How to excel at sales when you hate selling

I’ve done outside sales, and it sucked. Rather, to be fair, I should say that it wasn’t for me. I’ve done inside sales, too, and overcoming the random anonymity of being just some guy on the other end of the phone or an email coming out of left field trying to sell you something I already knew you didn’t want wasn’t that fun either. With the one exception of selling advertising into Alternative Press for a couple years, because I truly lived the brand, hawking goods and services with an awkward cold-call mentality just because you “do sales” was never what I wanted to die doing in a hollow attempt to try to “make a living.”

Then, I found myself spending last Thursday and Friday “working” out of my car. Before I started at BDC in January, Cam and team had already initiated conversations to pursue Certified Partners. Part of my transition into this role has been to pick up those talks where they left off. On Thursday, I visited Lansing Brewing Company, and then Ellison Brewery & Spirits, in my old Michigan State University stomping grounds of East Lansing. I won’t sidetrack this blog post with a detour into that era of my life, but driving through campus brought back a lot of memories, some of which I know I don’t remember. Much of my early alcohol-influenced regret still lives in that town.

On Friday, I spent a few hours really getting to know the owners and staff at Chelsea Alehouse Brewery, in Chelsea, MI. They’re one of our most recent Certified Partners, and they really care about being BDC Certified. A lot. They shared with me the nuances of what makes their organization unique, which will help me continue to refine and improve what we bring to the table for organizations that truly care about their people and community, and taking care of both by advocating a better way to drink.

After our formal conversation wrapped, I was sitting at the bar to have lunch and a flight of beer when I got a text from Cam. It’s been over a week since we’ve seen each other due to some criss-crossing personal commitments. He definitely knows what I’ve been up to, but he’s had to watch some of it through social media like the rest of the world. He texted, “No reply needed. Just wanted to say that I’ve been loving watching you in your element via social and writing. God’s using you in an incredible way, and I’m just blessed to journey it with you, my brother. [smiley face emoji]”

That really moved me. It reminded me that I’m so fortunate to not have to punch in and out at a job I loathe, and to have a partner in this that recognizes the details and supports the effort.

Although this one aspect of my role at BDC does admittedly involve “selling” our Certification Program to partner breweries, distilleries and bar/restaurant establishments, it’s more than that. I don’t have a sales pitch — there isn’t one. For what BDC does and our Certification Program provides, there doesn’t have to be one. It’s a very natural fit that should click organically. I’m just the guy who connects the dots. And, incredibly, I get to do it over authentic conversation, often with a beer in hand.

I’m a storyteller. At least I’d like to think I am. I love capturing someone’s attention with the sometimes unpredictable galaxy of thoughts, ideas, and convictions that swirl around inside my head. My friends, who’ve sat through my stories, poke fun because they know I can be long winded, but I still always hook ’em, and they always stay tuned in. And, my wife — thank goodness for her patience, especially when I say, “Okay, long story longer…” When I sit across the bar from owners, brewers, and distillers, I’m not selling. I’m sharing my story, and they’re sharing theirs. We connect through shared experiences, and we work together diving deeper into them.

So, long story longer… When you’ve finally found something you love, embrace it, respect it, and do everything you can to elevate it. Not because someone’s paying you to do it, but because you’d want to be doing it anyway. If it’s the right thing to do for who you are and what you believe in, create a legacy doing it. It may take some work, but it’ll never be a job — even if it is “doing sales.”