Making the Choice
It's 11:45 a.m.
A coworker walks into your office or peers over your cubicle
wall and says, "I'm hungry."
"Me too. Let's go to lunch," you say.
"Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know. Where do you want to go?"
"What are you hungry for?"
"Nothing special. You decide."
Chances are you have had this conversation recently with a
coworker or spouse. With so many restaurants, narrowing the
choice to just one becomes a daunting task.
A comedian once joked, "People don't go to Denny's restaurants.
They end up there."
They end up there precisely because they begin without a plan.
They react to the hunger pang instead of anticipating it. It doesn't
occur to some people that they've been getting hungry every four
hours of their waking lives. When they finally choose a place to eat,
a long line or waiting list often confronts them. As a result, they
"end up" settling for something less.
But we're still hungry, so let's get back to the restaurant—any
restaurant. Have you ever watched people order? Some people
summon the harried waitperson and want her to act as arbiter.
"If you were me, would you have the steak or the fish?" they'll
ask, as if one or the other of these portion-controlled entrées would
give them a memorable culinary experience.
"Do you like steak or fish better?" says the waitperson, who is
forced to do a customer needs analysis to get her 15 percent "commission"
out of this sale. Taken to its logical conclusion, the waitperson
could be forced to make the choice for the person. "How is
your cholesterol, sir? If it's over 200, may I strongly suggest the
Meanwhile, other customers wait impatiently for their second
cup of coffee and mentally deduct a few percentage points from
the tip they are planning to leave.
It happens all because it is so hard for some people to make a
Try this little experiment. Choose a restaurant for lunch a day
in advance using just two criteria: 1) Choose a local favorite that is
not a chain. 2) Choose a place that takes reservations. Make one
choice. Then tell (don't ask) a customer (not a coworker) that you
want to take her to lunch. Say, "I've made reservations and I want
you to join me at 12:15 p.m. tomorrow afternoon for lunch at The
Edgewater, if you don't have other plans."
When you get to the restaurant, look at the menu for five seconds
or ignore it altogether. Say, "I'm going to have a cup of the
baked onion soup, half a club sandwich, and an iced tea with extra
lemon." (Order whatever you feel like having. Just do it decisively.)
Prediction: Nine times out of ten your luncheon guest will order two
out of the three things you ordered, just because your decisiveness
is so comforting and eliminates any need to deliberate further.
Choices are hard for people because they already have too
many. There are too many channels on television. There are too
many sizes of detergent, too many brands of mustard, too many
websites to surf. It's hard enough to choose where you are going
to have lunch. Think how much harder it is to choose what you are
going to do for a living. The hardest part of all is committing to the
choice you've made with all of the career options still available. By
making choices quickly and firmly, you position yourself as a decisive,
Making the Choice
When you were a little kid, you probably didn't long for—or even
imagine—a career in sales. Ask some local elementary school kids
what they want to be when they grow up. You'll find more future
firefighters than prospective salespeople. How many children are
anxiously anticipating a career of cold-calling, rejection handling,
dealing with price-sensitive procurement officers, coping with delayed
flights in center seats, and spending ninety nights a year
sleeping in different hotel rooms all next to the same ice machine?
For some of us, it just sort of worked out that way.
You may have "ended up" in sales as a second or third choice
when something else didn't work out. You may still be wondering
if a career in sales is right for you.
Whether you are an engineer or shop foreman, CEO or account
executive, your job increasingly requires excellent sales skills. When
I told my neighbor, a prominent veterinarian, I was writing a book
called The Accidental Salesperson, he said, "I'll buy a copy." No matter
how you got into sales, this book is going to show you how to
sell on purpose. It will guide you through the entire selling process
and show you how to move your prospects through that process
without skipping any steps.
It takes an accidental salesperson to know one. I was an accidental
salesperson just like you. Sales, it seems, is the final frontier
for liberal arts graduates who have learned how to learn but don't
know how to do much else.
As a 1972 graduate with a B.A. in political science, I had three
ways to use my degree and maximize the investment my parents
had made in my education. I could go to law school, take a job in
a politician's office, or become a journalist and cover the political
Although my grades in school had always been great, my score
on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) was the lowest on any
standardized test I had ever taken. The score barely would have
qualified me to attend an unaccredited night school. I took that as
a signal that law probably wasn't right for me.
After graduation, I landed a job as a summer intern for my congressman.
There I was, two weeks out of college and working on
Capitol Hill in the Cannon House Office Building. But instead of
catching "Potomac Fever," I was appalled by the political process
as it is played out in real life. The pace is agonizingly slow, and bills
become laws by a series of compromises and political favors.
Having eliminated law school and a political career within six
weeks of graduating, I decided to pursue that career in journalism.
Reporting on the political process I so despised seemed like a good
career. I would become the next Walter Cronkite.
At the end of my internship, I returned to my parents' home
and began my job search. Since Newark, Ohio, did not have a television
station and I didn't have any money to move to a big city,
I figured I would start my journalism career by landing a job in the
news department at the local radio station. Then, after establishing
myself in the business, it would be a fairly simple thing to move to
Columbus, Ohio, and be a TV reporter. That would lead to local anchor
on the ten o'clock news and then to the network level.
There was only one thing standing in the way of that master
plan. The general manager at the local radio station announced
during my first interview that he already had two newsmen.
"Chris," he said, "I could put you on as an advertising salesman."
"But you don't understand, Mr. Pricer," I said. "I'm a political
"Chris, my offer still stands."
My inner dialogue went this way: "I'll do anything to get into
broadcasting—even sell." My reasoning was that once I was in the
door, I could work my way into the news department.
"I'll take it," I said.
It took two weeks for me to disabuse myself of the notion that
working my way into news was a good plan. The sales manager
left every afternoon around four. The news director worked some
nights until eleven, covering the city council meetings. The sales
manager drove a Cadillac. The news director drove a beat-up Chevy
Vega and constantly bemoaned his fate and income. He often berated
the salespeople for making too much money. From an income
and status standpoint, I learned quickly that you don't "work
your way into news" in a small-market radio station.
At that point, I made "The Choice" to stay in sales. I purchased
books on the subject. I attended fantastic seminars and devoured
audiocassettes and later CDs on success and selling. I studied selling
as hard as I'd studied political science, and it paid off. That
choice led to a successful sales career, a promotion to sales management,
and radio station ownership in my mid-twenties. In 1983,
I founded a company to train radio advertising salespeople. With
the publication of The Accidental Salesperson in 2000, CEOs, VPs of
sales, and owners of family businesses started calling me. All of a
sudden, I was doing sales training for start-ups, software companies,
manufacturers, and Fortune 500 companies.
Nearly forty years after strolling into that radio station to get a
news job, I have conducted more than 2,100 live seminars and
keynote speeches; developed dozens of correspondence/distance-learning
courses; and created an online-coached and time-released
training program based on many of the principles in this book.
Today, I am in what my wife, Sarah, calls "speaker semiretirement."
I work with a few select clients. I am more likely to do
thirteen presentations a year rather than the thirteen a month I
used to do. But every Monday morning, I turn out a new Knowledge
Bite, a digestible three- to seven-minute MP3 file that I upload
to my Fuel website, and salespeople worldwide download it. You
can get a sample at www.sparquefuel.com.
I was always frustrated with the start-and-stop nature of training
programs. Business stopped for a day or two, everyone came to a
hotel ballroom and "got trained," and then they went back to work.
Some people implemented the training. Others didn't. But I've
found that time-releasing training in small bites gains more traction.
The idea of continual improvement was a hit in the manufacturing
sector, thanks to W. Edwards Deming and others. Today, you
can have continual salesperson improvement.
Making "The Choice" to stay in sales and become good at it
worked well for me. Choosing to read this book and commit to improving
yourself and, therefore, your sales will, I suspect, work just
as well for you.
But you know what? Even if I had ended up in law school, I still
would be in sales. In a law firm, a "rainmaker" is the attorney who
brings clients into the firm. An attorney who can sell is also called
One day, when I was skiing with a friend who is a dentist, I
asked him, "What is the biggest issue in dentistry today?"
"Sales," he replied. "You've got to close people on having their
wisdom teeth out. You have to handle objections. You have to persuade
and convince them to put up with pain, expense, and time
away from work. They don't teach you sales at dental school, but
He made the choice to become a dentist and ended up an accidental
So you see, you are not alone. A lot of accidental salespeople
have learned to sell on purpose. But first, they have had to make
You do, too.
You make The Choice when you consciously commit to your
career in selling. In doing so, you gain a sense of purpose. Being
able to say, "This is what I do," and say it with pride and certainty,
sets in motion undreamed-of opportunities for success. Choosing
to focus on becoming an excellent salesperson is liberating precisely
because it eliminates other options you are free to pursue,
sometimes to your detriment.
You can experience much the same feeling of liberation tonight
by choosing to turn off the TV instead of flipping through channels
to find something worth devoting your time to. Or, if you must
watch TV, focus on one show to the exclusion of all the others, and
take comfort in knowing that you've made the right choice and
don't need to zip through the channels so you won't miss anything.
By not focusing, you miss everything.
That's The Choice.
Making the Commitment
Is sales right for you? "Hey, I was looking for a job when I found
this one" is the mantra of millions of uncommitted workers today.
When you make The Choice consciously and commit to your sales
career, you gain a new sense of purpose. Adding that focus makes
what you do more relevant.
Developing an obsession with doing things better is vital to success.
Until you choose to do it better, no book, audio program, webinar,
seminar, or personal growth guru can help you—no matter
what your career.
Getting into sales accidentally makes it difficult, but certainly
not impossible, to sell on purpose. Therefore, a crucial but simplistic
step is to make some purposeful commitments:
Make a commitment to yourself to succeed.
Make a commitment to the company you represent.
Make a commitment to your product or service.
Make a commitment to your customers.
Make a commitment to "do it better."
Bringing Good Ideas to the Table
An axiom is a self-evident truth. It requires no proof because it is
so obvious. If you buy the axiom below, you are on your way to a
fulfilling and rewarding sales career.
A corollary is something that naturally flows from the axiom and
therefore incidentally or naturally accompanies or parallels it. Imagine
that the corollary starts with the phrase, "It follows that ..."
You can master all of the sales skills and have abundant product
knowledge and industry experience, but you will sell even better
when you have good ideas to bring to the table. Ideas that make
your client's business better make you a better salesperson. Let me
One night after dinner, my friend Tom and I were reminiscing
about our sales careers. Tom started his career as a wine salesperson.
He called on grocery store managers trying to get them to
stock cases of his company's products.
Tom told me a story about one particular store manager who
had agreed to purchase two cases of a Sangria-like summer wine.
"My goal was to sell him 100 cases," Tom said. As Tom explained, it
was a cold day in early spring, and while on his way to meet this
manager at the store, he passed a boat dealer putting up a sign advertising
preseason prices. This chance occurrence gave Tom an idea.
"You know what you ought to do?" Tom said to the grocery
manager. "You ought to get a boat and put it at the front of your
store so that people see it when they come in. Then we can fill the
boat with cases of the wine to make the tie-in with boating and
summer. It will really grab people's attention, and it should be a
great way to merchandise this wine."
"Where am I going to get a boat?" the manager asked.
"Let me worry about that," Tom responded.
Tom then drove back to the boat dealer and introduced himself.
"How's business?" he asked.
"Pretty slow. There's still snow on the ground. Nobody is thinking
about boating yet."
"You know what might help," Tom said. "You could put one of
your boats in the grocery store about a mile from here. Thousands
of people would pass by it and see the name of your business right
before the season starts."
"How am I going to get the grocery store to let me put a boat
in there?" the boat dealer asked.
"You leave that to me," Tom told him. "Could you trailer a boat
to the store and get it set up inside?"
"I can trailer and set up a boat anywhere," the boat dealer replied.
Excerpted from "The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Sales Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve" by Chris Lytle. Copyright © 0 by Chris Lytle. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.