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The 4 Word Sales Lesson

The 4 Word Sales Lesson

Hello and good day!

18 years ago, I met a guy, and we became friends for the next 5 years.

Unfortunately, I lost touch with my pal when my wife and I moved from San Diego to Washington state 13 years ago. The man's name was Marcos Chavez.

He was roughly 20 years older than me, and he was a meat salesman. He supported his family by selling meat to taco shops.

In San Diego, there are almost 3 taco shops on every city block.

It is a big market.

Marcos had an older daughter with his first wife. When he and his first wife split, for reasons that I don't remember anymore, the daughter went through some hard times.

Marcos married a second time and had 3 children with his second wife. The kids were little and rambunctious when I was friends with Marcos, and I got a kick out of them because I didn't have any kids of my own yet.

Marcos was of average height, with skinny legs and a wide barrel chest He had a thick black mustache and a great smile. The smile was great because when he smiled for real, you could see his teeth poking out from under his bushy black mustache. If the smile was forced, you wouldn't see his teeth.

And Marcos had the deepest most booming voice I've ever heard.

In the middle of our friendship, Marcos and his second wife adopted 3 additional children. His oldest daughter had drug problems and the court was going to take her kids away. Instead of allowing his grandchildren to become wards of the state, he and his wife took them in.

After that, when we got together, there were 6 little ones running around, making noise and stirring up trouble. When they got too far out of control, all Marcos had to do was let out a reprimand with his booming voice and they'd cool down for a while.

For a long time, I wondered how a man could support such a large family selling meat to taco shops.

Judging by all outward appearances, Marcos was doing well financially.

He had a nice car. He and his family lived in a good house. The 6 kids were well fed and well dressed. His wife dressed nicely and had what looked to be a decent jewelry collection.

When I couldn't live with the mystery anymore, I went ahead and asked.

Marcos had thrown a BBQ at his house, and we were sitting at a round, glass, deck table, under an umbrella that protected us from the sun. We each had a beer.

The kids were running around, and another friend was cooking the meat. Marcos threw a lot of BBQs because he got an employee discount on meat.

It was hot out and there was carne asada smoke in the air. The beers were cold and sweating. The kids were screaming and laughing.

I took the plunge.

"Hey Marcos. Can I ask you a question?"

He gave me his smile and I saw his teeth under the mustache.

"Of course, Adam. Go ahead."

"Do you make a good living selling meat?"

"I do pretty well. I'm able to take care of all these kids and my wife and I plan to pay for an education for all of my babies someday."

"Here is what I don't understand. Isn't there a ton of competition? There must be a lot of meat companies out there. How do you win enough business to earn a living?"

I was particularly interested in the answer to this question because I had just been ordained a chocolate salesman by my father, after spending most of my prior working life as an accountant.

We had recently made our first run of dark chocolate around that time, and it was my job to sell it. Our primary market was restaurants and chocolatiers, and I was competing head-to-head against huge companies with massive salesforces.

Marcos took a sip of his beer and then wiped condensation off his mustache with one of his hands.

"So, you want to know the secret to my sales success? You want to know how I do it?" asked Marcos.

"Yes, I want to know."

"You only need to know four words Adam. Be persistent. Build relationships."

I have 15 years of hardcore business to business, in the trenches, sales experience under my belt now, and I believe this to be the most valuable sales lesson that I've ever learned.

Those four words have helped me sell many millions of dollars' worth of chocolate over the last 15 years.

Marcos continued.

"You see Adam. Most salespeople only focus on their commissions. And when it isn't going well, they get stressed, and they try to push people into decisions. This ruins the relationship forever."

I leaned in close to pay attention. I wanted to remember every word.

"I don't worry about my commissions at all. And I don't care how many times I hear the word no. I show up as a friend. Not a fake friend, either. Not a friend who only wants something from you. I show up to spend a few sincere moments, to talk about life, and to laugh. Eventually, something always happens. A taco shop gets a new rep they don't like. An important delivery shows up late and it sours the relationship. And then they turn to me because I am their friend, their real friend."

Later on down the line, Marcos was in a terrible car accident and lost a leg.

Thankfully, he has been able to make do with a prosthetic and he has kept right on selling meat up through the present.

His kids are grown now, and they are all doing well.

I ran into the Chavez family last night.

The black mustache is grey, but the teeth still poke out.

There are two great lessons that I'd like to unpack before signing off.

The first is that in order to achieve goals, it makes sense to focus on the activity rather than the result.

In selling, or losing weight, or writing a book, you can reverse engineer what activities you need to do to achieve the outcome.

Once you have that figured out, just do them. Don't worry about the outcome anymore.

In sales, you must visit with people and build friendships and ignore the sting of the word no. If you do that, the revenue handles itself.

You almost don't even need to measure it. If you do the activity, the results will be abundant.

The second lesson is that what applies to selling also applies to persuasion in general.

You will never change somebody's mind about a fundamental belief in one sitting.

Persistence and relationship building beat logic and force of argument every time.

These are the proper activities to engage in to achieve your result.

It is much more effective to be a friend than to prove your rightness if you want to get a point across.

Thank you so much for time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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