The Tao of Sales
An Easier Way to Sell in Tough Times
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Sales Success Stories: We learn to stretch our own capabilities by observing others. Find what’s true for you and what challenges you in each of these stories. Ask yourself:

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The World's Worst Elevator Speech

© 2007 E. Thomas Behr, Ph.D."

I clearly remember my very first sale in 1986, after having left the company I started with and gone on my own. I'd closed a $36,000 deal with a major insurance company to provide presentation skill training, winning out over two very much bigger, well-established and well-regarded competitors. To say that I was happy misses the point. I was looking down at Cloud 9 from 60,000 feet. The clients walked me to the elevator, while I just barely kept a lid on my excitement, maintaining my serious, professional, "Dr. Behr" game face. One client was a tough old pro, 20 years my senior, like the Police Commissioner in "Beverley Hills Cop I" if you saw the movie; like whatever you expect an utterly no-nonsense police commissioner in an expensive suit to look like if you didn't. The other was younger, pleasant, but with the politely-masked Harvard MBA disdain of those who know they are really, really smart. We shook hands, said good bye, the doors closed and I was alone in the elevator. I just exploded - all the tension, the hopes, the competitive adrenalin pump, the elation ? all just burst out of me. I closed my eyes, shouted, sotto voce, YES! YES! YES!, and pumped my clenched fist to punctuate my emotions. With my eyes closed. That meant I did not see, with the particular malignancy that technology can demonstrate in the worst times, the elevator doors pop open again. The clients saw it all. How fast can you go from Cloud 9 to the depths of a hole in the earth that can never, ever, be deep enough? Warp speed. The younger of the clients looked at me and said, "Well, you seem to be happy with the sale." The older guy said "Have a nice day." How long is eternity? The time it took for the doors to close again. I avoided those two for months, until enough glowing "Happy Sheets" from the workshops had made their way up the food chain to them. I don't think I wore a disguise when I entered corporate headquarters and passed their offices, but I might have. A hat and dark glasses, anyway. So what lessons learned might this experience offer? The Tao says: Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear. Whether you go up the ladder or down it, Your position is shaky. When you stand with your two feet on the ground, You will always keep your balance. TAO TE CHING 13 (Stephen Mitchell translation) The triumph of victory is a beautiful thing, especially in a profession as competitive and stressful as sales. We've all experienced the rush that comes from risking all - and winning. And we've all lived with the sometimes crushing sense of defeat that comes when we lose a sale we thought we'd won. Could both of those emotions, joy and despair, be how we feel in relation to others' opinions of us. If we are grounded in ourselves and not dependent on customers' approval, "success" and "fear" lose their power over us.