Selling Vacuums Door-to-Door


Long ago when I sold radio advertising for a living, the station manager occaisonally would send all the sales executives to sales conferences. These conferences were supposed to give tips on selling better and  “fire up” the sales staff.

The only “inspirational” story from these conferences that stuck with me (other than that one elderly man whose over-acting made me think he was about to give himself an embolism) concerned not advertising sales but vacuum cleaners. The object of the talk was to get the attendees to think differently about rejection.

The man who gave the talk was a successful businessman who had gotten his start selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. As one can imagine, he had several amusing anecdotes to tell, but the main thrust of his speech concerned how he began to welcome rejection. Sounds nutty, huh? But, he had a good reason. He began keeping track of how many rejections he received and how many acceptances. It turned out that, on average, for every nine “No’s” he received, he received one “Yes.” He realized that each “no thanks” brought him that much closer to a sale.  He spoke about how he often bewildered customers who had just told him “no” by practically dancing down the walk back to his car. What the customer did not know was that they were “no” number nine and the salesman could basically count on his next presentation resulting in a sale.

Remembering this man’s talk has led to me reconsider my response when my stories get rejected. In the past, a rejection would just crush me. I’d think about just giving up on writing–you name the negative emotion, I probably went there.

Lately though, the rejections I’ve received have come with positive feedback. Even if the positive words from the editors were just to soften the blow of rejection, they have helped me move on to finding the next market for my stories.

Like the vacuume cleaner salesman, I have a product I believe in. He believed he sold good vacuumes; I believe I write good stories. His past success fueled his desire for more. My past successes at selling my stories fuel my desire to write more and sell more. He knew he just needed to find the right customer at the right time. I feel the same. The right market for each of my stories is out there. I just have to keep submitting until I find it.

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