I initially met Bob Terson through an amazing group of sales professionals and thought leaders that I consider myself continually blessed to be a part of. At a time in my career when I was still trying to figure out what I should do with my life, Bob initiated a conversation with me that helped me figure it out. For over a year, I’ve been following his Selling Fearlessly blog and, just a few weeks ago, finally had the pleasure of reading his newly released book by the same title.
Bob has more credibility as both a salesperson and an entrepreneur than most people that I know. He spent 40 years running his own business in which he sold advertising for the front page of the phone book to small businesses. His passion for what he does and his approach to how he does it is something I continually seek to emulate in my own business…and maybe you should too.
After having a conversation with Bob, he was gracious enough to share with me his thoughts on a few questions that I had. Whatever kind of business you’re in and whether or not you consider yourself to be a salesperson, you have something to gain. His book, Selling Fearlessly, could have just as easily been called Running a Business Fearlessly or Living Your Life Fearlessly. Bob equips his readers with the appropriate attitudes and activities that will guarantee them success in whatever they do. Are you ready to claim victory in your life and business? Bob will show you how…
Interview with Robert Terson About His Book Selling Fearlessly
Me: Tell us about your new book, Selling Fearlessly. Why did you write it, what is it about, and for whom is it intended?
Bob: When I retired from my advertising business, I knew I wasn’t the kind of man to just sit around and do nothing, bask in a life of leisure. I knew I needed great challenges to keep me fully alive and remain relevent, and writing has always been one of my passions. One of my favorite quotes, from an unknown source, goes like this: “If you don’t have a dream that is so outrageous that you couldn’t possibly succeed unless God Himself puts in a personal appearance, you’re not alive.” My dear friend, architect Barry Thalden—the book is dedicated to Barry—had been pushing me for over 25 years to write a book about selling, one that would relate the many stories I had intrigued him with over the past 40 years; I started fooling around creating notes, which led to an outline, and pretty soon I was hooked on the project. I worked on it for two and a half years, actually did about 30 drafts; that’s the perfectionist in me. Believe it or not, I’ve gone over it so many times that I have most of it memorized
Sales books are ubiquitous—I mean, there’s a ton of them out there—but Selling Fearlessly: A Master Salesman’s Secrets for the One-Call-Close Salesperson, although beneficial to all salespeople—we all deal with mental attitude and work habits issues, Doug—specifically targets the one-call-close simple-sale salesperson; addresses all the elements of selling; and spotlights the paralyzing fear factor that 80% of the 16,000,000 salespeople in the United States, who only do 20% of the business, must face every time they make a call or give a presentation. It’s Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling meets Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich—two great books penned in the first half of the 20th century—told in the Zig Ziglar conversational style, yet with an uncompromising, challenging tone, and includes 40 stories plus numerous exercises which show how to sell, not just tell how.
The book is formatted into four sections—Bridge to the Triangle, Mental Attitude, Work Habits, Salesmanship—and divided into 57 short, easy to read chapters that allow the reader to absorb each element of selling without reading the entire book. Doug, this is not another book of boring abstract theory; this is a book of captivating stories and practical applications raising the curtain on the real world of selling. It’s like watching role-playing. I believe that if you’re ready to receive it, this book has the potential to change your professional life.
Me: You spent 40 years not only selling, but also running your own business. Many of my readers run their own businesses but don’t see themselves as salespeople. How would you respond to that?
Bob: The title of Chapter two is “We’re All Salespeople.” Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” The chapter tells the stories of two people who don’t see themselves as salespeople—my younger son, Jacob, who has his own business teaching children how to swim, and an elderly meek woman whom I refer to as the Mouse. Both Jacob and the Mouse, despite their non-sales perspectives, prove to be excellent persuaders. I think the Mouse’s story, which I’ve been told is hilarious, is especially poignant to your question. We don’t have the time for me to tell the entire story, but I summed it up thusly: Now this woman no doubt would have told you she couldn’t sell to save her life. Most “experts” would have sized up the Mouse and predicted she couldn’t sell free rice to the Japanese, and bet their lives on it.
They all would’ve been dead wrong. Whether or not you approve of her modus operandi, when motivated, the Mouse could get anybody to do her bidding.
On September 17th I wrote a blog entitled “Are You Proud to Be Called a Salesperson?” It’s the story of a young man Nicki and I met earlier this year while out looking at exercise equipment. I hope everyone will go to my site and read it. In fact, it’s so pertinent to your question, let me read a portion of it; I keep all my blogs in a stack on my desk. Give me a second. Yes, it’s right here:
There was only one salesperson in the store—a tall, lanky young man in his 30s. It took only a few minutes for me to realize I was in the presence of a real pro; I thought he was a terrific salesperson for the following reasons:
- He was incredibly knowledgeable about every product in the store; the man knew his stuff. He answered every question like the late Ted Williams talking about the fine points of hitting a baseball; it was impressive.
- He asked a number of excellent questions directly related to my condition; he wasn’t about to proceed without getting the information he needed to do his job properly.
- When I asked about a $2,000 piece of equipment (a similar piece of equipment I was using during my sessions at the hospital), he smiled, extolled its virtues, then told me a $15.00 exercise rope would do the job for me for a heck of a lot less money. He wasn’t interested in selling me something he didn’t think was in my best interest. He was far more interested in establishing a long-term relationship with us than making a specific high-dollar-amount sale.
I was so impressed with him that I told him I thought he was a fabulous salesperson, one of the best I ever had encountered. This seemed to take him aback, flustered him somewhat. He said, “I don’t like to think of myself as a salesman; I’m just here to help people, help them get the right equipment to fit their needs. I really don’t want to “sell” anyone anything, you know?” The man was actually embarrassed; he didn’t want to be thought of as a salesperson, didn’t want the compliment I was paying him. The word “salesman” had shameful negative connotations to him.
I spent the next 15 minutes talking to him about professional selling, trying to convince him why he should be proud of his talents, why he should be proud to be called a salesperson, why the negative connotations he felt so deeply were inappropriate.
He’s not the first salesperson I’ve talked to about this subject and he won’t be the last. There are millions of people out there who feel the same way, experience the same negative connotations about the word salesperson, about selling in general. Perhaps you’re one of them. Perhaps you’re one of them even without realizing it. If so, it’s time to change your attitude, reframe your thinking. Nothing happens until someone sells something! You’re an engineer of commerce! You’re helping people get what they want and need.
You’re entitled to be proud of that!
Be proud of that!
Me: Your core concept in the book is that of the sales Triangle. How would you reframe the sales Triangle for folks that run their own businesses but may not be engaging directly in sales activities?
Bob: The first two sides of the sales triangle would remain relevant for these people. They need to pay attention to mental attitude and work habits the same way a salesperson does. No one succeeds in life without being mentally strong and effectively doing the work. I’ve been told by a number of non-salespeople who’ve read my book that just the mental attitude and work habits sections were worth the price of the book to them, which is quite gratifying to me. As I said in Chapter 9, “The Triangle”: You must possess a positive mental attitude made out of titanium. Anyone can be up when she’s winning, when everything is running like a well-oiled machine and success is the norm; show me a salesperson who is alert and grinning, enthusiastic, ready to forge ahead and make that next call after she’s had her teeth kicked in for a month and a half and I’ll show you a Champion. And this: I don’t care how talented you are, or if you possess the selling acumen of Brian Tracy, Dr. Tony Alessandra, and Tom Hopkins combined, no one defiles Mother Law of Averages and gets away with it long term. You must always do the work. The same holds true for anyone in any profession or business, Doug.
For non-salespeople I would change the third side of the Triangle from salesmanship to knowledge. If anyone knows your business better than you, best take a hard look in the mirror and ask why. There are no excuses, no alibis. It’s your business, your choice of making a living; you must know every aspect of your business—backwards, forwards, and sideways. You must take the time to educate yourself about your business—read everything you can get your hands on: books, journals, periodicals. On August 17th I wrote a blog entitled “Modeling the Masters.” I wrote it for salespeople but it’s applicable to anyone. I said something to the effective of, Seek out the individual (or individuals—you don’t have to limit it to one person) whose success you admire the most, explain to her why you admire her, and ask her to help you. Most people will be flattered that you approached them specifically and will be more than willing to help you.
That’s it; next question?
Me: One of the stories you tell in the book is The Devil’s Retirement Story. In the story, the devil decides to retire and sells all of his tools for tormenting humanity to other fallen angels. In doing so, he keeps one tool back—a secret weapon that is more powerful than all the others combined. What is that tool and why is it so powerful?
Bob: Doug, I’m going to avoid answering the first part of your question because I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone. But I think I can answer the second part of the question by reciting directly from the chapter without revealing, thus spoiling, the story:
Like a malignant tumor, one naked-to-the-eye cell of it metastasizes until your spirit dies and awaits burial. You’re finished, kaput. All the other negative emotions—fear, hatred, jealousy, envy, revenge, anger, greed, superstition, doubt, worry—will lead you to take action, albeit not necessarily constructive action; but (blank) begets self-pity, which freezes you up like a catatonic schizophrenic in a mental ward. It immobilizes you—you sit and mope in a cloud of despairing inertia, you do nothing but ponder the terms of your surrender.
It was the Devil’s weapon of choice when he attacked me during those five ugly weeks in Nashville. He came at me with good old Numero Uno and, I’m embarrassed to say, he almost got me, that’s how vulnerable man is to (blank), even the normally mentally strong. Getting past that dark episode is as satisfying to me as surviving kidney cancer.
If (when) it happens to you, recognize it for what it is and battle it with all you’ve got. It’s an illusion designed to trick you into full submission.
Send the Devil packing and be of good cheer.
I told this story because I believe with everything that’s within me that battling this ugly phenomenon is the most important thing you can do to keep mentally strong and never give up. To do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to succeed. I think it’s one of the most important chapters of the book. I think when people read this story it’s going to fortify them, protect them, from the most dangerous thing that is stalking their success, trying to defeat them. I hope this doesn’t sound pompous, but again, I think this chapter is so important that it’s worth the price of the book.
Me: I write a lot on here about small business people being able to tell their story. You tell a lot of stories in Selling Fearlessly and even talk a bit about the importance of storytelling in sales. Talk to me a bit about the power of story in business. How can it be used to drive a point home?
Bob: Doug, everyone loves a good story. You can drive a point home with a story, in a way you’ll never be able to do by just abstractly speaking about it. The listener remembers the story clearly, especially if he internalizes it, identifies with it; when you speak in the abstract form, the listener will recall, maybe, 20% of what you’ve said, and that’s if you’re lucky. It’s the difference between showing the point and just telling about it. It’s the difference between the listener emotionally reacting to the story or just sitting their passively reacting without a drop of emotion, which is more likely when you’re speaking to them abstractly. And people buy on emotion far more than they do on logic or reason.
You follow a story, if the storyteller is doing his job properly, through all five of your senses; you follow abstract speech through only your sense of hearing—there’s no comparison. Besides that, you entertain your prospect/customer with a story; the odds are that you’ll bore him when you don’t tell a story.
Pick a book or movie that makes a great point, for example. I’ll pick “The Help,” which is a wonderful personal story about a civil-rights struggle in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. It causes us to face bigotry in a direct way. Almost everyone I’ve talked to came away from this story emotionally moved the same way I did. I’d bet any amount of money that the same people would yawn if abstractly told in a general way about the same struggle, with a bunch of supportive statistics. The characters in the story are not just a group of people that something happened to; they’re individuals you come to know, care about, therefore you care about their struggle.
I hope I’ve answered your question.
What Are You Waiting For?
If you have not been convinced by now to BUY THIS BOOK, I don’t know if you can be convinced. Yes, I want you to buy this book and, of course, Bob wants you to buy this book.
But it isn’t about me–I get nothing from the transaction except for the satisfaction of helping someone else find greater success. And it isn’t about, Bob–he’s retired and spends his time helping budding salespeople and entrepreneurs for free.
No, this book is about YOU. It isn’t a purchase; it’s an investment. It’s about upping your game and equipping you for battle. It’s time to become fearless. What are you waiting for?