How Long Does It Take? Am I There Yet?
People are ALWAYS asking me how long it takes to become a great salesman (salesperson). I tell them, “59 years and I’m still working at it.”
Here’s part of the path I took:
I dropped out of college. It just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. And I was a lousy student — no patience and no clear direction other than knowing I wanted to be a businessman, like my dad.
I had no fire to learn.
I had no patience to learn.
My college experience revolved around friends, sporting events, harness racing, and socializing. Kind of like yours.
My best friends, Michael Toll and Louis Polin, helped me. I relied on them for homework assignments and studying. Somehow if you do work with others, peer pressure forces you to get it done.
Modern European History: I hated it. I got a D on the final and considered myself lucky.
Finally, I quit school and went to Europe for a year. I thought travel would be more exciting than college, and surprisingly my parents agreed. When I arrived in London, my world changed. Modern European History was right in front of me. Not in a textbook, LIVE and IN PERSON. All I had to do was walk around or take a train and I could get a real-world lesson.
I studied the Ottoman Empire and the Hapsburg’s in Vienna. I read the Diary of Anne Frank on her doorstep in Amsterdam. I saw 127 Rembrandts at the Rijks Museum. I studied Rodin’s “The Thinker” in Copenhagen, and Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence. And I learned first hand the atrocities of the holocaust at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, outside Munich.
The best thing I learned in college came from a history professor. He said, “History has little to do with the date of an event.” As I traveled, I found that dates didn’t matter — all that mattered was what happened.
All of a sudden I was a student. An eager student. Every day was a new lesson. I didn’t see and read words on a page; I saw what happened.
I learned it by living it – by being there, and seeing what happened. I had never been a fan of world history – too much “who beat up who” – both people and countries. I do like sports history, humor history, business history, personal development history, and especially the history of sales and selling. But I have come to LOVE it because I was face-to-face with it.
Lesson One. On-site learning beats book learning 1000 to 1. But you still need the “1.” This was the beginning of my awareness of how important a role “student” is in life and success. This single lesson is the most profound I have learned. Reading about it bored me; living it excited me. Same subject, different perspective. ACTION STEP: Buy an airplane ticket.
Lesson Two. Desire to learn precedes learning. Once I wanted it, the results were astounding. ACTION STEP: Choose something you want to do; not something you think will make you “money.”
Lesson Three. Reading and classroom training are necessary, but useless unless there is an after-class application to solidify the understanding. Read to understand, travel to understand, apply the knowledge to gain a more powerful understanding and mastery of your capability. ACTION STEP: Invest in a library of sales and success books, and read them.
Lesson Four. For any salesperson to succeed, he or she must seek a higher level of understanding: WHY they are involved in selling. What they must BECOME and DO in order to HAVE what they desire. All of that is preceded by desire. ACTION STEP: Make goals you know you can achieve.
Lesson Four point Five. Personally, my desire was to be the BEST. That’s what drove me in selling, writing, and speaking. Still does, because of one other factor: LOVE. I love what I do. And so must you in order to achieve the success you’re hoping for. ACTION STEP: Love it or leave it for what you do.
These are lessons I learned 40 years ago. I began applying them in my 20’s, and it’s taken me all these years to master them. There are no sales techniques, no “closes” or “overcoming objections” here. None are needed. These are not “how to sell” lessons, they’re “how to live” lessons — much more powerful. Once you understand and apply living and learning lessons, selling becomes easy.
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