What I took from the Forbes article by Gillian Zoe Segal

I recently read a Forbes article by Gillian Zoe Segal, the author of “Getting There: A book of mentors” Which resonated with me. The message was powerful and straight forward. In her personal opinion (which I wholeheartedly agree with), Stop and think before you or let’s be honest, your parents invest a vast amount of money in a university business education. She states that another practical option would be to consider investing your time acquiring door to door sales skills, as the numerous successful businessmen and woman did before you.

When Gillian Zoe Segal researched her book, she discovered after speaking to 30 leaders in a broad range of fields. Each of them credited early sales jobs for equipping them with the skills which they needed for their ultimate success. In her research, she spoke with John Paul Dejoria, the co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems. Whilst he reflected that those three years selling Collier’s Encyclopaedia was one of the most formative experiences of his life.

“If that job existed today,” he said, “I would make every one of my kids do it.” DeJoria, as a residential direct sales representative, would travel persuading strangers to buy a set of encyclopedias. This compelled him to both hones his powers of persuasion and overcame rejection. “After you’ve had 15 doors slammed in your face,” he explained, “you need to be as enthusiastic at door number 16 as you were at the first door if you want to make a sale.” When DeJoria launched John Paul Mitchell Systems, he was able to utilise the same set of skills, going from beauty salon to beauty salon getting people to purchase his hair care products. In the article, Zoe Segal explained how Dejoria was turned down by four out of the five salons, but due to his direct sales residential experience, he had acquired a determination to succeed and not let previous rejection stop him from pursuing that yes he needed.

Zoe Segal found a comparison when speaking with the billionaire founder of the shapewear company Spanx, Sara Blakely. Whom also attributed her business success due to the sales skills she learned in the eight years working for a company that sold fax machines door-to-door. Sara Blakely recalled, “I would wake up in the morning and drive around cold-calling from eight until five. Most doors were slammed in my face. I saw my business card ripped up at least once a week, and I even had a few

police escorts out of buildings. It wasn’t long before I grew immune to the word ‘no.'” When she started Spanx, she needed to find someone to make a prototype of her product, and she began by telephoning local hosiery mills. Without exception, they turned her down. So she drew on a lesson she had learned from cold-calling: Face-to-face makes a huge difference. She took a week off of work and drove around North Carolina, popping by many of the same mills that had already rejected her on the phone. She sat in the lobby and waited to speak to the founder or owner.

It eventually worked, and the Spanx prototype was born. Reading the article, it’s clear that residential direct sales don’t just teach you a set of skills to persuade someone that your product is worth buying, its a life-changing lesson. It transforms who you are. You become resilient. Through perseverance, you grow in strength; no isn’t rejection; it’s a challenge to overcome.

From cold-calling, Sara Blakely also learned that you have about 15 seconds to capture someone’s attention. However, if you can make them smile or laugh, you may have an extra 15 to 30 seconds. Through her residential sales experience, Sara Blakely’s personality developed. She had no choice but to be charismatic and confident to the point that she was funny. This allowed her to win in later life. With no money to grab people’s attention the conventional way, through advertising, she decided to infuse her product with humor wherever she could, from naming it Spanx to writing “We’ve got your butt covered!” on the package. She ended up turning Spanx into something people love to joke about, creating free advertising through humour, its mention even on the Oprah Winfrey show!

Before reading Zoe Segal’s book and indeed her article I hadn’t even considered that Models also work in direct sales, in fact after reading Zoe Segal’s book I realise that models more so than any of us a subject to rejection, and it’s actually personal. Companies are not rejecting a product they are in fact scrutinising you and then in turn rejecting how you look. Zoe Segal discusses how during her early modelling years, Kathy Ireland sold herself door-to-door. She explained, “Back then, agencies would send models on ‘go-sees’ to get jobs. The people in charge of hiring would look us up and down and dissect us right in front of our faces. I was rejected a lot. It hurt at first, but I soon learned that it was just part of the process.” She eventually became a successful Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, but as she got older, she wanted to pursue a career that was not dependent on her looks. After years of failing with various start-ups (a microbrewery, a skin-care line, and several art projects), she finally launched her own brand, Kathy Ireland Worldwide, with a line of socks. It is now a $2 billion enterprise with its name on more than 15,000 products. Ireland frequently advises others, “If you never fail, it means you are not trying hard enough.”

In Writing her book, Zoe Segal explains that what she learned was that in any field, success depends on persistence, being open to failure, and inspiring others to follow your ideas. The success stories of John Paul Dejoria, Sarah Blakley, and Kathy Ireland are just a few of the many examples that are a testament to this. She suggests that there is no better way to acquire these essential traits than through the process of residential direct sales. 

Who knows where that could lead you.

I would also recommend you take the time to read Gillian Zoe Segal, book “Getting There: A book of mentors”

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