Is Sales a Numbers Game?

In my opinion, sales is only a numbers game if done correctly!

I am one of the worst footballers you could ever meet and if I took 100 penalties against an average keeper, I may score 3 by pure luck alone. If you took a footballer that had some ability, who practiced on a regular basis, developed their penalty taking skills and then shot 100 penalties against an average keeper, do you think they might score more than 3 goals? So it’s a smart numbers game, meaning the better you are, and the more you do, the better results you will achieve. However, you need both to achieve great success.

An extract from Chapter 1 of my book, Coffee’s for closers: When I’m cold calling on the phone and crunching those numbers, I apply a similar approach and mindset to the smart numbers game as above. I often think back to a time when I was travelling in Sydney, Australia. I was eight months into my travels and had almost run out of money and had to get my head round the frightening reality of having to return home and enter back into normal life and find a job. I was chatting to an Ozzie guy on Bondi Beach who looked at the spitting image of Mick Jagger in his younger years. I was moaning about my financial situation when he said, “I have been running a direct sales operation for the past 6 years selling encyclopaedias, and I have 130 sales reps selling door to door. Why don’t you come and work for me?” he says. Intrigued I asked him, “how does it work?” and he took me back to his house, which I can only describe as the most beautiful castle I had ever laid eyes on. In his office he showed me a giant map of Sydney and the surrounding areas all highlighted in different colours, which marked the different sales rep’s territories. He showed me what would be my territory and handed me this 2,800 page book and a rucksack and said, “you need to go door knocking and have to close on the day. Every encyclopaedia you sell you will earn $150 Australian dollars cash in hand.” I was out the door before he said, “hand” and on I went.

I started the following morning and left my hostel at 08:30 to walk to my first road in 79 degree heat. I was so keen and had already spent my new earned commission in my head. I arrived at the start of my first road and excitedly knocked on my first door. After 8 knocks I realised this was what they describe in sales as time wasting. I knocked on my second, then my third, my fourth and by my fifth no answer I started to think were these houses actually inhabited! It wasn’t until my 8th door where a cute older lady aged around 110 answered the door and she had to go and fetch her hearing aid to hear my pitch – great start I thought to myself, the first person I actually get to pitch is deaf. After 25 minutes of screaming at her and watching patiently as she fiddled with her hearing aid, I made the executive decision I was barking up the wrong tree and on I went.

I kept on knocking, and on my 34th door, a young guy opened the door and I thought this is my opportunity. As soon as I uttered the words “Hi, my name is Tony”, BANG and I am now pitching a door! I started having second thoughts and looked at my watch to realise I’d been walking a total of 33 minutes and I was already considering quitting. I remembered my Dad’s words, “In sales you never quit” and on I went. I must have knocked on about 75 doors and spoken to one person who allowed me to get my pitch out to which he replied quite politely “never come here again.” When I realised he was the nicest person I’d spoken to all day, I realised I chose the wrong area and back to the hostel it was.

The following day my alarm went off at 07:55am and I jumped in the shower and got out on the road, full of the same level of enthusiasm as yesterday morning, as I chanted to myself ‘new day, new opportunities.’ By 16:45 and now the 12 people I spoke to had all told me where to go. My chant home was very different. When I woke up the following day, I thought I’m going to give it my final go as maybe sales just isn’t for me. I went on my way and got an answer at my first door, and the lady actually let me get my 2 minute pitch out to which she replied “how much?” in a shocked intake of breath. I explained the encyclopaedias normally retailed at 499 Australian dollars, however we are running an amazing promotion and selling them for ONLY 399 dollars (word for word what my script said) and she invited me in. I almost high fived her but thought that may show a sign of desperation so high fived myself in my head. She kindly made me a cold drink and started to look through this huge book that I had been carrying round on my back for the past 48 hours which was starting to create an imprint on my skin. It wasn’t until her husband came down the stairs to join us, and within a matter of seconds kindly asked me to leave, and I left him shouting at her to not invite strangers in. The rest of my day was pretty much déjà vu and by 3pm when the final door was slammed in my face I thought going back to the UK was more appealing than this and I accepted defeat graciously!

I went straight back to Mr Jagger’s castle to return this stupid unsellable big book. With sweat on my brow and big sweat rings under my arms, he looked at me like some vagrant and said, “You look a mess, let me get you a drink”. My 2nd invitation in 3 days although I was pretty confident, he wouldn’t listen to my pitch either. I said “it’s impossible; I simply don’t believe anyone sells these things.” He laughed and said “I have one question for you, how many doors did you knock on a day?” Surprised by his question I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I didn’t really count but I guess around 70 a day.” He replied “I chose not to share this with you as I wanted you to learn for yourself however all my reps. measure their figures. They have proven that you must knock on a minimum of 100 doors per day. Only nine people will listen to you pitch and six of them will tell you where to go, some politely and some not, three however will invite you in. Two of these will politely SELL TO YOU a reason why they can’t buy today such as I need to think about it, I don’t have the money, I’m not sure I’ll use it etc. However, one will buy – GUARANTEED”; he said “the numbers never lie.” To say I was sceptical was an understatement and I remember saying “I knocked on at least 200 doors throughout the three days”, he interrupted me and reiterated 100 per day minimum. He said “you have 2 days left of this week and surely it’s worth trying or maybe sales is not your bag and you should get a cleaners job” and with that I grabbed my book back and went on my way.

14 no answer, 15 no answer, 16 no… And the door opened. “Hi my name is Tony Morris and I have an incredible promotion available for today only…” and he listened to my pitch and then slammed the door in my face. Before screaming obscenities through his letter box, I took a deep breath and thought about what Mr Jagger had said, “nine will listen and six will tell you where to go,” so I had eight to go according to him. I kept on knocking and number 31 invited me in. She sat me down and listened intently and then dropped the bomb shell “I need to think about it” and on the outside I was smiling although I am pretty sure she could see me grinding my teeth in anger. However keeping the tally, I continued my walk. Lucky number 67 was what I named Mr Peterson and to this day I remember that feeling as he pulled out his cheque book. I called Mr Jagger to organise an encyclopaedia to be delivered to the door and restraining myself from screaming down the phone I calmly switched my mobile off and continued grinning. As he shook my hand, I went in for the man hug, to which he stood there still as a mannequin as I hugged him, until I felt I was invading his personal space. I skipped out of his house and did one of those jumps where you click your heels together and almost tripped over his front garden. I carried on knocking as I was convinced; I am on a lucky streak. 33 rejections later I went back to the hostel with the biggest smile on my face and a feeling I will never forget.

No word of a lie, I continued this job for the next 6 weeks and my feelings towards having the door slammed in my face took a full 360 degrees. When door no. 24 was slammed hard in my face, I clenched a fist of delight and muttered to myself another 66 to go until I got somewhere. Mr Jagger was right, the figures never lied. People thought I was actually insane when they shouted at me “I never want to see your face again” and I replied with a big grin plastered across my face “good you are the 59th person to say that to me today, so I need 31 more of them.” This was one of my first, yet most vital lessons in sales, it’s a numbers game as long as you learn your pitch well and give it the same level of enthusiasm and passion every opportunity you obtain you cannot fail.

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