My Scariest Moment: Becoming a Salesperson

By Patti Minglin

My first job out of college was working as a Newspaper in Education (NIE) Coordinator for a local newspaper.  My goal was to get as many classrooms as possible using the newspaper as an educational tool.  This meant I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with kids—in and out of the classroom—and representing the newspaper at all the fun family-friendly events.  Nice gig.  Until, I discovered that all those newspapers I was getting into the hands of students needed to be paid for by sponsors and I was the official sponsor-getter.

One of the advertising executives took me out on my first sales call.  He took me to a local jewelry store in town and as we headed to the backroom where diamonds and jewels glistened, I played my opening pitch over in my head on a continual loop.  As soon as the storeowner walked in the room, I stood up, introduced myself and before I could take another breath the man said, “Look at those two pictures on my wall—what is their significance?”  The two pictures were of war ships and quite honestly, I had no idea of their significance.  Was his family member on one of the ships?  Did the ships represent some type of milestone in the jewelry industry?  I was stumped.

I stumbled for words—any words—and the wonderful ad exec who brought me to this wonderful life moment, quietly stepped beside me and said, “Bob, clearly those pictures are significant to you, but we’re at a loss.  Tell us the story.”

Bam.  That was my fist lesson in becoming a salesperson and ironically I ended up spending most of my pre-business owner days in a sales environment even leading a national sales team.   I had many other scary sales moments, but each taught me great lessons—lessons that led me to develop the kind of skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur.  Oh, yes, being an entrepreneur means you will have to also become a salesperson.  So, roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath and get over your fear of sales by following these tips:

Listen Before You Talk

Before you begin telling people how wonderful you are, listen to what they have to say—not only about your products and services, but about their lives.  What is their greatest challenge at the moment?  What is something that has recently made them happy?  No pressure on you to provide the right answers—you only to have ask the right questions.

Provide A Solution

Now that you’ve heard their stories, you will be able to see how your brand is relevant to their lives.  You are not selling a product or service, you are providing a solution—a solution that will help them be more productive, save money, be happier, be healthier, etc.

Be Honest

One of my favorite client compliments: “You know what you know and you know what you don’t know.”  Be honest about who you are and what you can do and do not try to be something you are not.  It won’t work and you will end up damaging relationships and your brand reputation. There is real freedom in being able to say “this is who I am and this is who I am not.”

 Follow Up

The very best sales skill I have brought with me into the entrepreneur world?  The art of the follow up.  Yes, that’s the secret ingredient—following up with people after you have had your initial introduction or conversation.  This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a quick email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them and maybe give them a link to an article you found that might be of interest to them (of course you will know what would be of interest because you did such a great job of listening).


pattimAbout the Author
Patti Minglin is a sales and marketing expert with substantial experience in marketing to women and marketing to moms. She is a product of the publishing industry having spent more than 17 years in senior executive positions in circulation, advertising, marketing and new product development.  Patti served as the Associate Publisher- Advertising/Marketing for Chicago Parent and launched Go Girl Communications, a sales and marketing consultancy, in the spring of 2011.