What do you think of when you hear the word ‘sales?‘ Is it something you love, or does it make you feel uneasy? Does ‘sales’ leave a bad taste in your mouth?
If you have your own business, knowing sales is absolutely critical. Too often, we think of sales as a necessary evil. As big-hearted Millennials, though, the challenge is getting us to understand sales as something noble. Growing up, we’ve seen too many examples of it used on the other end of the spectrum. From the notorious used-car salesman to the late-night infomercial pitch person, we’ve become conditioned to think selling is a negative thing.
In its true form, though, sales are the purest skill you can develop. Without it, your message or movement can’t go far. When you embrace it, everything changes. As Mark Cuban says, “Sales cures all.” This story will show how sales is not just something you use to get something, it’s really used to give.
After leaving an entrepreneurship event one evening, I noticed the low fuel signal light up on my car. I went to the gas station to fuel up. When I arrived, I saw something that hurt me—not physically, but emotionally.
I saw a man combing through the trash looking for food. He went from one trash can to another, putting his new found trash into a bag he was carrying and even putting some of what he found in his mouth! It hurt me to see another human being actually having to resort to this. I couldn’t believe anyone could live this way. Immediately I thought, “What would this guy need to not have to go through the trash?”
I looked in my car. I found some chips. Then some candy. And a bottle of water. I gathered it all up and walked up to the guy. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. Since this man was actually gathering things from the trash, I “knew” he would accept my noble offering with open arms. Instead, he immediately said, “No! I’m not going to take that!” He actually rejected it! Puzzled, I asked, “Why? No one should have to live this way. After all, you’re getting things out of the trash.” After asking again why he wouldn’t take it, he said, “Well, because I don’t know you. For all I know, you could be a serial killer. At least I know this trash is safe. You could be trying to poison me.”
For a second I was shocked, but then I saw his point. He didn’t know who I was. He was just looking out for his own safety. Before I walked away, I said, “Yes, you’re right. I could be a serial killer. And I know that it doesn’t matter what I say because if I really was a serial killer, I would just lie to you. But let me ask you something. Do you trust yourself? Do you at least trust your own judgement? You trust yourself, right?” There was a slight pause, and then he said, “Yes, of course I do.” So I asked, “If you had to judge then, do I look like a serial killer to you?” Then I just looked directly into his eyes. There was silence. After a long pause and staring at one another, “If I had to predict,” he said meekly, “I’d have to say no.” I then handed him the food and said, “here, I want you to have this.”
Slowly, he opened the food and started eating. “Thank you! Thank you so much!” He told me a little bit of his life story, and what he’s been through. After a brief conversation, he again thanked me for not giving up on him, because he was now eating the best food he has had in a long time. We shook hands, I said, “take care of yourself,” and left.
Sitting in the car afterward, I paused and reflected on what had just happened. I thought about how I just desperately wanted to help this man. I thought about how even though I knew—at least I thought—I had something of great value to offer him, something much better than what he was getting from the trash, he was still hesitant. I still had to sell him.
Then I realized something. Having something noble or of great value to offer someone is not enough. You must have enough emotional intelligence to understand people, and know how to sell them. Knowing how to sell isn’t just a massively useful skill, it’s necessary to create a positive impact in the world. If I didn’t know how to sell, if all I had was something great to offer, I wouldn’t have been able to help that guy.
Too often we think that selling is about taking. But what this experience taught me is that it’s not. Sales can be pure. Sales in its true form is noble. It’s about giving. We must remember that having a good intention or good cause isn’t enough. To make the greatest impact on the world, we must give by selling. I thank this homeless man for giving me the honor of learning that lesson.