Not long after I graduated in 2005, I blagged myself a job in media sales, flogging- or attempting to flog- advertising space on a trade newspaper. In my first week, the sales manager- a tough, stern Sooth Ifrican- gave a training seminar whereby he dispensed advice on the art of selling. He covered a number of elements of the telesales role- how to open, to engage, and to close a client, complete with his own bizarre sales-themed anecdotes.
“Oi went to this one guy’s house and knocked on his door. ‘Nah, Oi’m not interested’, he said. ‘What are you not interested in?’ Oi said. ‘Oi heven’t even teld you woy I’m calling.’ He slemmed the door in moy face, sah oi went rand to his beck door and knocked on again. ‘Yew again?’ he said. ‘Yeah, me again.’ Anyway, he ended up boying from me.”
How he managed to sell to this presumably intimidated man, the manager didn’t explain, but it had something to do with this further nugget of advice he offered:
“Believe in the product.”
Sooth Ifrican suggested that if you believe they will buy from you, and you can genuinely see the value in the product, you can sell it.
In that job, I was selling advertising space to wholesalers in a newspaper for market traders. The national market trading marketplace was coming apart at the seams in the mid-naughties, loads of traders were hanging up their gloves, internet shopping was growing in popularity and the only times the markets were busy was Christmas. (I worked at this company in July/August only.)
Sales isn’t for everyone, and it definitely wasn’t for me. I left within a month. But I had a penny-drop moment only a few months or so ago when I realised perhaps why I never managed to sell, and, coincidentally, why I was single.
I expected to be turned down.
I expected people not to buy from me because I didn’t feel like I knew what other salespeople knew. Similarly, I expected women not to like me because I thought other men knew something about women that I didn’t. I expected to be turned down in these situations too. I expected people not to like me, and when they did like me I was frequently surprised and confused. The occasional times when I wasn’t so surprised- I must have been feeling optimistic- were times when things went right with women. These instances felt right. They felt natural. The times when things didn’t work out were times when I felt lucky, or I felt that I’d somehow duped the girl into kissing me. On occasion, I’d be thinking, how the fuck have I managed to pull a girl this fit?
I may not be a salesman, but the only “product” I’d ever want to “sell” is myself. And I am a fucking good bargain. I’ve mentioned a few times that your attitude towards a task can directly affect the task’s outcome, whether it’s selling advertising or it’s attracting women. If you believe people will want to spend their time with you, as friends or otherwise, then they're much more likely to than if you believe they might not.
This incident at the newspaper was a warning, a warning I’d failed to heed: that you can make others believe in something if you believe in it yourself. That you can chat someone up or sell someone a product. That there is something other than technical ability at play. That warning reads: your belief that they will want to do what you want them to do- that belief is the paramount factor in the transaction.
Now- how does this apply to me? Well, I spend my life writing because I’m good at it. I go to house music clubs because I’m an awesome dancer and I love the music. I no longer go to bars in Oldham or in the Gay Village, and that’s purely because I don’t like it in either of those places. If people judge me for not going when I’m invited, that’s their problem. Essentially, I do the things that make me happy, and not the things that don’t. Now that I stick by this rule, I like myself and I believe in myself. I don't need to worry about other people' opinions.
Thousands of other people have told this story, in one guise or another. Thousands have wanted to spread this message, and I’ve read it thousands of times in various guises as I’m sure you have. But it isn’t until the penny drops for you personally that you start to believe that message- and then to believe in your own abilities.