I've told this story hundreds of times over the years, mostly when working with new sales reps. But I thought it was time to try and put it on paper.
After my freshman year of college I was recruited to sell door to door for a pest control company. I had never done any type of sales but for some reason I was very excited about the opportunity. My dad has always been in sales and when I told him what I was going to do, he told me it would be the hardest type of sales I could choose but I could do it.
The summer started with a 4 day training school. We spent long days as a group learning about bugs, sales and schedule. We split our time between class room style learning, individual memorization and role playing. There was as much focus on motivation as anything else. At the end of the 4 days, we were all dying to get out 'in the field' and knock on some doors. The formula was simple, give 70 presentations per day and you will get 1-2 sales. I was so confident I just knew I was going to kill it.
Day One - I worked harder than I have ever worked before. The day started on the doors at 10 am after a 9am sales meeting. I worked unbelievably hard until 8:00 pm. I knocked on all the doors. I gave every presentation I could. I literally ran in between doors to make sure I was doing everything right. I'm proud to say I hit my 70 presentations. I didn't get any sales. No big deal, I was prepped for that. If I do it again tomorrow, my hard work will pay off!
Day Two - I didn't think it was possible, but I worked even harder than the first day. I kept running in between the doors. I was enthusiastic and people loved me. I gave my 70 presentations plus more. I did everything exactly how I was supposed to. But what didn't happen was signing any one up for pest control service. That's okay, I was prepped for this. My ego was deflated just a little bit, but I was good to go.
Day Three - My enthusiasm exceeded my abilities. I was determined to knock on more doors and see more people. I tried to do everything right, but I know there were some cracks in my armor. I started to feel like I couldn't do it for the first time. But I pressed on and pressed forward. I finished the day with my hours, my presentations, everything I was supposed to do. No sales. The wave of enthusiasm ended. I was halfway through the week and it didn't seem like I could sell pest control even if the homeowner was covered in bugs when they answered the door. I just didn't have what it takes. I went home and that four letter word was the only thing on my mind - QUIT.
Day Four - I drove to my area but mentally I knew I was in trouble. I was too proud to tell anyone I was struggling. Each night when I reported in I pretended to be happy. Each morning at our meeting I pretended nothing bothered me. But when I went to my territory alone, it all caught up to me. I spent a few hours knocking on doors and putting in less effort than I had all week. I was going through the motions and there was a voice inside my head telling me it's over. I couldn't seem to shut that voice up no matter what I did. This part of the story was normally left out when working with new sales reps, but the truth is I went home in the middle of the day. I reached a breaking point and I couldn't take it any more. For anyone that has not experienced door to door sales, it may seem ridiculous. But for me I just couldn't take any more. The constant rejection takes a mental toll that cannot be explained, only experienced. I went home and my dad was there. He didn't know how much I had been struggling mentally but it was clear now. He was extremely supportive, he told me I could quit if I wanted to, but he knew I was capable of it. He told me to take the day off and get back at it the next day.
Day Five - I woke up and the decision was made. Today I would quit officially. I had lunch scheduled with the owner of the company and I would take that time to let him know I was done. Until then, I would go out and work the doors. I would go through the motions, knocking on doors, giving presentations, asking for the sale. Then a funny thing happened to me, I made a sale. I wish I could see my face or go back and experience that moment again. I know it was pure joy as I finally succeeded with making a sale. Then I made another sale. It wasn't even lunch time and I had 2 sales. Well, as a 19 year old kid, I was back on top. My enthusiasm returned and quitting was the farthest thing from my mind. When I went to lunch, I'm sure he was prepared to give a pep talk. He knew what is was like to go all week without a sale. He also had a name and phone number in his pocket for me. He was holding the golden ticket, someone I had talked to early in the week had called in to get service. I had a sale just waiting for me, I just needed to go fill out the paperwork. I finished that day with 4 sales and more confidence than any 19 year old should have.
I believe it was a combination of many things that all came together to create that day. My hard work had been building up all week. I really had been knocking on those doors and giving those presentations, they were going to come through for me. By quitting mentally, I think I actually took some of the pressure off of myself. I finally relaxed and I know that helped. Plus, I got lucky. That was a good day. Had I quit back then, my life would be in a totally different place from where it is now. I can't say for sure where that would be, but I'm pretty confident it wouldn't be as good.