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Sure, sales is tough, but by George, get off your duff

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Don’t be a George – a term I’ve used a lot over the years in working with salespeople.

That’s because I once worked with a guy named George who was raw and full of trepidation, only a few years out of college.

I was a bit older and more experienced, so we developed a natural mentor/apprentice relationship.

We were working for a large, national billboard advertising company in Philadelphia, and our job was to handle large, national advertising companies and advertising agencies that placed large, national advertising buys for large, national advertising companies.

We were a team and our commissions and bonuses were dependent on each other’s productivity. We either succeeded or failed together, so we were totally invested in each other’s success – and all the good, bad and ugly that came along with such a symbiotic relationship.

It was an interesting experience and, in the end, I probably learned a great deal more than George did, my curriculum being human nature and motivation.

And fear.

CRUISE BROTHERS

We wore suits every day back in that era of a more pronounced self-presence and heightened sense of professional identity.

George drove a black, 4-door Chevy Impala. It was big and roomy, as opposed to my smaller, Japanese gas-miser, so we usually drove his car when in the field, tooling around the City of Brotherly Love, checking out billboard sites and giving the local denizen a heightened sense of the heebie-jeebies. Because didn’t we look like 5-0, rolling through the hood, carefully scrutinizing the landscape and scattering urban wolfpacks in all manner and direction.

Good times.

This was a time before the computer, when life moved along at a manageable pace and all you zombies showed your faces, a time before “Holy Father, what’s the matter? Where have all your children gone? Sitting in the dark, living all by themselves, you don’t have to hide anymore!”

PLOT THE DOTS

And speaking of hiding … one of the most unpopular jobs in the operation was spotting maps.

When advertising companies or agencies bought billboards, sometimes 200 or more at a time, they wanted to see where those billboards were located.

So, as was standard in the industry, our art department created large facsimiles of maps of the market, and someone would methodically and tediously place red, numbered, self-adhesive dots showing where each of those billboards was located on the highways and byways of the greater Delaware Valley.

It was time-consuming, detail-oriented clerical work now obviously performed in seconds by computers.

DUMP IT ONTO THE SALES FOLKS

And guess who got to spot those maps.

If you guessed the resented and misunderstood underbelly of a twisted corporate culture – the sales guys – you guessed right.

And why not? Give it to those overpaid, expense account abusing, golf playing, booze swilling, annoyingly upbeat, endorphin-addicted interlopers.

What else do they have to do with their time? (Besides providing the revenue to pay everybody’s salary and keep the company afloat, you mean?)

SAFE HAVEN

And guess which one of us, George or me, would like to pack up all his troubles in an old kit-bag and hunker down in the conference room for days on end with an X-Acto knife and magnifying glass, positioning all those little scarlet points of banality until his cornea screamed bloody murder.

Guess which one of us, George or me, preferred the safe haven of predictable monotony over the terror of rejection and personal devaluation.

Guess which one of us would happily sit in a sequestered tomb of ersatz safety rather than risk the pain of failure in a world where failure is the norm and the only path to righteous success.

HIDING BEHIND BUSY WORK

If you’re having trouble deciding which one of us it is, here’s a clue: The term we’re talking about here is not, “Don’t be a Rich.”

Simply stated, George was more comfortable performing simple tasks that had a beginning, middle and neat, crisp ending, than sallying forth into the cave of the dragon to face the unknown and potential (expected?) pain of sales resistance and self-flagellation – a malady debilitating countless salespeople huddled in perceived security while the tides of opportunity rush all around them.

Sad but true.

FEAR-BASED SELLING

This condition is the result of Fear-Based Selling, where salespeople allow themselves and their actions to be dictated by fear and anxiety rather than focusing on the steps necessary for success.

It’s a misguided but familiar route to take when confronting, especially for the first time, the reality of sales – that sales is hard.

Really hard! Really, really hard, because most people say no and hurt your feelings.

Boo-freaking-hoo.

When it comes to selling successfully in the mean, cruel world, you better buck up, Buckaroo.

COME OUT FROM UNDER THAT ROCK

Fear-Based Selling is, unfortunately, the platform from which many salespeople and organizations operate, a position of defense and protection.

When employed properly, Fear-Based Selling will ensure frustration, guilt and certain failure.

So if it’s failure you’re after, and you find yourself constantly sharpening pencils, neatly stacking papers, organizing your sock drawer or performing other menial and unproductive tasks rather than making sales calls, don’t stop.

You’re doing everything right.

Of course, if you want to go in a different direction and actually pursue success, don’t be a George.

And listen to The Hooters: “You don’t have to hide anymore!”

Sales consultant and professional speaker Rich Plinke of Allentown is the author of “More Droppings from the Dragon: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Sales,” available at www.moredroppingsfromthedragon.com. He can be reached at rich@howtoselltheplague.com.

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