This might be surprising to some of my readers, since I have been a scientist for 20 years. I decided to take a break from science and learn a different skill. There was a quick opportunity to become a direct sales man, doing door to door sales, and I figured that this would be a job where I would be training my people and sales skills in a very direct way, so I decided to give it a go.
12 characteristics of direct sales jobs
#1 – You are paid on commission.
You are not salaried. That means – you are not trading your time for money! Your pay is a direct readout of your efforts, since every sale you make gets you a percentage commission. Some companies do offer a base salary, others do not and allow you to have a slightly higher commission instead. The company I am working for right now get you around $1,000 per week if you make 3 sales per day. That is not too shabby of an income, since 3 sales per day are doable. If you even make 4 or 5 sales per day, the pay can go up to $1,500 or even $2,000 per week. $75,000 per year is more than your “average” $40K job.
Or you can even earn more than that in other sales jobs. It really depends only on the value of the product you sell (and the percentual commission the company is willing to give you).
#2 – You interact with people.
It’s a “people to people” business. If you only deliver a robotic sales pitch, not many people will be enticed to buy (although some still are). On the other hand, if you find ways to break the ice and develop small relationships with people, it will not even feel like a sale. That means that over time you develop vibe and personality and if you work door-to-door, you’ll get familiar with the whole neighborhood and may even become attached to “your” block!
#3 – You learn about people’s stories.
You will learn that not always all is what it seems. Seemingly happy families were severely behind with their utility bills. Then there is the lady who had worked on AZT (the medication used to treat HIV/AIDS) as a research nurse. Poor, rich, middle of the road – you visit houses, you visit “real” America.
#4 – You learn to become assertive and control your frame.
You will have very little success asking people whether they would “like to buy”. Most people will say “no”. Thus, you learn to ‘assume the sale’. You act as if the sale is a foregone conclusion and you are only talking filling out the details. Of course, you can’t just command people out of the blue, which brings us back to point #2 above – without building a relationship with the customer first, it is more difficult to be assertive. Now, the customer will often try to push you into the frame of a salesman (which you actually are) to reject your approach (which you don’t want). So you learn to become authoritative and stay in charge. That does not need to be pushy (although pushy salesmen do get the sale), it can be outgoing or a little more calmly authoritative. Whichever personality fits you best, you will become assertive, and that is a good lifeskill to have.
#5 – You are constantly being pushed outside your comfort zone.
If you are not naturally assertive, lots of the experiences you get in sales will feel intimidating at first. I did not want to command people around and instead opted for giving the customers a really good and long consultation about the product I was selling. The result: “Thanks so much! I’ll look over it myself” – and no close. On the other hand, you might not feel comfortable talking to strangers in the first place. Whatever it is, you will likely have to step out of your comfort zone and do things – like being more assertive – that feel ‘wrong’ at first.
But doing what ‘feels’ wrong will help you grow.
#6 – You learn to be indifferent
One could also call it the “ZFG – zero fucks given” mentality. Indifference means you remind the customer “everything will stay the same” after they buy from you. It can also mean he does not need to sign up, because you don’t care about that. It works, because it is the opposite of “chasing” and running after something. Nobody likes a “thirsty salesman”.
Being indifferent will also make your life a lot easier. Live and let live. Of course, that does not mean you should just lay back and be disinterested in other people. You like to figure out more about someone because you are curious. But if that person buys into your personality or not is his decision. A very useful mentality to develop, and it saves you a lot of stress if you just let people come to you.
#7 – You learn how to divulge information strategically.
In a sales transaction, there are several specific impulse factors that make people buy. A sales pitch or a landing page, for that matter, don’t just tell a random story. Copywriters place specific triggers into the story that make people buy. The art is to tell a story while placing the right triggers at the right moment. At the beginning, you will be married very strongly to your sales pitch. Then, gradually, you infuse your personality, until it becomes effortlessly effective storytelling that makes people buy into your personality or product (oftentimes both).
#8 – You get fast and direct feedback.
A sales pitch is a specific sequence of triggers and events. If you use them in the wrong order, you will likely fail; conversely, you can use the different stages to discern where you have to improve. There are five phases to a successful sale: (a) The introduction, where you give your first impression and state who you are; (b) a short story that qualifies the customer for the sale; (c) the presentation of your product, where you introduce specific triggers, like greed, fear of loss or sense of urgency; (d), the close, where you assume the sale and thus get the customer committed to buying; (e) and the rehash, where you complete all details, solidify the interaction and get the opportunity to make an extra sale on top of the first one.
If any of these phases is missing, you are either not getting through the process, or you are losing the customer afterwards – for example, if you leave right after the close without a rehash, “buyer’s remorse” can set in and people cancel their order.
The linearity of the process also means that when you are stuck in a sticking point along the process, you can focus on improving that point. For example, if you don’t get the close, that means you haven’t introduced enough triggers or did not have an emotional enough presentation. You always know where you have to improve.
#9 – You keep your head free for other work
Sales is a pretty automated process. That means that you have your head free to build a more creative side business, since you don’t need to focus all your mental resources on your job.
#10 – Sales is a universal skill
Another advantage of sales is that it is an important skill to develop; the only basic difference across sales jobs is the product that is sold. So if you want to build your own business, but don’t have the financial resources to devote yourself full-time to it, why not take a part-time job in sales? That way, you are learning transferable skills for your business AND earn money.
#11 – You learn to hustle
Rarely does a sale go ‘by the book’. There are always some obstacles to overcome. Especially when you do door-to-door sales and a huge Dobermann-Mastiff tries to jump at you from behind the front door. Or when you don’t even find the door of the apartment at first. So you learn to spot the opportunities. You hustle.
#12 – You need good shoes
An aspect almost no one talks about – if you go from door to door for sales, you are walking and standing the whole day. So you definitely need good shoes with a soft sole. And you have to like walking at least to a certain extent.
#13 – You learn to become selective with your time
The big “enemy” in sales (at least for me) is not a customer saying “no”. A “no” is something you can learn and move on from. The big problems are (a) empty houses, if you are doing door-to-door sales and (b) talkative customers who have no intent of buying. Some people just want to spout off and talk, talk, talk, but they will never buy anything.
This applies to life. Some people just like to hear themselves talk and have no intent of giving anything of value for your life. They are just wasting your precious time, as Bob Dylan once wrote in “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright“. I am particularly prone to that because I believe any conversation adds value to my life, and I normally don’t expect anything back. However, that can also lead to a situation where you listen to the same negative people over and over again and don’t cut them from your life.
But in sales, those people make you lose money. Here, the sales pressure makes you learn to value your time better.
In total, starting a job in Direct Sales, going from door to door, has been an interesting endeavour for me – however,
How did I use self-talk exercises from Gorilla Mindset in my first weeks of sales?
I decided to apply the chapters from Gorilla Mindset to guide me through the transition from a completely different career in biomedical science into sales. Since I had entirely no experience in this new field, I expected some anxiety and wanted to quench these negative feelings and convert them into positive ones. In addition, I wanted to get once through Mike’s book in a very systematic way, applying all the lessons found inside.
To paraphrase Mike Cernovich:
In times of crisis, change or fear we often react by chastising ourselves. “You always screw up!”, “you are simply too stupid”, “you just can’t do it” or “you won’t learn this, ever”.
Now imagine a friend comes by who is in your situation and you give him exactly the above “advice”. That friend would seize to come back. Yet, we are talking to ourselves like that all the time! And we can NOT leave. So we are trapping ourselves with an abusive mindset. We are beating ourselves up. That can’t be good.
So what Mike suggests in Gorilla Mindset is to treat ourselves as a valued friend.
And that starts with a constructive and positive conversation.
To do that, we need to recognize how we are talking to ourselves. I have recorded myself with cameras on my iMac and iPhone, and these are some examples of negative self-talk:
Notice how annoyed and even disgusted I look at myself? My brow is furrowed. I raise my voice. I am agitated, as if to signal that my behavior is simply unfathomable. No reason to grasp or hold unto.
This self-talk, frankly, is me taking the role of a father who is disgusted with his son’s lack of progress. And yes, I grew up with my mother and only saw my father two weekends a month.
Oh! A rich resource for a psychologist to explore! Instead of handing my money to a shrink though, I follow the advice in Gorilla Mindset – and ask myself questions.
#1 – Am I a lazy person in general?
I think to a certain extent I am. Which begs the question how I could end up getting into a competitive STEM major in Germany – biochemistry, how I was able to do my PhD in a state-of-the-art institution I had dreamt off through all my studies and how I could follow that up with postdoctoral research visits in Princeton and New York?
In those cases, my interest in science lined up with the environment. To this day, I can still leave everything else aside and focus several hours on solving mathematical questions. Scientific questions inspire me to think deeply about life, and this process alone makes me happy.
So I am not lazy. There is just a misalignment between the outside and inside world, and when I realize that, I am loathe to spend any more energy.
So why don’t I figure out how to align both worlds? I don’t know. Maybe I am worried about going into the wrong direction. Maybe I am afraid to take chances. I can’t say yet.
But these thoughts have already turned around the negative energy directed at myself into a question that I can solve.
#2 – Am I a weak person?
It’s true I sometimes lack resolve to see a process through. And maybe, as in #1 above, that is also just me realizing I am not going into a direction that conforms with my goals. So it could be a wise decision to stop a process.
In fact, some processes I do stick to. For example, I finished a 90-Day no-candy detox at the beginning of this year.
Now, if you get used to a new habit, there will be times you feel like quitting. To not give in too early, therefore, I just have to set a landmark up to which I follow the new habit, and then evaluate after I have reached the mark.
That way, I have turned my destructive self-doubt into measures I can take to improve.
#3 – Am I a loser? Do I “deserve” to be in a bad situation?
You only deserve to be in a bad situation if you have not heeded clear warning signs. And I also believe that every day is a new chance to start anew. In fact, it is somewhat unproductive to talk about “being a loser”, acknowledging your situation in any way, good or bad, does not help you move forward.
So instead of bashing myself, I realize that I am the only person that can move my life forward. And thus devise an action plan that I follow for at least a defined period of time.
After this discussion, I can now use these points to come up with mantras.
#1 – I am lazy!
#2 – I am weak!
#3 – I am a loser!
#1 – I love to focus my energy on what matters!
#2 – I am getting closer to my goals every day!
#3 – Right now!
I like #3 because it is short and sweet and also a Van Halen song – the first song I heard when MTV Germany was starting back in the nineties. Which, then, of course reminds me of all the happy times I had back then and the experiences that are now an integral part of the life I have built for myself.
I can also turn these mantras into affirmations.
#1 – I am going to be more energetic, because I am focussing my energy on what really matters to me in my life.
#2 – I am going to be proud of what I have done, because I am giving myself the chance to see change materialize.
#3 – I am never going to be in a bad situation again, because I will focus on the very next step. Right now.
The self-talk worksheet
This is a summary of what I have talked about above, with actionable steps I will take from hereon forward.
#1 – How do I speak to myself?
The phrases I most commonly use are those that reconfirm doubts about my ability to execute. “once again”, “never”, “won’t work”, “why am I always xyz”
#2 – When I talk to myself in that way, how do I feel?
I feel that I am never good enough. I feel that I will always stay behind, that I am in a state of chaos I can never escape.
#3 – What is an empowering or comforting phrase I can use when talking to myself?
How can I recognize and correct a mistake without beating myself up?
I like to split up my actions into two parts: (a) a part that was already good and (b) a part that I want to improve on. The more specific I am with (a) and (b), the more precise I can be with concrete steps that I can take to improve.
I can never beat myself up over something, because to me, there are only good things in this world – and those that I can even make better. In addition, this set of phrases implies that there is action I can take to improve.
For example: It’s a good thing I am not satisfied with my current situation. The biggest sticking point I had today was [x]. To get to [y], I need to add more time/focus/energy to my actions. One way to do that is to get to bed on time, so I can wake up 30 minutes earlier the next day.
See how that makes everything work better? It lets me go from “I am lazy” to “Hell yeah, I am looking forward to the next day!”
#4 – Conversations with others
When I change my self-talk from subdued-negative into energetically positive, of course conversations with others will change. Energy is a great resource to give.
Using positive self-talk to get started in a new job.
As I mentioned above, I have started a direct sales job a couple of weeks ago.
In the beginning, I could get easily discouraged by customers telling you “no”, and while earning commission is great, if you don’t earn it, you don’t eat.
Some days this would get to me, and my sales presentations would suffer.
So I looked at my self-talk.
Bad and annoyed body language. Mocking myself. Very destructive talk.
Turning negative talk into questions
#1 – Am I really “shit” when I can’t “close shit”?
Of course not. That phrase came from a “motivational speech Alec Baldwin did in Glengary Glenn Ross. First of all, you are newly learning a technique completely different from what you did before. And second, I am indeed able to “close” the more positive customers. The rest is just learning.
#2 – Do I really deserve ridicule?
It’s good to laugh about yourself. And you realized what you need to change. In reality though, the sales pitch is very similar in all cases. So over time, I will automatically lose these “uhms” and filler words. It’s a matter of practise.
#3 – Do I really “lose” customers?
I would lose customers when I “overpitch”, and I think I do recognize when the other person becomes more distant and sympathy reverses. What I observed here is that it is a very fine line to sometimes walk and clearly a matter of practise. “Losing” a customer is actually a good sign, because that means I am able to win the customer over to my side first. I sometimes tell myself I “lose” them when I never had them in the first place. And “getting them” is also just a matter of training.
#1 “I can’t close shit” -> “I can close more and more customers by the day!”
#2 “I say too many ‘uhms'” -> “Uhm… yeah!”
#3 “I lose customers” -> “Every lost customers gets me closer to a sale!”
#1 – “I am going to Always Be Closing, because I am training for every problem under the sun.”
#2 – “I am going to improve my speaking flow, because I am practising my words every day over and over.”
#3 – “I am going to get rock-solid fundamentals, because every lost customer makes me want to build a more solid first impression.”
1. How do I speak to myself during sales?
The main source of negativity is doubt in my ability to deal with the sales pressure – and since there are people who are good at sales, I tend to use words that confirm I am not talented. Phrases like “never”, “can’t”, “doesn’t work”, “never learn”, ” I’m not cut out for this” etc.
2. When I talk to myself in that way, how do I feel?
Hopeless, inferior and desperate. Fearful even.
3. What is an empowering or comforting phrase I can use?
Whenever we interact with people, there is at least one part of the interaction we can’t influence. However, if we behave in a rude way, we will turn people off that were on our side, initially. On the other hand, when we radiate positive energy, people that were stand-offish will flock to our side.
Now, developing a good “ice-breaker” is no guarantee to have people react positive to us, it is just more likely.
In addition, if we use a page out of Mike Cernovich’s playbook and tell ourselves “There is no place I’d rather be. There is no one I’d rather see”, we will come across as more charismatic.
So clearly, there is a component of our interaction with others that we do have influence on. And that is something I want to focus on in sales talks. So whenever I am moving towards negativity, I am realigning my focus with those steps that are under my control.
So whenever I move towards negativity, I can tell myself: “The customer became stand-offish after my presentation and did not want to finish the close with me. That means I did not pay attention enough to the customer and forgot to adjust the presentation to his needs. Next time I will focus more on the interaction and less on the words in the presentation.”