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Are You a Reluctant Salesman?

Did you spend a ton of time building a business or creating a product you are passionate about, only to find that you are a reluctant salesman?

When I think of the term “salesman,” I picture a few things that are not pretty. I picture the guy walking up to me at a used car lot with big wings on his collars, socks that clash with his suit, and a plastic grin. I also picture the guy who approached Brian at a restaurant pretending to be a long lost friend from 1st grade, only to find out that he never knew Brian but had an exciting pyramid built business to tell us about. ERRRRR! Bottom line, I don’t see myself as a salesman. But that may be my biggest problem with my books. I’m not reluctant with all parts of my business, but I know I am with telling others about my books.

Let me give you an example of what happens ALL the time. I’m in an airport, waiting for my flight, and I see the CUTEST baby in the world. I can’t help but go up to the mom and baby and say hi. I talk to the baby, smile, and am head over heels when the baby kicks his chubby legs and coos back at me–oh, I just can’t get enough of it!  The mom and I have this great conversation, and then I walk away never once–not even a hint of it–telling her that I have a bestselling book, Your Baby in Pictures: The New Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Baby’s First Year, for parents on how to photograph the first year of your baby’s life. I’m SO AFRAID of her thinking that I only came up to her to sell my book that I don’t say any thing at all. I spent two years working on that book because I have a passion for moms to be empowered in knowing how to capture the story of their baby’s first year.

Are You a Reluctant Salesman

And I didn’t mention the book once! This seems insane, and yet I do it all the time! This book has even received 74 five star reviews, but I still keep my mouth shut! Does anyone relate to this?

I love our CONFIDENCE photography teachers. I absolutely adore them. They have financially invested in our teacher program, and continue to let me and Brian challenge them on every level—every week. A few of them candidly admitted that when the topic of photography workshops comes up with friends, they hesitate to mention their own workshops for fear of being misunderstood or seeming “salesy.” So they don’t say anything at all.

I think a lot of us are the Reluctant Salesman.

Knowing my teachers and I needed help with this mindset, we brought in the best of the best for a three week Sales Seminar. Jill Hellwig was one of Zig Ziglar‘s top salesman for years. In our first call, she unfolded what Zig meant when he used to say, “You can have anything you want in life, if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.” Jill shared how people have always said she could sell snow to an eskimo. The statement is meant to be a compliment, but she’s never liked it because an eskimo doesn’t need snow to enrich their life. So selling an eskimo snow means that you manipulated them into buying it. But selling something that you know will benefit someone’s life is apples and oranges to manipulating someone.

Knowing that there is a big difference between manipulation and selling something that benefits people, what camp does your product or business fit in? If it is in the camp of being something that will benefit others, you are not the tricky, manipulative salesman so many of us have encountered. But we are still salesmen, and how does that feel? Does the world alone bother you?

I had a feeling the term “salesman” alone bothered our teachers. So at our first Refresh Retreat, I read a passage from one of Zig Ziglar’s books. This ROCKED MY WORLD, my whole perception of how powerful salesman have been to our society.

I Am A Salesman

I am proud to be a salesman, because more than any other man, I and millions of others like me, built America.

The man who builds a better mouse trap — or a better anything — would starve to death if he waited for people to beat a pathway to his door. Regardless of how good or how needed the product or service might be, it has to be sold.

Eli Whitney was laughed at when he showed his cotton gin. Edison had to install his electric light free of charge in an office building before anyone would even look at it. The first sewing machine was smashed to pieces by a Boston mob. People scoffed at the idea of railroads. They thought that traveling even thirty miles an hour would stop the circulation of the blood! McCormick strived for 14 years to get people to use his reaper. Westinghouse was considered a fool for stating he could stop a train with wind. Morse had to plead before 10 Congresses before they would even look at his telegraph.

The public didn’t go around demanding these things; they had to be sold!!

They needed thousands of salesmen, trailblazers and pioneers – people who could persuade with the same effectiveness as the inventor could invent. Salesmen took these inventions, sold the public on what these products could do, taught customers how to use them, and then taught businessmen how to make a profit from them.

As a salesman, I’ve done more to make America what it is today than any other person you know. I was just as vital in your great-great-grandfather’s day as I am in yours, and I will be just as vital in your great-great-grandson’s day. I have educated more people, created more jobs, taken more drudgery from the laborer’s work, given more profits to businessmen, and have given more people a fuller and richer life than anyone in history. I’ve dragged prices down, pushed quality up, and made it possible for you to enjoy the comforts and luxuries of automobiles, radios, electric refrigerators, televisions, and air conditioned homes and buildings. I’ve healed the sick, given security to the aged, and put thousands of young men and women through college. I’ve made it possible for inventors to invent, for factories to hum, and for ships to sail the seven seas.

How much money you find in your pay envelope next week, and whether in the future you will enjoy the luxuries of prefabricated homes, stratospheric flying of airplanes, and new world of jet propulsion and atomic power, depends on me. The loaf of bread you bought today was on a baker’s shelf because I made sure that a farmer’s wheat got to a mill, that the mill made wheat into flour, and that the flour was delivered to your baker.

Without me, the wheels of industry would come to a grinding halt. And with that, jobs, marriages, politics and freedom of thought would be a thing of the past. I AM A SALESMAN and I’m proud and grateful that as such, I serve my family, my fellow man, and my country.

_____

Is that piece powerful or what?  The author is unknown, but I’m so thankful to Zig for sharing it in his book. I want to feel pride in what I have to offer others. I’ve spent years working on my books, and I want don’t want to be reluctant in sharing them with others. In fact, I told my teachers at the end of the call that I was going to tell one mom that coming week about my book if I found myself oooohing and awwwwing over her baby. Sure enough, at Sunday brunch I was sitting next to the CUTEST baby EVER while waiting for our table. Pascaline, my 12-year-old, elbowed me and said, “Mom, remember what you promised your teachers.” I took a big gulp and told the mom about my book. I have to admit, her smile was instantly gone–and I felt so afraid that she thought I was being manipulative in adoring her baby. But in my heart, I know I wasn’t. And later on, she talked with our family before we left the restaurant. It’s that tension that I hate to feel. But the more I practice not being reluctant, the easier it will probably become.

My next book, Your Child in Pictures: The Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Toddler and Child from Age One to Ten, is now available for pre-order! I just got my first preview copy from Random House, and ever since I’ve been walking around with a huge smile on my face.

Your Child in Pictures by Me Ra Koh

(blurry smartphone photo because i couldn’t hold still for Brian)

But when people ask what’s going on, I hesitate for a second. I don’t want them to think I’m trying to push something on them. But then I think of the Reluctant Salesman and share the great news, whether they seem interested or not. Every time I practice sharing is one more practice session closer to feeling more at ease with the whole sales thing. The truth is I believe in what I do. I know my books empower moms to capture their kids. And I know it’s worth sharing. Now I just need to practice the sharing piece.

At the end of our conference call, Jill shared how statistics say that a salesperson who is reluctant to share about their product averages $40K a year in sales versus the salesman who has overcome reluctance. That person, the one that has overcome their reluctance, averages $200K plus a year! I don’t write books to make money (I’m not sure any author does because there are a million easier ways to make money). But I definitely don’t want to miss out on the opportunity for my books to be in the hands of more parents because I was reluctant or even afraid of being misunderstood.

That will not do anymore.

xo,

m

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