the deeper problem is rooted in how we approached the treasure hunt in the first place.

Goals as a Compass

The problem with a treasure hunt is that most people spend all of their time thinking about the treasure. The fastest way to get to a particular spot, however, is to set your compass and start walking.

The idea here is to commit to your goal with the utmost conviction. Develop a clear, single-minded focus for where you are headed. Then, however, you do something strange. You release the desire to achieve a particular outcome and focus instead on the slow march forward.

Pour all of your energy into the journey, be present in the moment, be committed to the path you are walking. Know that you are moving unwaveringly in one clear direction and that this direction is right for you, but never get wrapped up in a particular result or achieving a certain goal by a specific time.

In other words, your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. The goal is your direction, not your destination. The goal is a mission that you are on, a path that you follow. Whatever comes from that path—whatever treasure you happen to find along this journey—well, that’s just fine. It is the commitment to walking the path that matters.

“Letting go of how it might come to pass.”

As far as I can tell, [success] is just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it, while letting go of how it might come to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head and when the doors open in real life, just walk through it. Don’t worry if you miss your cue. There will always be another door opening.
–Jim Carrey 

Choose your goals and then forget them. Set them on a shelf. Trust that your direction is true and pour your energy into walking the path. Good goals provide direction to your life. They allow you to commit to a journey. They are like a rudder on a boat, directing your energy and attention in specific direction as you move downstream.

We all have a map to explore. Choose a path and then walk it. 

JAMES CLEAR writes about science-based ideas for building habits that stick and mastering your craft. If you enjoyed this article, then join his free newsletter.

Eat Dessert First

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I begin to close the sale within 10 seconds of entering a prospect’s office. I state my objective of the meeting, and I tell him or her what I would like to do. I tell them my three strategies of business:

1. I’m here to help
2. I seek to establish a long-term relationship
3. I’m going to have fun

Stating your objective and philosophy at the outset puts the prospect at ease. It gets the meeting off to a great start. It establishes credibility and respect. And it clears the way for meaningful information exchange and rapport building.

Tell the prospect what you want when you walk in the door. Then, ask for the sale as soon as you hear the first buying signal.

Close Every Customer By Asking This Powerful Question

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Close Every Customer By Asking This Powerful Question.

Steli absolutely nails it in this article. I’ve been using this technique for years and it absolutely works.

Close Every Customer By Asking This Powerful Question

I was out training one of our new people the other day and described it as the “time-travel” close.

When the prospect asks you after a successful meeting to send them some information, I always ask the following two questions:

1) “Absolutely, Sean – what kind of information would you need to help you (and your team, if applicable) come to a decision?”

and most importantly:

2) “Sean – let’s say that I sent you all that, you reviewed it and loved it – what would happen next?”

That second part is critical – and I’ve seen very few salespeople use it effectively. You can literally cut multiple steps out of your follow-up process by using this simple technique.

Click the source link to Steli’s article and see his take on this tactic. What do you think? Can you figure out a way to use this in your business?

13 Inspirational Books of 2014 with Big Implication for World of Business That You Can’t Afford to Miss

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Amber Kapoor has a great article on Plash today. She lists 13 Inspirational Books with big implications for the world of work that you can’t afford to miss:

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1. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

After taking the world by storm with his captivating message about purpose in Start With Why, Simon Sinek has turned his attention to critical questions about the how. What does it take for leaders to transform paranoia and cynicism into safety and trust? Is a common enemy necessary for cooperation? I can’t wait to read about what he’s learned from military and corporate leaders.

2. Quick and Nimble by Adam Bryant

In an increasingly competitive and dynamic economy, every organization is charged with building a culture that supports innovation. Whereas most books on innovation take a deep dive into one company’s success or failure, New York Times Corner Office columnist Adam Bryant casts a more comprehensive net, interviewing hundreds of executives to identify what’s effective across industries. Bryant offers an expert guided tour through the minds of the world’s most innovative CEOs, sharing insights that are both enlightening and immensely practical.

3. Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold

When I go to bookstores, I usually steer clear of the self-help section. In this case, I would have missed a gem. Small Move, Big Change is a rare self-improvement book that actually works. With the right mix of research evidence and practical examples from her experience as a technology leader on Wall Street, Caroline Arnold provides compelling advice for motivating ourselves to save more, eat less, get organized, boost our willpower, and even keep our New Year’s resolutions. It’s the most useful guide to getting things done since Getting Things Done.

4. Scaling Up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao

When I work with leaders, I often ask them about the biggest challenge that they face. The most common response, by far, focuses on spreading and multiplying success. If you have one team that’s thriving while others are sinking, how do you export their best practices to other teams across your organization? This pair of eminent Stanford professors is the first to shed systematic light on the pervasive problem of scaling with a landmark book full of rich case studies, powerful research evidence, and actionable ideas for anyone who cares about making groups or organizations more effective.

5. Everything Connects by Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer

Philosophy, business, and history come together in this look at leadership, creativity, innovation, and sustainability from a successful serial entrepreneur and a cutting-edge journalist. With takeaways for large global companies and small startups, this book examines what leaders can learn from Eastern wisdom, Da Vinci, and contemporary psychology.

6. Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

This is a potentially life-changing look at one of the toughest but most important parts of life: receiving feedback. Doug Stone and Sheila Heen, coauthors of Difficult Conversations, show how to take an honest look in the mirror, and gain invaluable insights about the person staring back at you. I’ve already taught the principles in the classroom and applied them in my own life, and the payoffs include less defensiveness, more self-awareness, deeper learning, and richer relationships.

7. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

In the quest for success, many people end up taking paths that they come to regret. Climbing up the ladder in pursuit of money and power, leaders and managers sacrifice their health and well-being, and miss out on meaningful opportunities to give back. Building on her celebrated Third Metric conference, Huffington Post cofounder and president Arianna Huffington is on a mission to redefine success beyond money and power to enhance well-being, giving, wisdom, and creativity. This book may be the Lean In of 2014—for women and for men.

8. The Humor Code by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

Humor is an invaluable resource at work: it helps leaders defuse the tension in moments of crisis, managers temper the sting of tough feedback, and employees generate creative ideas in brainstorming sessions. Thanks to the global adventures of a zany social scientist and a perceptive journalist, we can all figure out how to become funnier, and laugh out loud along the way. This book is so good that I wish I wrote it. In fact, I’ve already started telling people I did. Luckily, Peter McGraw and Joel Warner are givers, so they won’t mind. They’ve given us a remarkable look at what makes us laugh, with the perfect blend of science, stories, satire, and sweater vests.

9. Brilliant by Annie Murphy Paul

You’re either born smart or you’re not. Most people hate this notion, but never question whether it’s true. Science journalist Annie Murphy Paul shows us that it’s false: intelligence is a renewable resource. In Origins, she revealed that the nature-nurture debate has overlooked the formative nine months that we spend in the womb. Now, she marshals two decades of evidence from psychology and neuroscience to explain how we can make ourselves and our kids smarter. This book is poised to shake up our parenting habits, our schools, and our workplaces.

10. Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

It’s one thing to admire the genius of the rogue economist and perceptive journalist who brought us Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics. It’s another thing entirely to understand how they come up with their brilliant ideas. Their latest book takes us behind the curtain with studies, stories, and illustrations that enrich our abilities to solve problems in our personal and professional lives.

11. Invisibles by David Zweig

Why do some of the world’s most talented, accomplished people choose to fly under the radar, hiding in the shadows rather than clamoring for the spotlight? In his nonfiction debut, journalist David Zweig introduces us to some of the most successful people we’ve never heard of, from cinematographers to skyscraper engineers to United Nations interpreters. It’s a clarion call for work as a craft: for carefully honing expertise without hogging attention, for generously contributing knowledge without claiming credit, and for prizing meaningful work above public recognition.

12. Smartcuts by Shane Snow

This book by journalist and tech entrepreneur Shane Snow uncovers unconventional patterns among rapidly successful businesses and people, from innovators and hackers to daredevils and revolutionaries. Snow is one of my favorite writers, a maven of creative productivity who holds the keys to becoming an expert in less than 10,000 hours.

My Favorite

13. Zero to One, Peter Thiel

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One , legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.