It was the best of times, and the worst of times.
Cameron Strang pulled me into his office and said, “Why not? Let’s do this thing!” The launch date was set for March 2003. He had the idea. We had the focus, drive and passion. Nothing was going to stop us. We were in our mid-twenties, we had no money, and we we’re determined to change the world.
We had everything going against us: new, small, independent, no money, high expectations and ideals. The niche was focused and narrow, the concept was fresh—innovative actually—but the format was old. Magazines had been around for dozens of years, and if we went off of what everyone told us, we were destined to fail.
I was hired to sell. The challenge was that I was tasked to sell a concept to a bunch of cynics. I didn’t have a sample, statistics, years of research or anything that would make selling easy. It was me, a brochure and our concept. It was go-time.
I called. And called. And called. And called. I hadn’t been trained in selling so it was all on-the-job training. My inexperience meant that I left some of the most awkward voicemails. In fact, on one call, I was concluding my voicemail while simultaneously thinking to myself that I had completely botched that message. Rather than saying “thank you” or “good-bye” I proceeded to say, “In Jesus name, Amen.” I kid you not. As expected, they didn’t return my call.
Cynics are hard to sell to. They don’t want to take your calls so I had to figure out ways to get them on the phone. I’d call early in the morning and late in the evening because I had learned that executives are more likely to answer the phone during those times—and it proved to be true. When I would get the opportunity to talk, I heard no, far more than yes. It wasn’t fun or easy and I had to learn to not take it personally.
It took me three months to sell 22 ads for the first issue of RELEVANT magazine. Over the next two years, I refined my approach and style and eventually I learned how to sell an entire issue in about 1-2 weeks.
The lessons learned during this time of my career were vast. However, the biggest lesson was this:
Always make them tell you no—twice!
We are created to say no. We’ve been doing it since we learned to talk and we haven’t stopped. Yet, the difference between those who try and those who are determined is in the innate drive to not give up at the first sign of resistance: push harder, press for understanding, try another angle and always have a back-up strategy.
By the time I left RELEVANT to launch my consulting company, my team and I had grown sales revenue 900+ percent and almost doubled the number of pages sold.
Next time you’re get a no, I dare you to ask again.