I grew up surrounded by the car business. My dad was an old-school car dealer. The kind who would say to customers things like, “Whaddya think, we plug these lights into the moon?” or “Whaddya mean you have to ask your wife? What kind of sissy has to ask his wife if he can buy a car?”
He carried a wad of cash in his pocket with a rubber band around it, instead of a wallet. He wore Sansabelt slacks that coordinated perfectly with matching polyester-blend golf shirts and pullover v-neck sweaters with little penguins embroidered on the left breast. He golfed 18 holes most every afternoon, and spent his evenings in lounges with high-back red leather booths, velvet wallpaper, and great big porterhouse steaks… a glass of something clear, amber, and on the rocks invariably in-hand.
In the 1970’s he broke Nissan’s sales record for the most new vehicles sold in a single month. (They were still Datsun then.) When he died in 2008, the record still stood.
When I was a little girl, I thought my dad smelled like 50% perspiration, and 50% California sunshine. I thought he could make money rain from the sky.
But I never wanted to be a car dealer.
When I was in college, my dad taught me the fine art of the “F&I” department at the dealership. If you’re not familiar with the “biz,” that stands for Finance and Insurance. These are the folks who prep the paperwork, sell the stuff you can’t see or touch (like warranties and paint and fabric protectant), and arrange the financing with the banks. I was horrible at it. I wanted people to like me more than I wanted to pay my rent.
My dad? He used to put the phone in my office on “conference” when I wasn’t looking, and listen to my transactions from his office. I put on — more often than not — a shit show.
And as branding goes, I got a label very early on in my professional life: bad closer.
I was a bad closer. Plain and simple. Afraid to ask for the sale. Afraid to tell people what they really needed. Afraid to take control of my own negotiation. Just a flat-out lousy closer.
So, I flipped the switch on my dad. I joined the 50% of people in the world who are NOT in sales, and I turned my nose up at the profession. I said I never wanted to be a car dealer, and I never became one. Instead, in my eary 20’s, I became an executive in the credit union industry – where “not-for-profit” and “people-helping-people” were the driving directives, and sales was a dirty word.
I became more than just a bad closer. I became the anti-closer.
Fast-forward 15 years to the day I put out the sign for my own branding agency and set out to wow my first big clients. Nothing had changed… I was a great pitch. And a horrible close. Sometimes I even had to bring in a closer.
Fast forward another 15 years, and lots of money made, and closing is still something I struggle with. “Bad closer” is still a label it’s tough for me to shrug off.
And every day as I talk to entrepreneurs and small business owners about their brands, I meet other folks who are bad closers. Or fancy themselves the anti-closers. Or see themselves as outside or above the act of selling their products. People who develop seriously dope shit, and are afraid to ask people to buy it. Geniuses who could change the world, if only they’d close the sale.
And if you’re one of these folks, one of the ones who believes that you can run a business without selling something, lean over, because I need to whisper something in your ear:
There’s no sense in having the best product in the world, if no one ever gets to hear about it.
Just yesterday I had an awesome session with an entrepreneur with tons of potential and all kinds of moxie, who admitted that she was pitching clients without closing them. And I shared with her my secret, inner “bad closer” rap, and my quest to overcome. She asked me for a list of books I’d read, or resources I had for learning how to sell.
And after I sent them to her, I realized I should share them with all of you. And share, also, my point of view about this. And here it is:
We’re all out there learning new things every day. We learn how to create Facebook ads and drop pixels. How to create WordPress and Squarespace sites. How to Periscope and what kind of lighting we need for the perfect video that looks absolutely casual and unlit. We learn how to develop content and write webinars and make podcasts. We take classes on how to guest blog.
But so many of us never learn the number one thing that will help us turn a real buck: how to sell. And more importantly, how to close a sale.
I’m no longer the anti-closer. I love the dope shit I’ve created. I’m watching business owners thrive and grow every single day by using it. I know that I’m adding value to the lives of my customers, because they TELL me. So I don’t want to be embarrassed or feel guilty about selling. Not. Any. More.
I spend a significant amount of time strengthening this muscle. I read and watch and listen and practice. I look to the greats, and I look to industries where sales skills rule. I am a young padowan, respectfully following the masters.
I don’t need my dad’s tactics. Those days are over. (And if he was around and selling today, he wouldn’t be using them any more, either.) But I am using his attitude and his motivation – his belief that selling is one of the most important jobs on the planet. That people don’t always understand how their lives could be different – or know what wonderful solutions exist – until we tell ‘em.
So following is a list of sales-related stuff I’ve read, watched, heard or followed lately. Some of it is old-school classic stuff. Some of it is hot-of-the-press. Give it a try. And it’s by no-means an exhaustive list.
So if you’d be so kind, please share with us, in the comments below, YOUR favorite picks and resources for sales. Let’s get a list going here that will take us ALL from good to great. And stop that sales-shaming game.
I’m goin’ from bad closer to badass. You comin’ with me?
Secrets of a Master Closer, by Mike Kaplan
Sell or Be Sold, by Grant Cardone
Little Red Book of Selling, by Jeffrey Gitomer
Selling 101, by Zig Zeigler
The Ultimate Sales Machine, by Chet Holmes
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
The Art of Closing the Sale, Brian Tracy
Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury
Beyond Reason, Roger Fisher
DIGITAL STUFF (BLOGS, ONLINE TRAINING, PODCASTS):
hardcorecloser.com (Ryan Stewman)
The Ultimate Sales Hustle Podcast, Steli Efti
Salesman Podcast, Will Barron
The Sales Evangelist Podcast, Donald Kelly