Happy Birthday to Me, You, and Us

Two years after I launched this column, three heartfelt cheers for our profession, the good we achieve, and the passion that makes dreams come true

By Michelle Nichols

What do a divorce attorney in Houston, an expatriate American business professor in Finland, and a Kodak store manager in Malta have in common? All are readers of Savvy Selling! As my mail indicates, this column is something of a crossroads for thousands of salespeople selling a wide variety of products and services in over a hundred countries. And it's Savvy Selling's second birthday! (No gifts please, cards only.)

As this column approaches the "terrible twos," I must point out that the credit for its endurance and growing popularity goes to you, my savvy, selling readers. No matter the size of your business, we have banded together to share our stories of what works -- and what doesn't. Readers have spread the word by introducing friends and associates to Savvy Selling. I know from your letters that you've also brainstormed with sales teammates about the best ways to implement the concepts I have discussed over the past two years.


  As you know, I believe the foundation of sales success is making connections -- and through this column, I have connected with many interesting and wonderful people all over the world. Some of you have even hired me to speak and consult. Thanks for that! In this space, we come together for education, support, even friendship. Selling can be a lonely endeavor, but I hope I have helped you connect with each other through your stories and letters, too.

Let's face it -- we picked a tough way to make a living. Sometimes I feel like Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian famous for saying, "I don't get no respect." In sales, we often don't get the respect we deserve. Words commonly associated with salesperson include: obnoxious, slimy, cheat, overbearing…and worse. When babies are born, I've never heard a proud grandma or a doting aunt say, "I bet when you grow up, you're going to be a sales rep!"

Yet when we look around, everything we see was sold by somebody. Without our selling efforts, this would be a boring, bleak world. Money makes the world go around, as they say, and it is we sales pros who make the money go around. These days, however, it's almost a rarity to see "sales" as a title on a business card. Instead, we see euphemisms like "business development" or "marketing" or "consultant." This embarrassment over the word "sales" reached a new low this week, when I received a book, Selling (Without Selling): 4½ Steps to Success by Carol Super and Ronald D. Gold. I understand their point, but really, would a doctor read "Healing Without Healing." When done well, selling is an admirable calling. It doesn't need any excuses.


  When it comes to sales, there are order-takers and order-makers. Now, don't knock order-takers. When I know exactly what I want -- a dozen of this or a unit of that -- I need someone who can fill my order competently and at a reasonable price.

However, it is the order-makers who deserve our highest praise. Order-makers are the geniuses of selling, the folks who go to a client with an idea, sell that idea, and deliver the products and services as agreed. As a result of that initiative, the customer makes a profit. Is that not a beautiful thing? Frankly, order-maker stories thrill me because the salespeople made something out of nothing -- not just for themselves, but their clients as well.

By rights, we should be having a big awards ceremony to celebrate Savvy Selling's second birthday -- but this year, we'll skip the boring speeches and big expense. Nonetheless, it's time for Savvy Selling to announce some honors. First, a Savvy Selling salute to those who work, or should I say slave, to grow and nurture the very small businesses they have launched. I have the highest respect for the thousands of people who start their own businesses every year. It is one of the most noble callings. Speaking personally, I know it's also tons of fun -- very creative and it serves your soul, too.


  If you want to start your own business but feel daunted by the job, remember this: Nothing great was ever started by a committee. It's almost always just one or two people with passion -- like Charles Schwab or William Hewlett and David Packard. "Solo-preneurs" are the heart of what makes this world great. They are the seed from which many great businesses have grown and prospered.

A Savvy Salute, too, to small and midsize businesses. You are the big brothers and sisters of the very small businesses, showing them the way, teaching them by example about the dangerous shoals and currents that must be avoided -- and where to look for those pots of gold.

Finally, a special salute to big businesses. They have been good customers of their smaller brethren, having the financial depth to risk trying our brilliant new product ideas and service offerings. For all the bashing Big Business gets, it also deserves a thank you for all its purchases.

So, dear readers, thank you for your support and letters. Your comments and suggestions have always been appreciated, and your questions keep me on my toes. I'm looking forward to many more birthdays for Savvy Selling. Now, get out there and sell something. Happy selling!

Michelle Nichols is a sales speaker, trainer, and consultant based in Houston, Tex. She welcomes your questions and comments. You can visit her Web site at www.verysavvyselling.biz, where her new CD, 72 Ways to Overcome the Price Objection is available. She can be contacted at Michelle.nichols@verysavvyselling.biz

Edited by Michelle Nichols

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.