Who Am I To Tell You About Sales?
I started by sales career at the ripe age of 14 in Chicago, IL. Everyone needs to start somewhere. I learned, at a young age, that I wanted to do sales my whole life, because it was something I was naturally good at. I was always good at influencing, motivating, and leading people into making decisions to help them better their lives (using products I promoted).
By the age of 16 I’ve already read a handful of sales books and started getting into the stock market. Sure, I was too young to own any investment accounts of my own or do any trading. This didn’t stop me from researching stocks and convincing my friends and family to buy into the ones I saw most promising. There wasn’t much in it for me. I was genuinely looking to help people and show them how smart I was. I eventually found a penny stock (ended up being a pump-n-dump) that I was excited to tell everyone about. I ended up making those that listened to me, all 6 people, a return on investment of 500%. Now, more than 6 people bought into this stock that I promoted, but only those 6 pulled out at the right time. Everyone else went against my suggestions and were too money hungry watching the rapidly climbing stock to pull out and sell. Needless to say, those that didn’t listen to my advice on selling ended up losing their entire investment when the SEC shut the stock down and froze everyone’s funds indefinitely.
At 17, in the midst of the market crash, I already had 3 employers I worked for under my belt. Unfortunately, those jobs I had weren’t really sales gigs. I got my first “sales” job as a bank teller for a large multi-national bank. I’m sure you’re thinking a “bank teller” isn’t exactly a sales job… Wrong! In order to keep my job I had to open a minimum number of new deposit accounts. In order to advance and make bonuses, I had to go above and beyond in the number of new accounts opened. After about a year, I finally made it into the top 10 spot of employees who opened the most new accounts that fiscal year. I learned a lot about dealing with clients face-to-face and listening for opportunities to up-sell new banking products. During this economic crisis, everyone was pulling money out of the banks and hiding it in their mattresses. I learned how to leverage this fear, use it to help the customer, and get myself a sale in the process. It so happened that the FDIC nearly doubled the insurance coverage on deposit accounts to keep the banks from failing and help with widespread panic. I began telling people to open more accounts for more coverage. That one client with 1 million in his checking account now opened a new account without his spouse, another with his sister, another with his brother – this went on until he ended up opening up about 5 new accounts.
To think back, a multi-millionaire was listening to a 17-year-old bank teller about how to manage his finances. This is what sales is about!
By the time I turned 21 I already had enough sales jobs under my belt. My resume had enough accolades and accomplishments demonstrating my sales ability to land me almost any sales job I wanted. I realized this skill made me self-sufficient – so I left everything I knew and moved to Los Angeles. Prior to this, I never even visited California. But I knew that I could make it work as long as I got myself a sales job out there ASAP. I sold my BMW M3 and used the money for the move, my first month’s rent + deposit, enough groceries for a month, and extra spending cash. In total, I had about 2 months worth of cash to survive in Hollywood. After my first few weeks I got my first sales gig. Obviously, I chose a job that was commission only. I knew salaried jobs would cap commission and create a false sense of comfort by surviving on the base salary alone.
My first job in Los Angeles was selling music promotion services. I learned a lot about the industry and promotion and used this knowledge to start my own company. While working my day job, I was running a club promotion company across the country in Chicago, with the help of my business partner at the time. I helped find venues to promote and used social media to get people to show up. My business partner did his part and would go to the events to make sure the turn-out was accurate and we got paid for the work. I was investing about 10 hours a week and bringing in an extra $200-$500 a week with this business model. It was an easy way for me to make an extra $20-$50 an hour to help support the high costs of living in Hollywood.
Eventually. my day job couldn’t afford to pay me my commissions. I brought in more clients than they could handle.
I got paid in non-traditional ways, granted this was short-lived. In business, it’s usually a good thing to have too many clients. All you had to do was allocate resources into the delivery side of the business and continue growing. Unfortunately the business owners weren’t as business-savvy. They spent their business revenue (my commission checks) on exotic cars, a Hollywood mansion, and designer clothes. They were living like rappers. Since they neglected to deliver the services I helped sell, they eventually got bombarded with lawsuits and got unwanted attention from the Department of Justice and Attorney General. I saw the impending doom and left. One of the business owners cried as I handed in my resignation – but I had no sympathy for her since they always ignored my business advice and told me to worry about my sales performance instead (as if that’s all I was good at).
During my two-week notice period, I started a record label with a co-worker who also quit at the same time as me. The knowledge I had of the music industry was massive at this time and it seemed like the appropriate move even though record labels were folding left and right. People said it would be impossible to make money off a record label while all the piracy was robbing the industry of all its money. I knew this wasn’t true. There was more to monetizing music than just record sales on iTunes. There was licensing, merchandise, touring, and other revenue streams we could focus on. I spent more time on the record label and ended up neglecting the club promotion company. My promotion company started bring in less and less money each week even though we were supposedly bringing in more guest than ever before.
I flew to Chicago to discover my business partner was not only skimming more than his fair share of the profits, but was also ruining relations with the venue owners/managers. I spent a couple of weeks in the Windy City trying to fix the problem but it was too late. The trust I had with my business partner was broken. The stand-ins I brought on to collect the money were too focused on partying that they wouldn’t collect the money from the door at the close of each event. Eventually the venues started disputing how many people we brought over, since they were practically regulars now, and started to pay less and less per head. I decided to cut my losses and shut the business down. I would focus on my record label in LA instead.
Back in LA, my record label was having growth issues. Our operating expenses grew beyond our total revenue. We needed to find money to dump into marketing and advertising in order to compete with the major labels. This is where I had to use my sales skills again, except in a new way.
I had to convince investors to put their money into a start-up, in an industry facing a major financial crisis.
Getting the money to keep the business alive wasn’t easy. As an emergency precaution, I began another sales job in the credit industry. Within two months I became the top sales person out of 100+ other people and quickly propelled myself into a 6 figure salary. I would end up investing half my income into the record label. Now that we had more breathing room, I set out to find larger sums of money we needed to solidify our place in the music business. I was looking for the whales.
After about 10 different pitches with investors of all types, the response was almost always the same – “I like you and your plan, but cannot invest into an industry that’s plummeting”. The market research and my sales pitch proving them wrong apparently wasn’t enough. I had to think outside the box. Eventually, friends and family all received my sales pitch for an investment – after all I had a good reputation making some of them thousands of dollars off penny stocks at one point. One of my childhood friends, a trust-fund baby, saw my vision and dedication toward making this happen. He made small $10,000.00 investment, on my terms, and gave us 2 years to pay him back. All we needed to do to get the $100,000.00 future investment promise from him was to pay back the $10,000.00 within 2 years. Easy enough. Challenge accepted!
Eventually, the money was paid back, but the additional investment never came. The record label was bringing in revenue, but we spent so much money on promotions that we weren’t profitable just yet. I would go on to meet with the Vice President and Directors of the largest talent agencies and record labels in the US. We ended up signing up more talent and gave out more advances than we should have to our artists. But we had that one artist, who was there from the beginning, that we knew was our golden boy. The large majority of our expenditures were on him and developing his brand and music. Eventually one of the talent agency’s most powerful executive would want to go on a joint-venture with us and create the first DubStep tour (before Skrillex was even a signed artist).
To ensure our success, all our golden boy had to do was deliver the same music he was doing for the last couple years.
This was the fault in our business plan. Never put all your eggs in one basket. It wasn’t long until our main artist’s rising fame got him the attention of a seemingly innocent girl. This quickly grew into a very deep co-dependent relationship. Even though the studio was booked, our artist wasn’t showing up anymore. We had the tour dates locked down, the venues were set, promotional media was being pumped out by the talent agency. Essentially, the stars aligned and we needed to find a way to have our artist regain focus. His childhood dream was materializing in front of his face. I tried every sales technique in my power to have him understand what he was throwing away for a girl he barely knew. After months of trying to sway him, breach of contract warnings, and other legal threats – we quickly learned we weren’t winning this one.
This was when I learned the most valuable sales lesson ever. Decision aren’t based on logical thinking, they are entirely based off emotion.
Sometimes having all your dreams comes true and becoming filthy rich don’t matter anymore when you fall in love. Trying to use material success against love was a tactic that kept failing over and over. Emotions were overpowering logic on an extreme scale. Needless to say – eventually the record label failed to make progress. The tour was cancelled. Our potential investors were watching carefully. They made calls and sent emails about their concerns about the artist becoming stagnant. We were stuck. Our other artists were neglected. Legal dispute over contracts came up against us. The other artists wanted to have the same opportunities. It was too late. All our money and energy went into one person. It was time to scrap this endeavor and start over.
By the time I turned 27, I would end up boarding a plane back to Chicago and leave my gated community house vacant in Los Angeles. I would start another sales job, other businesses, and learn from my mistakes. Since then I’ve used everything I’ve learned from my previous failures. After all, sales is a numbers game. I learned a lot in business is just a number game too. I would use these valuable lessons and train hundred of employees how to become successful salespeople. To this day, with all the businesses I currently have, I am still a salesperson. Each waking moment is spent selling a different idea or product. My successes are finally starting to overshadow my failures. And I’m here to show you how to learn a decades worth of sales experience in one tenth the time.