Hump Day: Entrepreneurs have to sell themselves, generate their business

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Since I started my own business last year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the support I’ve received from my network of contacts. Except for a period in late December and the first couple of weeks of January, I’ve been quite busy.

Lately, business has just exploded. As an entrepreneur, I’m grateful to my clients and for the fact that they’ve put their trust in me.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. I never minded selling tickets door to door for hockey raffles or peddling chocolate bars at the mall entrance for a school fundraiser. It was fun competing with others for the class pizza party. And hey, if you didn’t sell them all, at least you could spend your allowance on buying the few bars that were left over.

These days, some of the more lucrative fundraisers are ones that have kids packing groceries at the checkout counter. I’ve always been impressed at their politeness and care at putting everything properly in the bags. It’s nice to have someone do it for you, too.

I usually give them a couple of dollars and ask about what they’re raising money for. More often than not, it’s for a school band trip to New York, Montreal or New Orleans. Geez, when I was in the school band, we played once across town – and I thought that was thrilling!

I did get in trouble once, though, when selling chocolate bars during junior high with a friend of mine in front of the old Woolco store (now Wal-Mart) at Champlain Place. Most people who didn’t want to buy bars were usually pleasant. There were a lot of “I’m allergic” and “I’m diabetic” . . . but our tactics soon turned to telling every woman who walked by us that they were beautiful. And, by the way, “Wanna buy a chocolate bar for my school?”

It charmed many. We actually did get a few chuckles and a few of the ladies bought one from us, perhaps out of pure respect for our sales technique gumption. But, at some point, we told the wrong person they were beautiful and the manager came out to have a chat. While we were allowed to remain, the emotional manipulation had to stop. Subsequently, our sales numbers dropped, but at least we didn’t get into more trouble.

Growing up, most of my neighbours were really nice and would usually buy my tickets or bars or whatever I was selling. After I got a few no thanks, I would get discouraged and just start skipping houses. One wonderful neighbour saw me walking by with my wad of unsold tickets and yelled from her door wondering what I was selling. “Tickets on a (whatever it was at the time)!” I replied.

She then jokingly berated me for not knocking on her door. I told her I didn’t think she’d want any, but she proved me wrong and bought a few. I never skipped her house after that. At least she was nicer than that neighbour who would literally slam the door in my face. Thank goodness his wife was a real sweetheart. I learned never to knock on their door again if I didn’t think she was home.

My entrepreneurial instinct only led me down the path of evil once when I picked a neighbour’s flowers and sold the bouquet back to her. Thinking back on it now, she must have known the flowers were hers, but she didn’t give me any hint that she knew and handed over a few quarters for (literally) her bouquet. Of course, pure guilt took over afterwards and I never did it again.

My first paid job – other than writing columns for this newspaper during my high school years, was selling ads for the 1983 Kinsmen National Convention that was hosted here in Moncton. Oyyy . . . I just did the math and that’s nearly 30 years ago. There was a newspaper being printed for the delegates and my duties were to walk up and down Main Street and sell ads to every merchant who would let me through the door.

I have to admit, I was pretty good at it. I had no qualms about selling. I raised about $1,200 in revenue, which was pretty good back then. These days, though, the thought of selling tickets or ads makes my skin crawl. I’m so glad those days are over. I really do remember enjoying it, but over time the thought of selling doesn’t sit well with me.

But when you’re in business for yourself, you have to sell whether you like it or not. You have to sell your abilities. You have to sell the benefits of your network, your experience and your background. And you have to produce . . . on time and on budget!

In the consulting world, it’s either feast or famine . . . so the months you’re going crazy with work will make up for the months when the telephone stops ringing and the only e-mails you get are from Nigerian princes wanting to park their life savings in your bank account – for a fee and for your online banking password.

I’ve been very fortunate that contracts – so far – have mostly come to me through friends, colleagues, past co-workers and the like. An entrepreneur can only feel incredibly grateful to have such a wonderful, generous network of contacts. Gratitude is a must when you’re an entrepreneur because without clients, you have nothing.

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