Most people who I’ve met in my adult life will know me as the bubbly, confident guy I am today. It wasn’t so long ago when I was afraid to make a call to a restaurant to book a table.
I remembered when I was a teenager, I needed a takeaway bag at McDonald’s but I stood far, far, back from the counter and I didn’t even know how to start. But the problem isn’t that I don’t know what to say or how to ask, but instead, how the person on the other side of the counter would see me.
Did I say the right thing? Am I asking nicely? Is this something that is generally accepted?
Those are the questions that would go through my head, and cause me to stall.
But in my first year of university, I met an interesting guy while I was looking for a job. He was a seasoned businessman, and he started a website, and he was looking for someone who can help out here and there. His website was an attempt to gather real estate resources in a single location. Let’s just say it was a good idea but the execution looked rather like a 90s product.
I spent a short period of time tidying up his website, but then one day he said:
“Do you want to start making some sales calls?”
For a second I stalled and hesitated, but at the same time, I knew this was going to be part of my job. And that’s how I embarked on my sales career.
My first call was terrifying. It was a cold call to a mortgage broker, to sell them ad space on our website. I struggled to talk confidently, stuttering and stammering with every sentence. After the call, I sat there in shock, reflecting on every single word I said.
But the best thing that could’ve happened to me happened. My boss told me it was a rather good first call, I had good knowledge of the product and even though I wasn’t in control of the call the whole time, I had the idea to drive it in the right direction.
I carried on making calls and though I didn’t find much success selling the product, I had broken down the barrier completely. I was no longer afraid
From here, I went through a few more basic sales roles, and my skills grew immensely, so when I finally finished my studies, I decided to take this career more seriously.
I joined a SaaS startup, which was in scale-up mode. It meant that I had lots of opportunities to learn, to grow and to make lasting impact.
The most memorable part of my first week was when I got dropped into a webinar 5 minutes before it started. My manager was supposed to run the webinar, but he has a meeting last minute and thought that I was good enough to run it based on the practice demo runs I had over the last week.
The webinar was mediocre. It wasn’t a flop, but it definitely wasn’t the most engaging. It did, however, taught me one thing: engagement.
What I worked on after that moment was to go back, look at every part of my demo, write out what I would say, and condense it into more concise paragraphs. Then, I read through what I just wrote down and I did it again. But why?
I wanted to make sure I was saying as little as possible while delivering the most impactful pitch. In short, I was trying to be concise to improve engagement.
This absolutely transformed my feelings when I was talking to prospects. I felt like I was always delivering value. After a while, I found that my average meeting length was cut in half, from about 40 minutes down to about 20. On the other side of the story, I found that my sales figures improved significantly.
Now let’s look outside of my professional life for a second. What’s changed?
Making a sale is the result of a successful conversation. That conversation may have an element of negotiation, but at the end of the day, it’s still a conversation. Now think back to my moment at McDonald’s, when all I needed was a takeaway bag. That’s just a conversation. Success is defined by me receiving that bag, and the person at the counter providing good customer service.
Think about how many of these conversational exchanges you might have in one day, and you’ll understand how impactful it has been on my life.
It was so gradual that I never realised it was happening, until years later. I was booking a table over the phone. I suddenly realised that I no longer hesitated to dial the number, I knew exactly what to say when the other person answered and I hung up without thinking twice about what I had said.
But that wasn’t even the biggest difference. The biggest difference was that I was no longer afraid to say “Hi” to strangers I walk past on the street.
I stopped thinking about how other people would see me, and I started focusing on having a successful conversation. If I just walk past someone, say “Hi”, and they say “Hi” back, that’s already a successful conversation.
Sometimes, that little difference is all it takes, to change your life.