Learning How To Sell From My Mistakes
Without learning how to sell I would have never become the person I am today. It’s vital to learn how to sell correctly in order to have a successful business or just a financially smart life.
When I returned from Vietnam in 1973, I decided to follow in my rich dad’s footsteps, not my poor dad’s. I had one more year on my contract with the Marine Corps, so my rich dad advised me to begin preparing for the S, B, and I quadrants. As most people know, the number-one skill of an entrepreneur is the ability to sell, because sales equal income. Rather than go back to school and get my master’s degree as my poor dad recommended, my rich dad recommended a very different educational path since the skills required for the B and I quadrants are different.
Rich dad recommended I learn to sell and invest in real estate before leaving the Marine Corps. He had two reasons. First, entrepreneurs must be able to sell to their customers, their employees, and their investors. If the entrepreneur cannot sell, the business struggles financially. His second reason was that real estate investors must know how to manage and profit using debt. Knowing how to profit from debt was preparing me for the I quadrant.
So in 1973, I signed up for my first real estate investment course. And in 1974, I left the Marine Corps and joined the Xerox Corporation to learn how to sell. Both of these educational programs have made me a multimillionaire over and over again. These are skills generally not taught in schools.
How Failure Led To My Success
Learning to sell was much harder for me than learning to fly. In fact, there were many days I wished I were back in Vietnam flying against Viet Cong machine-gun nests instead of being on the streets of Honolulu knocking on doors. Basically, I am a very shy person. Even today, parties and social events are painful for me. So knocking on the doors of strangers was a terrifying daily experience.
For two years, I was the worst salesperson on the Xerox sales team. I could not sell a life preserver to a drowning man. My shyness was painful, not only for me but also for the customers I was trying to sell to. For those two years, I was often on probation and always on the verge of being fired. Every time I saw the branch manager in the hallway, I was embarrassed. When I saw him, I was reminded of the Vietnam-hero speech I gave to get the job. At my semi-annual reviews, my branch manager always reminded me that he had hired me on faith and how his faith in me was slipping.
I was not a natural salesman. I struggled. I hated knocking on doors, facing rejection after rejection. After the Xerox oﬃce closed for the day, I would sit in my oﬃce writing sales proposals for potential new customers. If I did not sell, I did not eat or pay my mortgage. If I did not learn to sell, I would never be an entrepreneur in the B and I quadrants.
But rich dad told me, “When people are lame, they love to blame.” He meant that the emotional pain from the disappointment is so strong that a person pushes the pain onto someone else through blame. In order to learn to sell, I had to face the pain of disappointment. But in the process of learning to sell, I found a priceless lesson: how to turn disappointment into an asset rather than a liability.
Whenever I meet people who are afraid to try something new, in most cases the reason lies in their fear of being disappointed. They are afraid they might make a mistake or get rejected. He believed that if you are prepared for disappointment, you can turn that disappointment into an asset. Most people turn disappointment into a liability, a long-term one. You notice this when they say, “I’ll never do that again,” or “I should have known I would fail.”
Just as inside every problem lies an opportunity, inside every disappointment lies a priceless gem of wisdom.
I found a charity that needed people to dial for dollars at night. Leaving my job at Xerox, I would go uptown and dial for dollars from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. For two and a half hours, I failed as fast as I could over the phone. Instead of only making three to seven sales calls during the day, I was sometimes making over 20 sales calls in two and a half hours at night. My rejection rate and failure rate went up.
But curiously, as my failure rate went up, so did my success in raising money. The more calls I made, the better I became at handling the rejections. I learned what worked with the calls that succeeded and started changing my pitch based on the rejections and the successes. The faster I failed at night for charity, the more I succeeded at Xerox by day. Soon I was climbing up the list of salespeople rather than being at the bottom of the list. Even though I was not being paid at night, my income by day was going up.
All of this paid off when after just three years at Xerox, I became the number one salesperson.
Growing Your Team Through Sales
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to build a world-class team. That takes sales.
Rich dad said, “Business and investing are a team sport.” Any company that wants to scale and become successful needs to have the best players on the team. As you grow, you can’t possibly direct all areas of the company from marketing to accounting to product development. You need to find the best people to run those areas of the company for you.
But how will you attract them? You must sell them. Sell them on the mission and vision of your company. Sell them on the product roadmap you have. Sell them on your prior success. These best employees have many options, so you have to stand out in a crowd.
Getting Investors Through Sales
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to get the best investors you can find.
Rich dad said, “If you want to be a successful capitalist, you must know how to raise capital and how to use debt to make money.” When it comes to building a successful business, you must have access to Other People’s Money, or OPM.
As you grow, key players on your team will be your investors. Whether you’re looking to go down the venture capital road or wanting to raise equity from friends and family, you have to know how to sell.
When it comes to raising capital for your business, potential investors are going to be looking at four key things: the project, the partners, the numbers, and the management. Your ability to speak forcefully about those—and to overcome any objections—will determine your future. This is primarily a sales job.
Getting Partners And Deals Through Sales
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need partners and deals. That takes sales.
The famous truism is that no person is an island unto himself or herself. Much like your team of employees and your investors, growing your partnerships in business is extremely important to your growth and success.
For instance, if you are building a software product, it is key that you find ways to partner with other people for marketing and selling your product, as well as building integrations so that your software can work well with other software offerings out there. In many cases, over half the sales of a product can come from partners.
Or if you’re in real estate development, you might need to build partnerships with owners of a construction company and with officers at a bank. The point is that you can do everything by yourself. You need good partners with whom you can make great deals that are mutually beneficial.
Once again, in order to accomplish this, you need to have the skill set of sales. Partners, just like your employees and investors, will be buying into your mission and vision, as much as your financials. If you can’t convince them to follow you, you’re doomed to fail.
When entrepreneurs learn how to sell in the S quadrant, grow businesses in the B quadrant, and raise capital in the I quadrant, they enter a world few people will ever know.
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily