When You Want to Swim the Ocean, Start by Putting Your Toe in the Water

Maria decided she was going to get in better shape in 2018. She was going to get healthier, eat better, exercise more and lose a few pounds. Not an unusual goal at the beginning of the new year. Here in the United States, more than two thirds of us are overweight. Almost 40% are obese, having a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30. It’s a crisis and it’s getting worse. Lots of bad consequences, lots of reasons.

Back to Maria. She was all fired up in January. This would be her year. She began to get ready. She began putting her plan together and doing some research. She checked out the local health clubs, checked out a bunch of weight loss programs, checked out special diets … low fat, low carb, Paleo, Keto, intermittent fasting programs, you name it, Maria checked it out.

She even bought some fancy workout gear … clothes, monitors, pedometers, a $50 water bottle, designer sweats, etc.

Now it’s the end of March. Three months have gone by and she has yet to take any real action. She’s still getting ready to get ready.

OK. I’m not blaming Maria. She’s not unusual. Call her a victim of paralysis by analysis. Call her a victim of procrastination. Call her a victim of reluctance to change. It’s hard to adopt new patterns. It’s not easy to give up old routines, not easy to move out of our comfort zones. Believe me, I’ve been there.

We live in a country with easy access to cheap processed foods … stuff that appeals to our taste buds, stuff that’s always available at the drive-through, stuff that’s affordable, stuff that’s convenient. It’s in your face all the time. It’s darn near impossible to avoid it.

We live in the land of the automobile. Why walk when you can drive? Doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous to get in your car, drive to the gym, pay to walk on the treadmill, and then get back in your car and drive home? But that’s our society.

We’re creatures of habit. Procrastination, aversion to change, wanting someone else to show us the way, seems to have replaced the spirit of “making things happen.” 

We live in a society of entitlement and quick fixes. I think we’ve become so programmed to having things done for us that we’ve forgotten how to take the initiative. Regardless, it’s time to start taking charge of our own destinies.

“If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”

Health and fitness is just one example. Same thing applies to finances and other aspects of our lives. Look at what happens when we take a passive role in politics.

Same deal for those of us in the sales business. Customers are not going to come knocking on our doors. We have got to get out there and find them. I’m tired of reading about the new paradigm of selling, tired of hearing about the death of cold calling, tired of hearing the path to success in sales is posting on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Snapchat or whatever.

Here’s the deal. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Now please understand the world is changing and changing rapidly. There are new tools becoming available all the time. Some are awesome. Embrace them. Master them and use them. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking these tools will do your job for you. They won’t.

One of the major challenges in professional selling is connecting with qualified customers. It’s even more challenging today because you must contend with all the clutter and the noise. To succeed in sales, you must master the skill of consistent effective prospecting. The bad news, there’s no one size fits all, no easy way to do it. The good news, stick with it, do the work and you’ll succeed. Your competition will give up long before you do.

Getting your prospects to know, like and trust you is not easy. It’s time consuming and it’s hard work. There’s no magic image you can post on social media to make it happen instantly.

OK. You need a certain amount of expertise and product knowledge but eventually you’ve got to get off your butt and get in front of the people who can buy your stuff.

If you think the deck is stacked against you in sales, consider the story of Andrew Lanyi.  In 1959, Lanyi was working as a filing clerk at the New York Times for the princely sum of $64 a week and living in a low income-housing complex in Harlem.  His son was just born.  Lanyi had escaped from communist Hungary, and with a thick Hungarian accent and very poor English found his employment opportunities were limited.  

He saw an ad for a part time job selling mutual funds which didn’t require any previous experience.  Desperate to increase his income, he applied for the job. He had three major strikes against him. One, he didn’t know what a mutual fund was. Two, he had never sold anything in his life before, and three, he could barely speak English.

Because the company was desperate for people, he got the job. Through hard work and determination, Andrew Lanyi became one of the foremost models for sales professionals in the world. He became a multimillionaire and has delivered seminars to groups numbering in the thousands. His book, “Confessions of a Stockbroker,” was a success. His famous deal closer:

“You and I want to swim the English Channel, let’s put our toe in the water.”

When you have tough days, think about what Andrew Lanyi did. Despite the fact he knew nothing about selling, knew nobody in the country and could hardly speak English, he succeeded because he believed in himself and because he wanted to.  He worked long hard hours and he focused on his clients.

Successful salespeople don’t sit by the phone waiting for business to come to them. They go out and get it. Successful salespeople are not born lucky – they create their own luck.  Successful salespeople are not reactive; they are proactive. They don’t let lack of product knowledge hold them back. They learn as they go. They don’t keep getting ready to get ready. They just do it.

Oliver Connolly