My Most Embarrassing Moment Will Help You With Sales

My most embarrassing moment will help you with sales.

Men are notoriously bad at asking for directions. A man can be lost for an hour and he will grab a map from under the front seat of the car and try to figure out where he is going rather than pull into a gas station and ask for directions.

I am no exception to this phenomenon.

Back in college the first week of school was always confusing. Each semester you need to learn about your new classes, your new teachers and, particularly baffling, the locations of your classrooms.

In my third year of college I was excited about taking a class titled: The Psychology of Television and Video but I was confused about the location of the classroom. I never had a class in this particular building. Even though I had no idea where I was going, I was not about to ask for directions. I decided to just figure it out.

On the first day of class, I was running a few minutes late and I quietly entered the room through the back door. About 15 minutes into the session I noticed that several students kept looking over at me. I was only halfway paying attention to the instructor but I did notice the other students’ glances (which were growing more frequent).

Finally, after about 20 minutes, the teacher stopped everything and addressed me directly. She proceeded to politely tell me that she thought I was in the wrong classroom. I insisted that she was wrong and I held up my registration sheet. She replied, even more forcefully, that she KNEW I was in the wrong class. This debate lasted for about 2 or 3 minutes until I noticed that all the eyes in the classroom were now fixed upon me. And every one of the students was a woman.

Upon suddenly taking notice of the classroom demographics, I sheepishly asked what the name of the class was. The reply: Sex, Money and Power: How Modern Women Survive and Thrive in a Male Dominated Workplace.

I nodded my head, apologized and slinked out the backdoor.

As I look back on this moment, I realize that it is more funny than embarrassing. But at the time, it seemed everyone in school was talking about it. (There were about 200 women in that class and I guess I protested strenuously when the teacher confronted me.) In reality, I am probably the only person who even remembers that it occurred some 29 years ago.

But I see this kind of thing happen every day. I see it with sales professionals who are trying to figure out how to attract new clients. They feel ashamed, embarrassed and confused. They do not want to ask for help.

This generally leads to two scenarios. See if you recognize them:

Scenario 1: Do nothing

In this scenario, you sit in your office, read the local paper and wait for the phone to ring. You take no action because eventually you will figure it out. Maybe you buy a “how to” book or you go to a networking group meeting. But that’s all you do. You are too embarrassed to ask for directions.

Scenario 2: Spend a huge amount of time on one thing

Sometimes this happens after scenario 1 has run its course and sometimes it happens earlier. In this scenario you spend time on the promise of clients magically delivered to your doorstep.

It used to be the cold calling or chamber of commerce memberships that attracted sales people because this was an action everyone could take immediately. But today it is the Internet, social media and search engine optimization.

Of course, neither scenario is effective over the long run. Scenario 1 is wishful thinking and scenario 2 may work for a while but it requires more and more investment of time as the effectiveness decreases.

The smart thing to do is to spend some time mastering the fundamentals of sales. Get the basics down.

There is no shame in asking for help. There is only shame in being too proud to make good decisions.