How Selling Vacuums Made Me A Better Leader

June 1, 2013 — 25 Comments
How Selling Vacuums Made Me A Better Leader | Joseph Lalonde

Hi there. I’m Rev.CM Logan. I am a youth pastor and a passionate writer. I’ll start with a brief history of my employment: a caddy at a country club, a dishwasher, a pizza maker, a pizzeria manager, a dishwasher (at a different restaurant), a barista (best job ever, an endless supply of coffee!), and back to pizzeria manager. I love to stay busy and work hard.

Image by Robert Scarth

Image by Robert Scarth

I have learned lessons from all stages and chapters of my life that have helped me grow as a leader, a writer, and a person. Whether it was to buy a car as a teenager or to provide for my family as an adult, I have worked. Then all that changed when a few years ago two things happened; my wife got pregnant and I lost my job. Crap, I said to myself. What do I do now? I applied to every business I could think of and sent my resume to every mom and pop store, small business, and corporation. It wasn’t until I got connected to a job selling vacuums door to door that I received a “Yes” to my employment situation. With a baby on the way, I didn’t have a choice. I was skeptical but desperate. I attended a crash course training seminar led by a top salesman and was soon peddling my wares to friends, families, neighbors, and later complete strangers. This terribly long introduction paves the way for three valuable lessons I learned from my experience that I think can help every business person, entrepreneur, and leader succeed in their endeavors.

#1 — Product Knowledge

No matter what capacity you work in (even if you are self-employed) you need knowledge about your good or service. These vacuums were complicated (they should be for 2700 dollars!) and it was my job to know them inside and out. Maybe you don’t sell anything. If that is the case, it can still benefit you to be driven to have a thirst for knowledge. A continued pursuit of wisdom will not only benefit you in personal success and growth, it will also likely spread to coworkers and fellow laborers.

#2 — People Knowledge

I also learned a valuable lesson from the customers I talked to. Knowing who your customer is and what matters to them are keys to selling anything (or in my case, vacuums). I had an instance where I was giving my pitch about a “cleaner home” when the wife mentioned her son suffers from allergies. I took that opportunity to tell her of the help my grandfather received when we bought this vacuum.

The same holds true to every business owner and leader. If we shut our traps for two seconds and listen to our customers’ desires and objections or our employees’ concerns, we can better serve them. That is right; I said “SERVE THEM.” Our goal should be to be a better boss, leader, or entrepreneur and we do that my having a servant’s heart. We must learn as much as we can by listening if we want to be successful leaders.

#3 — Perseverance Knowledge

It should be noted that I received more “no thank yous” and doors slammed in my face (only once literally) than I had sales, but the most important concept I learned from selling vacuums was we must get back up when we fall off. We will be told NO, and that’s okay. Others will let us down and that’s unfortunately a part of this fallen world. We will let others down (can I get an Amen?) It’s easy to hear but hard act on when we hear someone say to just dust yourself off and keep moving ( I’m talking to myself as much as you). But, what we need to do more than anything is chant the wise words of Dory when she chants “Just keep moving, just keep moving.” Enduring will build character and help you grow as a leader more than anything else.

So, what about you? What valuable business and leadership lessons have you learned from unexpected sources? Let’s all learn from each other’s unexpected experiences.

This is a guest post by Rev. C.M. Logan is a youth pastor to a bunch of amazing kids, husband to a beautiful wife, and father to three precious children. He and his wife, K.M., are also in the process of launching the Christian Writing Studio, a website dedicated to helping people share the Gospel and their stories in writing. Check us out at http://www.christianwritingstudio.com/landing/

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  • CM Logan

    Thanks for the comment. Even in the service industry the old adage “knowledge is power” is so applicable. Knowledge is a key component to success.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Great points: product, people, and perseverance. I’m an author, (among other things). I’ve self-published two books. The hardest thing to do with my books is to pinpoint and discover the specific readers. So knowing people is my challenge.

    • CM Logan

      Amen! Knowing people is key to developing a niche as a writer. Writing also has the added challenge of…well… writing. Knowing how to paint a picture with words can be a remarkably difficult skill to master.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That can be difficult as an author Dan. But I think the easiest way to do this is to create the ideal reader. And write to that person alone. There will be plenty of people who fit that description and they’ll latch onto what you’re writing about.

  • http://www.lincolnparks.com/ Lincoln Parks

    First off selling vacuums is a serious thing, and I know it teaches you valuable lessons because you are in the face of your prospects. I always learn from people that I talk to daily or connect with online. Its just remaining humble and not thinking you are better than the other person. Or dismissing them because you are not interested in what they do. There is always a lesson waiting for you when you humble yourself and connect.

    • CM Logan

      That’s good stuff. Humility is a big aspect of active and genuine listening. “There is always a lesson.” I couldn’t agree more. Everyone has something to say, but we must be willing to hear it.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I can see how it would be Lincoln. It’s a lot of face to face sales in a high pressure business.

      You’ve hit on a key of leadership Lincoln. It’s keeping our egos in check and leading with a heart to serve those we’re leading that makes your leadership great.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Product knowledge is key to thriving in an over-saturated market. It can help you stand out and offer superior service.

  • http://www.chashutch.com/ Charles Hutchinson

    Perseverance is the key for me. I have found that amazing things happen when we just don’t quit!

    • CM Logan

      In the moment I never thought I would be learning something from rejection, but I think I learned just as much from slammed doors as I did from sales.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Charles, you’re right on with perseverance. Too often we quit right before the big breakthrough. That’s why amazing things happen when you don’t quit!

  • http://www.borntwolead.com/ TJ Trent

    Rev Logan,

    I have learned, humility, perserverance, and focus from my failures. And I have also that it is very important for leaders to continue to set the example during their failures. After all our troops and tribes are watching us and how we react.

    • CM Logan

      I didn’t really consider the impact our resilience would have on those who are watching us. Our witness is important in life and leadership. Thank you for your service and your comment.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      TJ, I like how you’ve recognized others are watching us. It’s a big step forward in leadership when we’ve latched onto this principle.

      • http://www.borntwolead.com/ TJ Trent

        Joe,

        I also have seen my attitudes emerge in the attitudes of team members. This is my we have to work hard at setting the example.

  • http://www.buckleadership.wordpress.com/ Justin Buck

    The great thing about these sales situations is that they force you to learn and adapt quickly. I cut my teeth doing pitch sales at trade shows. Remembed the ShamWow? I did that before it was on TV. In my opinion, anyone who wants to lead should seek out two jobs before they start a “professional” career: waiter and pitch or door to door salesman. Those two jobs will teach you more than anything how to adapt quickly to the needs of a complex consumer base.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Haha, I do remember the ShamWow! Adaptation is an important part of leadership. Things change so rapidly we’ve got to be willing to shift and adapt.

      What’s one way you’ve learned to adapt Justin?

      • http://www.buckleadership.wordpress.com/ Justin Buck

        It’s kind of ironic, but the best tip I have for adaptation is realizing that all “customers” are seeking the same few things out of any interaction. Generally speaking (and off the cuff), I think people want to feel like they’ve been understood and that you’re dedicated to meeting their needs and offering them the benefit of your expertise. Once you realize that this is a universal principle, you can adjust and apply your experiences to any new challenge. It’s how I’ve moved from pitch sales to food service to funeral service and now am moving into higher education with small periods of adjustment and without (dramatically) missing a beat.

        • Amber Ecker

          This is so true. In terms of educational leadership, all stakeholders just want to be understood and want the best for the students. Students want to learn ( I strongly believe this) Parents and community members want to support learning. Faculty and staff want to teach and pass on knowledge. Once a leader understands the shared vision of all stakeholders in a school they can best lead them on thier mission.

          • http://www.buckleadership.wordpress.com/ Justin Buck

            Thanks for the insight, Amber. I’m excited for the new journey and confident that seeking to understand people and their motivations will continue to pay off in a big way. I’m really stoked about being able to “sell” big futures and chasing dreams to students and young adults.

    • CM Logan

      Waiting tables is a huge way to learn and grow in communication and customer service. I find the advice to work those two jobs to be solid. They have both helped me immensely.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    I’ve learned that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I’ve learned that forgiveness is essential in the business world to move forward. And I’ve learned that God can use us despite our screw-ups and flaws.

    • CM Logan

      I know plenty of people that have quit their jobs assuming the one they had lined up was going to be the next big thing, only to be let down.

      Also, we’ve been forgiven and it is crucial that even in the business world we must forgive others.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      You’re exactly right on that Jon.

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