An Alley-Oop subscriber writes:
“Loving the Alley-Oop mate. The positioning book was golden.
My question is in regards to qualities of successful S&C’s who have become business owners. What do you think are the top 3 characteristics that I should be working on personally and do you have any suggestions on what I can read/learn to improve in these areas?”
This is a hard one to answer. Understanding the character traits of entrepreneurship is like trying to understand quantum physics… even the guys that know what they’re talking about don’t know what they’re talking about.
So I’ll rephrase the question so I can answer it:
“What is the most important characteristic that you’ve developed that has been most helpful to you?”
Looking back on our growth over the last three years, the thing that stands out to me is my unapologetic obsession with mastering the sales process.
There are two ways to prepare for the monumental task of operating a business.
Going to University and doing an MBA.
Or selling stuff.
Now in my case, I didn’t finish school, so even if I did want to go to university to study business, I wouldn’t have been able to.
So selling was my only choice.
I was lucky to get that opportunity at the ripe young age of 16 selling memberships at Fitness First.
I didn’t know it back then, but that would set me up for life.
Because every business lives or dies on its ability to persuade a prospect that the value exchange is in their favour.
Whether you like it or not, being effective at sales is non-negotiable.
If you take a cross-section of the Fortune 500, you’ll find that those with a background in sales dominate the charts.
They don’t have MBAs… they have real-world experience creating visceral demand for their products.
Now I’m not hating on MBA grads — my Mum has one and so does one of the most important members of my team.
But most of the time, you’ll find that MBA grads are the ones working for the entrepreneur who cut his/her teeth selling stuff in the real world.
Which provides a smooth segue to the point of today’s email — great business owners do not pull their punches.
Great business owners have their very own flip-book of burns victims and they aren’t afraid to use it.
A “flip-book of burns victims” is a catch-all analogy for salespeople who aren’t afraid of throwing a knock-out punch.
It dates back to a time when door-to-door salespeople were trying to sell fire safety products to stay-at-home Mums at the kitchen table. This is well before smoke alarms came standard in a home.
Despite being a no-brainer buy, salesmen were finding it hard to move their inventory because the prospect thought “it won’t happen to me.”
The upside of being fire-safe didn’t outweigh the cost of the product so the sale wasn’t made.
It wasn’t until they started sharing the graphic, stomach-churning photos of burns victims who didn’t have a home fire safety system when their house caught alight… that they started closing the deal on autopilot.
Page by page, burn by burn, the salesperson sunk the knife in deeper…
Until the Mother went white in the face as she scrambled frantically for the chequebook…
The salesman flicked through the pages, showing young children being burned alive in accidental home fires.
So what changed? The product was the same. The prospect was the same. So was the salesperson.
The only thing that changed was the poorly held belief that it was too graphic to show the worst-case scenario.
These salesmen were pulling punches and it wasn’t just hurting their sales… it was killing people.
These days, smoke alarms come as standard in every home. It’s written into building and fire codes across the western world.
But before it made it into law, it was the brave salespeople who didn’t pull their punches that were saving lives.
The flip-book of burns victims made all the difference.
And we can learn from those selfish bastards who wanted to make the sale to put food on the table for their family… and save the lives of another.
See, if you pull your punches in a sales conversation and don’t make it clear how bad the worst-case scenario is…
You are making an active choice to sabotage the people you say you care about.
Next time someone is on the fence, it will serve you to think again about what is really at stake.
Because the worst-case scenario is usually much worse than you might care to admit.
It’s usually more than losing weight so they’re not obese… it’s about living a life rather than just being alive.
It’s usually more than just getting out of chronic pain… it’s reclaiming the freedom that was stolen from them by their injury.
And it’s usually more than improving sports performance… it’s making sure they do everything they can to live up to their potential.
That’s all from me this week, I’ll see you after the long weekend.
– Karl Goodman