The Seeds Of Achievement - Part Two
October 7, 2014
So the seed business was going great; I was making sale after sale and working through territory like wildfire. It seemed as if everyone loved the seeds, and they thought I was a pleasant enough kid who they wanted to help by buying a pack or two. Life was great and I was on top.
As the weeks that summer flew by, and my commission money bank account got bigger and bigger, I noticed not as many seeds were selling. I was working just as hard, but fewer seeds were selling. Now what I would normally sell in a day took two days. Then three days. Sales were slowing down and I could not figure out why.
Deep down, I knew what it was. I could identify the problem. People were just buying fewer seeds, as the summer came to an end and planting was no longer an option into the colder fall. I had been hit with my first big challenge - a seasonal sales cycle, for which I was not prepared. Sales were plummeting and my contact at the seed company started asking questions about why their star salesperson was no longer ordering big numbers of boxes at a time. I am sure that my success that summer was on someone's regional budget ... And now it was an issue.
OVERCOME BY SEEDY DARKNESS
My seed sales business was in jeopardy. Unless I could think of something and quick, the entire sales system I had developed would collapse. I decided to take the day off, and instead went fishing down at the river, spending the entire day trying to figure it out. It seemed an impossible challenge. As I walked through the fields carrying my pole and tackle box on the way to the river, my mind was blank. I had to come up with the answer. The spot along the bank was there just like always, a perfect getaway from any troubles that a kid could have.
As I baited the hooks, watched the pole and occasionally reeled in a catfish, everything I thought of simply led to more roadblocks and trouble on the seed business.
Then it hit me. Across the past couple of months, I had focused primarily on an area close by my house, in basically a several-block area, over to the school, bordered by the river on one side, the railroad tracks on the other. My parents had restricted my sales territory. But I needed more. More territory, more sales. It seemed obvious and perfect!
"Absolutely not!" screamed my mom when I floated the idea of making more door-to-door calls outside of the area where I had been given permission.
THE BIG CHANGE
Two more trips to the river and my grand idea surfaced. My parents were in the process of moving across town, which opened up a whole new world for a young kid. I decided to pick up a paper route once we got to the new neighborhood. Less seasonal, daily work, a great way to learn the streets and neighborhood kids, paid MORE in cash every week than the seeds, and I could ride my bike throwing papers and never stop.
We made the move, I applied for a few routes, finally getting one that had 77 houses. Later, it would blossom to 130 houses, when a kid who had the next route to the east decided to drop out and I was contacted to pick it up as an add-on to my route. The stories from the new paper route were legendary. It was a fabulous learning experience and taught me so much more than the seeds.
But for a short time, the seed sales had served its purpose, teaching me FIVE important lessons:
1. YOU DETERMINE YOUR SUCCESS RATE
This was to be true in all things in life, but for seed sales it really was true. If I didn't walk and knock, my bank account was empty. More calls meant more money, plain and simple. I was as successful as I made my mind up to be.
2. UNDERSTAND FACTORS OUTSIDE OF YOUR CONTROL
Things like seasons and planting flowers, as well as a restricted sales territory by my mom made up the factors "outside of my control". Had I considered those first, I might have gone right in to the paper route and saved the hassle of climbing up onto porches.
3. THE PROSPECT LIKING YOU ONLY GOES SO FAR
While I was well liked by my seed customers, it only went so far. I needed a great product to sell. Luckily, the seeds practically sold themselves. Later, the paper route also taught me this lesson.
4. HAVE A BACKUP ROUTE MAPPED OUT TO GO AROUND
Had I thought of the paper route plan earlier, I wouldn't have been stuck. But I maintained a NARROW focus on the seeds, failing to step back and see the whole picture. There is always the better choice out there if you simply open your eyes to what is in front of you.
5. HAVE AN OVERALL STRATEGIC PLAN ADDRESSING THE TOP 4 POINTS ABOVE
For me, this would come later in life, but it is true nonetheless. By failing to properly think things through and plan, I had unknowingly planned to fail out of the seed business.
And that's the story of how I got my start in sales. Hope you enjoyed it and can see some parallels in your career! Good luck in all that you do, and by following a few basic rules, success will be yours!