In spring of 1997 I was invited to be on a Battle of the Sexes radio program which I lost because faced with answering either “a Big Mac” or “an average woman’s breast” for which weighed more, I was too embarrassed to say the word “breast” on the air.
I cite this personal struggle, because I’m a firm believer that we must evolve as people, which I evidently have done in the intervening years. Last night I said “breast” in public about a hundred times, often to complete strangers who gave me money in return. What was the evolution from meek grad student to top salesman? Lots of rejection and a little success.
From fall 1997 to around 2001, I was a website generalist which meant I sold websites, acted as account manager, designed, and even developed those websites. I got rejected a lot on the sales side of things, but I learned from my mistakes. Eventually, we moved to a specialist model and so I was put in charge of design which is where I excelled.
I also started helping out with recruiting drives for the Minnesota Junior Chamber (Jaycees) around 2000. Going door to door and asking people if they are interested in volunteering their time in the community and then having the audacity to suggest they pay you for it (membership dues covered insurance for events, communications, and marketing materials) can be a tough sell if you don’t develop a thick skin and a sales tactic. I started focusing on selling the idea to the community leaders and getting them to help me identify potential members and publicizing it for me (I had always envied Tom Sawyer’s ability to get others to pay him to paint the fence, and thought there had to be more applications for that strategy in life). When I wasn’t getting others to sell for me, I found that humor and getting people to admit that they cared about something seemed to be my strong suits.
Fast forward to last night – I was at a pub crawl with Jaycees to help fund a charity bike ride (Disclaimer: I work in a marketing/technical support role for the regional RE/MAX franchisor and the event is being sponsored by one of the brokerages I support – RE/MAX Results). The crawl organizer was having little luck at getting those in attendance to sell the ribbons she had made to increase visibility/funding. The unwritten rule for Jaycee alumni is that if a current member will do the job, you step back and mentor them, but if no one is stepping up, you can show them how it’s done.
So I put the pink ribbon necklace around my neck and marched over to a table of three men and a woman and got their attention so that I could make my pitch.
“Pardon me, but I was wondering how you feel about breasts?”
I kept this as my opener throughout the night as it caught people off guard and they would smile as they pieced together their response which was usually “They’re awesome!” or “I am in favor of them.”
“So from what I’m hearing you say, you are in favor of them continuing or improving in quantity and quality?”
This would be met with a number of cheers and affirmations. The goal being to get them to vocalize that they cared about the cause.
“So this young lady that I’m with is going to be biking for breast cancer research, to help find a cure, and she’s looking for assistance in fundraising. For a buck, I’ll give you one of these lovely pins which you can wear proudly to express your support of breasts.”
At the first table, I actually pulled nothing as they claimed to be out of paper money (this was my one-off for the night as I averaged $3-4 at every other table). A guy one table over from them heard the pitch and came over to our table afterwards to buy three for his table, thereby starting my streak which lasted until I quit selling, so a 100%+ conversion rate.
I am sharing this story because it’s a personal evolution victory and would love to hear about yours. Also, it’s because I had a lot of fun making people laugh in exchange for money.