Back in the 1980s, I learned a valuable lesson about selling. I was in the process of hiring my first salesman at the company I worked for. He wasn’t originally in the mix of candidates because I already had someone in mind, who I thought was perfect for the role.
I got home from work one day, and my wife told me that a young man named John Fuqua had called the house 10 times, and I needed call him back. I returned his calls because I admired his persistence, but I turned him down because I was ready to hire this other person, who had experience and a solid track record in sales.
John informed me he had experience because he had been working since he was 12 years old and was currently helping manage a store. Then he said, “Don’t you think you at least owe me an interview?”
Based on his display of tenacity, I felt I did owe him an interview. He impressed me, so I saw him a second time but still turned him down. The next day, I had five letters of recommendation from people in high positions in Alabama, who said if I didn’t hire him, I was a fool.
Back then, you had to pass a test before getting hired, but this guy couldn’t pass the test, and my boss wouldn’t let me hire him if he didn’t pass the test.
I told my boss the test was wrong.
First Shot at Sales
Unfortunately, he flunked the final exam. That’s when I told myself the test must be right, but I was stuck with him at that point.
The training plan started with 4 days of sales calls to show him how to sell because he’d never sold before. At the end of the first call, John said, “I can’t do that.”
I said, “Can’t do what?”
He said, “That. That’s not my style.”
To which I replied, “You’ve got no style, that’s why I’m here.”
He wouldn’t make a call for three days—he made me make all the calls. So, I gave up on him after the third day. Before I left him, he asked me what he should do while I was gone.
The company had just launched a new product, and my team was the number one team in the country selling it. My average sales rep was selling $5K sales per month.
I told him to try to get orders from some of these accounts and gave him a list. Then I decided to go home and figure out how to fire him in the next couple weeks, so I could save face with my boss.
He called me the following Friday and said, “What do you want me to do with these orders?” To which I responded, “What orders?”
He replied, “The orders I have from my calls this week.”
“How much do you have?”
I said, “I like your style.”
Everyone’s Different…In Sales and In Life
At that point, it dawned on me that I was trying to force my selling approach on him, when he clearly didn’t need it. All he needed to do was be himself. While he needed to see the process and understand how things were done at the company, he didn’t need me to give him a sales approach. He saw mine and knew his was different. And that was okay.
The moral of the story is be yourself–yes, even in your professional life. Discover your own way of selling and make sure that you use your unique talents and abilities to connect with others, not some prescribed method of doing things.
That’s not to say throw training out the window; you need training to understand and craft your innate selling ability.
This doesn’t just apply in selling. It applies in life. The people who achieved the greatest success were those who went against the norm. Look at Howard Shultz and Howard Hughes. They accomplished incredible things. People told them they couldn’t do what they were doing. Then they did it, and they built empires and changed the way we drink coffee and travel.
Master the fundamentals of what you do, whether it’s selling or managing a restaurant or leading a team of people at a company, and put your own spin on it.
Just make sure you always stay authentic to who you are.If you want to learn how to be your authentic self while still being successful at sales, visit JerryAcuffVT.com and sign up for my Selling Excellence course.