The first sale is the most time consuming and requires the most effort. If you want to make that first sale and truly want to influence others in your personal or professional life, selling through storytelling is the key. In this episode, you’ll learn three key insights which are critical to making you a highly skilled ethical influencer.
From the story of the pigeon lady to the closed-circuit television in the QVC Green Room, to his experimentation of Socratic selling, Alex reveals the greatest sales lessons and strategies he learned and teaches you how to easily win the hearts of others to convert more premium clients
Listen to the podcast here:
Confessions Of A Serial Entrepreneur
This is the show devoted to coaches, consultants and other service professionals who want to get more premium clients, but don’t really enjoy the selling process. If that sounds like you, all you need to do is lean forward and read carefully.
Ethical influence is central to our discussions and you and I will also explore other fascinating and important topics such as growing relationship capital and virtual presentation strategies.
Finding JV partnerships, principles of karmic marketing and content repurposing strategies, to name a few. In this episode, you’ll learn three key insights which I believe are critical to making you a highly skilled ethical influencer.
You’ll discover the single greatest sales lesson I ever learned and it was from a park bench in Los Angeles, California.
You’ll learn the time-tested sales strategy I stumbled upon in the QVC Green Room. You’ll also learn how Socratic selling stops embarrassing sales encounters, Socratic as in Socrates. Lean in and read carefully because this episode could have a significant impact on how you can quickly and easily win the hearts of others.
The Pigeon Lady: The First And Second Sale
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 1989. There I am on a park bench in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, California. I was devastated. Eighteen months before, I had started a brand-new business out of college with two degrees in Psychology and an Economics.
I graduated from the University of California at Irvine and I was so proud because I had this frozen yogurt and bakery shop in Long Beach, California. Fast forward eighteen months, I’m finding myself on the other side of the counter watching an SBA, the Small Business Administration auctioneer sell my equipment for $0.15 on the dollar.
My mom who put up her house as security, that house was going into foreclosure and I decided to head home because I couldn’t afford rent and I got tired of living out of my car.
En route back to Pasadena where my mom lives, I decided to stop by MacArthur Park and I was on a park bench. Little did I know that on that park bench, I will learn everything that I would ever need to know about selling persuasion and influencing others as well as marketing.
I’m watching an elderly woman put a nickel in a bird seed dispenser. You can tell how far back this was. It was only a nickel back then and the bird seeds came into the palm of her hand. Her goal was to feed the pigeons who were at MacArthur Park. I’m just sitting on the park bench not thinking anything of this. It’s summer, it’s comfortable, it’s Los Angeles.
People are walking by.
The kids are there because it’s summer vacation. Here’s this elderly lady and she’s walking towards the pigeons, and as she’s walking towards them with the bird seed in the palm of her hand, the pigeons walk away. As she walks away from the pigeons, she turns around and shows the bird seed, the bait and the pigeons walked toward her.
Then she turned around again and she walked towards the pigeon and all the pigeons started to walk away again. As this dance was continuing walking towards, walking away, walking towards, walking away, there was almost a rapport that was being built, a level of trust, which is the lubricant to all influence and sales.
The woman noticed that the distance between her hand full of bird seeds and the pigeons, their beaks specifically, was getting tighter and tighter. In other words, narrower and narrower, shorter and shorter. As this dance continued for about ten minutes, finally she got down on one knee and it was a little uncomfortable for her because she was heavyset, but she wanted these pigeons to feed from her hand.
She put her hand out and opened up her palm and showed the seeds. Probably some adolescent pigeon, very courageous, came up and pluck some bird seed from the palm of her hand. Then other pigeons came and they started feeding from her hand. Then all of a sudden pigeon were landing on her head and on her shoulders. Maybe they were even pooping on her. She was like the pigeon lady after ten minutes.
I’ve been to Venice and there’s an area in Venice where the pigeons just land on you because they’re just used to people, but this wasn’t the case in MacArthur Park. The pigeon lady, I noticed and now that I think about it, the first sale took a lot of time.
It required the most effort. It was this dance going back and forth, to and fro just like the tide. As a result of that, I noticed that there was another person wanting to have the same result or outcome that this elderly woman had. That person was this young kid.
He looked like he was maybe six or seven years of age. He asked his mother for a nickel, he went to the bird seed dispenser and got the bird seed. He ran at the pigeons. He didn’t have any concept of building trust or rapport so that they can know they can trust him. He ran at him. They flew away. Of course, they would. They were afraid.
Then he was upset and in his impatience, he threw the bird seed at the pigeons that were flying away and turned around. He didn’t even notice that as the bird seeds fell to the ground, the pigeons came and started plucking them from the ground.
Meanwhile, the elderly woman was still being courted by all the pigeons because they knew she had food. They say pigeons are dumb, but I don’t think they are. The second sale was a lot faster and easier for this woman than the first one wouldn’t. When that first pigeon came up, that seemed to be the toughest sale or enrollment there was.
Pretty soon the second, third, fourth, fifth sale was very simple with all the patients. There must have been twenty of them and so it is in business, so it is when you enroll someone. There was a dance and the lesson from this elderly woman that I learned from a park bench in MacArthur Park in 1989, dead broke, $242,000 in debt, I didn’t think of the significance at that time.
My focus was on other things like eating. Then ten years later I thought, “I remember the woman and I remember the way she succeeded, whereas the young boy did not because he didn’t understand the way pigeons and people are of the same ilk.” It requires time to create trust.
The QVC Green Room: Socratic Selling
The first sale takes the most time and requires the most effort. I have students who ask me, “Alex, is it always going to take this long?” I say, “No. The first one is the toughest because that’s when you’re establishing trust and rapport, the lubricants of sales and enrollment.” The second sale is a lot easier and a lot faster unless you mess up.
I took this lesson to heart and I’ve been telling that story for over twenty years. Then fast forward to 1992. I was back on my feet and I was doing very well in the infomercial and direct sales spot TV business. I was working for an organization that was representing the Guthy-Renker media organization that brand the Tony Robbins events.
We handled the Ronco Food Dehydrator and the Thighmaster was Suzanne Somers. Ron Popeil ran the Ronco products. We had a lot of products on infomercial and 60-second and 120-second spot television commercials. I had this theory that if something worked on television, back then, they had remote controls, there was cable but there wasn’t satellite like we have now.
There was no smartphone or internet to be heard of. What happened was I thought, “If something is telling on television and people are scanning all the channels, then that thing might even sell better at one of the home shopping networks like QVC or HSN, Home Shopping Network. QVC is in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
I flew in to QVC and I made a presentation for a VHS video. If you’re old enough to remember what VHS is, then you know what VHS is. People don’t have VHS machines anymore that I know of except for my mother, Carol, who’s still living in the same home and who’s home never went into foreclosure because I got back on my feet. That’s the happy ending to that story. VHS was this tape.
If you’re a Millennial, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It was way before the days of DVD. This VHS tape was selling in the tens of thousands. In fact, we sold over 1.2 million of these VHS tapes and it was from a singer named Ray Stevens. If you don’t know who ray Stevens is, it’s probably because you haven’t heard of any of the songs. If you’re in the South of the United States, then you probably have heard of Ray.
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He had a lot of comedy songs. He put all of his songs, including his best-known song, which is not comedy, which is Everything is Beautiful. I can’t sing but that’s the name of the song. He even put that on the video. It was a video of him singing. It was called Ray Stevens Comedy Video Classics. QVC accepted the offer of putting them on.
I thought I had just struck gold. In fact, I had struck a diamond mine because we’re going to do gillions QVC. I took Ray and I took his handler to QVC and we went to the Green Room and then Ray went on stage and he was selling his comedy video classics. Everyone in the green room was watching Ray through the window.
That’s not what I was doing because I knew that I had gold. I had information that no one could get access to. These are the days of direct mail. I had instant information, time-tested strategy.
I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just look at the closed-circuit television that’s measuring the sales?” Ray would say something and then the TV monitor would just show the number of sales and it would be like a graph and it will go way up. Then he says something else and it would just flat line.
After a while, I started to take the time code of when it was going up and I asked the buyer at QVC if he could get me a timecoded VHS of the ten minutes that Ray was on QVC because we sold out and they wanted us to come back again. I got the timecoded master from the VHS tape.
What I did is I looked at when the sales went up and then I went back about 30 to 40 seconds and just monitored what Ray actually said. This is on the VHS copy. It was like a replay that I’m watching. I took note because we couldn’t sell the comedy video classics in the big cities like Dallas or New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. We only could sell it in the South of Virginia Beach and then all the way over to maybe Louisiana. We couldn’t figure it out, “Why is it only selling in the Bible Belt?”
The song that everyone knew, Everything is Beautiful, was in the middle of the commercial and this was a 60-second commercial. I took the information I learned from the closed circuit television that was showing the sales and monitoring sales, perfect information from the Green Room of QVC.
I took that information back and I took it to my boss. His name is Gary and we reworked the commercial and we put Everything is Beautiful, which the big city folks would recognize. We put that at the beginning of the commercial and the commercial is only 60 seconds.
Of that 60 seconds, it’s only 45 seconds of selling because the other fifteen seconds is the phone number. There was no website call to action. By using this information from what I learned of putting this song in the beginning versus in the middle of the commercial, we started selling in the big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, New York and Chicago.
We ended up selling tens of thousands more as a result of the employee got from the Green Room in QVC. I got to see what the true reasons why the product was selling and so it is with the internet.
You can do the exact same thing as I stumbled upon in the QVC Green Room. This is how Socratic selling can stop embarrassing sales encounters. If you say certain things and you get a certain result, keep saying those certain things.
These are tested sentences that can sell. One of my Alexisms in my book, Alexisms, is the only thing worse than going in the wrong direction is going in the wrong direction enthusiastically. Socratically, if you find out how to enroll people just by practicing. When I start with a sales team, initially I tell them, “I don’t want you to sell a thing.
All I want you to do is find out why people won’t buy.
Find out what their number one reason why besides time and money is for not saying yes to you.” Then every once in a while, the newly formed sales team will come back and they go, “I got a sale.” Then I reprimand them and we have fun with that because all I wanted were the objections. Just like I found out what were the reasons that we’re selling this videotape back in 1993, just as I found out what it takes to create rapport with pigeons on a park bench back in 1989 when I was broke.
You can do the very same thing being an experimenter and just finding out what people do and how they respond to your offer and test it because you are in the testing business. That’s what marketing is. The reason why we call this show, All Selling Aside, this is the first episode. I want to give you a little bit of history of where I came from.
It’s because it’s not about selling, it’s about building rapport and building relationships and your relationship capital is the single most important asset. I hope you enjoyed the story.
Here’s our review about the specific insights you and I rediscovered in this episode. First is that the first sale is the most time-consuming and requires the most effort. You want to work the hardest for the first sale. Next, we learned that the second sale is faster and easier because you have a relationship.
Remember the pigeon lady in MacArthur Park, when I took Ray Stevens to QVC, it was tough to get that first sale. It took a month, but then they kept wanting them back again and again. Because the second, third and fourth sale, you’ve already proven the concept, so it is with your prospects and candidates.
Then finally, the Socratic method of discovery and asking questions. For me, it was a closed-circuit TV. For you, it could be, “What’s the number one reason besides time and money you won’t buy from me?”
You use that Socratic Method so that you can prosper because it will eliminate almost 100% of all sales certainty. These principles can only work for you if you work them.
Speaking of reviews, I want you to go to AllSellingAside.com/iTunes and you’ll go to our iTunes channel there. Then I want you to type in your biggest takeaway or you can call it an a-ha moment.
Your biggest distinction that you experienced during this episode. Was it about the pigeon lady or was it about the close circuit television in the QVC Green Room? Is it about the experimentation of Socratic selling?
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You can do this in the review section at iTunes and when you do it, iTunes will ask you to rate the episode and I hope I’ve earned five stars from you.
Go ahead, declare your one big takeaway in the iTunes reviews. It will forward directly to my iTunes channel and it will take just three minutes out of your day but what you declare could provide you a lifetime of learning. I have one final gift for you and that is in honor of this first episode of All Selling Aside.
I’m so happy that you’re still with me right now. I’m super excited to continue to grow this relationship with you. My gift to you is a complimentary copy of my eBook titled Alexisms: Useful Life Lessons from a Recovering Serial Entrepreneur.
You can get it with an instant download in AlexismsBook.com. It’s also available on Amazon, but why pay for something when you can get it for free instantly?
That does it for this episode. I hope our paths cross again on the next episode of All Selling Aside, the show dedicated to making ethical influence within your reach so that you can achieve and even exceed your sales and profit potential. A special thanks goes to my dear friend, Michael Lovitch.
He’s one of the founders of Baby Bathwater Institute. He is the one who came up with the name All Selling Aside. I was in Montreal at a mastermind with my good friend, Danny Iny, and his wife, Bhoomi. Michael was sitting next to me and he said, “You should call that All Selling Aside.”
I went to the registrar and I found that it was available and I got it. Here we are, AllSellingAside.com. I never forget where great ideas come from, so thank you, Michael. I want you to do whatever it takes to join me next time because our topic will be, “Why Seeding is the New Selling?”
I encourage you to invite a friend or a study buddy because it’s fun to go through this process together because selling is not easy, but it is simple. You just have to learn the rules. I can’t wait to connect with you. All good wishes.
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