Selling our Ideas…

Maybe it’s just the political season, or it could be that I’m just turning into a grumpy old man, but I really get disappointed at times when I review my Facebook feed.  I’ll qualify this statement by saying that I have friends all over the political, scientific, and religious spectrums.  And, I value and try to learn from the messages that they are trying to convey through their lives, lifestyles and thoughts.   But, at times, I get disappointed by their methods of communications and presentation.  I truly am mystified, as to what they are hoping to achieve.  So, I’m writing this post in hopes that others will find it helpful.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are a number of ways to solve a problem.  As an example, if the gasoline engine on my car breaks down and I can’t drive it any more, I can solve the problem by doing any of the following:

  1. Buy a brand new car.
  2. Replace the gasoline engine with an electric motor and battery system.
  3. Replace the timing belt.
  4. Walk everywhere.
  5. Ride a bicycle everywhere.
  6. Take public transportation.

The point is that all are means to solve or bypass the problem when the engine on my car breaks down.  Some of these methods fix the problem, others ignore it, and some treat it as if it isn’t a problem at all.  Each solution has a different effect on my resources, time, etc., and I need to weigh and measure these effects before I choose the solution that works best for me.  But, I’m confident that I can solve the problem using any one or a combination of these techniques.

When I look at some of the posts in my Facebook feed, I realize that many people don’t understand how to sell their ideas.  Now, it may be that they have different motives, or are trying to sell things other than their ideas, but their methodology is poor.

Now, this may sound critical, but I’m writing this based on experiences in my own life.  Experiences I’m not necessarily proud of, but experiences I have learned from.  Let’s take the greatest, most successful, miserable sales experience of my life.  While I ultimately made the sale, I had little to do with making the presentation a pleasurable buying experience for my potential customer.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about my dating days.  Let’s just say that I had little experience with dating.  Well, actually I had NO experience with dating.  I did, however, have a lot of experience with selling ideas, and sadly; I ignored most of that experience when preparing for my presentation.  Unlike most people, I never dated anyone else in life, but the love of my life.  I ultimately married her, and we’ve been happily (I think) married for most of 27 years now.  But, I made a terrible presenter and sales person.

I felt I had the ultimate product for her.  After all, who wouldn’t want a life of love by living with me?  I’m a little obsessive, and I felt I could provide for her as a life partner like no other.  But, I knew next to nothing about courtship, friendship or salesmanship when it came to the art of dating.  I knew NOTHING about dating.

So, I began by closing the sale.  By my count, I asked my future spouse over 1200 times (calculated using frequency and date algorithms) to marry me.  I knew it was the best thing for her.  But, oddly enough, she found this closing technique to be a little intimidating, and maybe a little overwhelming.  But, I kept closing the sale.  And, I kept hearing the word “no”.    But, I kept making the close, without making the presentation.  I didn’t share ideas, information, or knowledge.  I just kept closing the sale.  But, I kept observing the potential customer.

One day, I noticed that she was having difficulty getting work.  So, recognizing that she had a need, and I had a skill, I helped her in learning to interview and present herself.  I even helped her get an appointment for an interview.  She got the job, and then felt a little guilty for telling me “no”.  So, out of pity, she agreed to go out with me on one date, as long as my brother would go with us.  As a desperate man at the age of 23, I was grateful for the opportunity and the two of us, and my brother, ate a meal together.  After that, she decided I wasn’t too harmful, and continued to date me. After about 2000 attempts to close the sale, over the next several months, she finally succumbed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I often wonder if I could have used better techniques, when presenting myself or presenting my ideas.  And then I recognize that I should have and could have.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t succeed in reaching my objective, but life could have been better for all if I’d actually have given it more thought.

Unlike most people, I spent a great part of my early life in a world of silence.  I had difficulty hearing at an early age, and it didn’t get corrected until I was in 3rd grade.  So, I had a whole lot of learning to do and listening.  My vocabulary, and my education, were behind the times, as I hadn’t been hearing for most of my life.  But, I knew I needed to learn, and learn quickly.  My dad was selling Amway at the time, and he got me hooked on listening to Zig Ziglar.  So, I started reading Zig Ziglar books and listening to Zig Ziglar cassettes (that’s like a taped version of an MP3 for you youngsters) at an early age.  I learned and memorized a lot of material by listening to Zig Ziglar and later expanded my reading to the works of Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy, and many other sales motivators of their era.  One thing I learned at an early age, was to get uncomfortable, and learn to be comfortable when out of my comfort zone.   I made an effort to get out of my comfort zone everyday, and I’ve learned a lot by doing it.

But, of course, at the age of 22 and 23, when it mattered the most, I forgot most of what I had learned.  But, this too has been a learning experience and one that I want to share with you.

You may feel that you are right or correct.  You may feel that you understand the science better than most.  You may feel that you understand how the body works better than most.  You may feel you are the smartest person on the planet.  And, you may be correct in all of your assumptions.

But, if you can’t learn to present your ideas and sell your ideas in a reasonable fashion, that will encourage people to learn from you and be lead by you, you’ll ultimately be frustrated.  Perhaps it is the political season, and it’s just all effecting us.  I’ve seen efforts at shaming people into embracing ideas.  I’ve seen efforts to force people into thinking the same way.  It’s truly disheartening.  I believe most people look at this confusion, and this presentation of ideas, and they just want to walk away.  I’m constantly being told that I have to do this, or do that, because if I don’t, I’m doing it wrong.  I’m even told that I’m wrong if I’m not doing something; that I have to do something.  But, we’re not the government.  We can’t stick a gun in the back of someone’s head, and force our ideas on them.  We can’t shame them into it, and be successful.  And would we want to anyway?

I know I don’t want to live that way.  I like to persuade people, and to be a good example.  I try my best, I experiment, and yes; I even fail.  And, I try to learn from those failures.  I’m also mindful that I’m being observed during this process, and I need to do my best in explaining my successes and failures.  And thus, I move forward through life.

toms cornfields

So, I’m going to encourage you.   If you really want to get more people to follow your, and learn from you; if your goal is to learn to present ideas, and get more people to do what you do.  I encourage you to learn to properly communicate and sell your ideas.  You can learn from my mistakes, the mistakes of others, and you can learn from your own mistakes.

I found these books to be a great source of reading and learning, as I was going through my formative years, and I’m going to list them here.  It’s not a complete list, but I think if you’ll read some of these, or books like these, it can help you in learning to present your ideas:

  1. The Greatest Salesman in the World – By Og Mandino – This timeless classic can teach you so much about the psychology of selling, and is well worth the short time it takes to read.
  2. Secrets of Closing the Sale – By Zig Ziglar – I learned so many things from Zig Ziglar as I was struggling as an awkward youth.  Yes, I read his books and listened to his tapes in my youth.  This classic discusses the many methods for closing the sale for ideas and products.
  3. See You at the Top – By Zig Ziglar – Zig gets mentioned twice on my list, because he deserves it.  I learned a lot about adopting a more positive attitude by reading this book.
  4. The Psychology of Selling – By Brian Tracy – The title says it all.  Brian delves into this topic in detail.
  5. How to Win Friends and Influence People – By Dale Carnegie – All part of selling ideas.
  6. Think and Grow Rich – By Napoleon Hill – While many people don’t necessarily want to grow rich, most rich people got that way by convincing people to give them money for things or ideas. You can learn a lot by observing the rich, even if you don’t like how they behave.
  7. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude – By Napoleon Hill – When you travel the journey that many of us have travelled, or are traveling, this is a must read.   Learn to take joy in the journey.
  8. The Millionaire Next Door – By Thomas Stanley – This old classic teaches you about the habits of the wealthy, that you won’t learn from observing people that claim to be rich.
  9. The Richest Man in Babylon – By George S. Clason – Classic literature with many opportunities for learning.
  10. The Bible – By God – Whether you believe in God, or believe in any religion is up to you. But, you can argue with the success of this n=1 story.  He was a true leader across many generations of followers, and could present ideas.

I have a few regrets in my life, and being a poor presenter of ideas from time to time, is one of them.  Losing so many years of my life to debt and to excessive weight are among them.  I often wonder how many people I’ve poorly influenced, because I did a poor job of preparing for, and presenting the message or idea I was attempting to convey.   But, I don’t dwell on that.  I’ve also had a profound influence on many people, and have had direct impact on their lives, because I remembered and applied many of the principals and lessons that I’ve learned from my many years of reading books like the ones I’ve suggested for you.

Please learn from my mistakes, read through many of these books, or books like them, and go influence other people.  We don’t need to be mud slingers, and we don’t need to be correct all the time.  But, we need more people to adopt a lifestyle that is more healthy, and will solve problems in their lives, and save them from years of misery.

Tom and Martha

Thank you for listening, and thank you for being you…

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