After giving a presentation to a group of sales and marketing executives, I was approached by a sales manager from the audience. Malcolm told me that, wanting to be a veterinarian, he had started his college career as a zoology major. He didn’t do very well in some of the courses, so he changed his major to business- first accounting, then marketing. Upon graduating with a degree in marketing, he applied for sales positions in securities, direct investment, and real estate. I was somewhat surprised as he told me his story because he spoke with a severe stutter. In fact, he revealed that he stuttered quite a bit during his employment interviews, and 18 interviews translated into 18 rejections. But he kept picking himself up, and in his 19th interview the interviewer was so impressed with his courage that he hired him. Despite his speech impairment, he excelled in both telephone prospecting and personal selling. In short, he achieved top producer status. Eventually, he was made a sales manager. He was an inspiration to recruits. He had courage.
In spite of his impairment, Malcolm called on prospects and constantly asked for the business. Prospects cannot help but be impressed with marketers who demonstrate courage. Often, people with disabilities display greater courage than do other people. They often feel that this is the only way they can win out despite the odds against them. Malcolm attributed much of his initial selling success to his choice of target market. During the early years of his career, sales managers accounted for much of his client base. I asked him why he thought sales managers were interested in dealing with him. He replied that it was probably because they liked the product being offered and because sales managers, though often affluent, were underprospected. I would hypothesize that he was successful in penetrating this market for reasons other than the wealth of his target or the product he promoted.
Malcolm was appreciated by the sales managers. Most sales managers have to deal with the problems of motivating their sales force. They are constantly being given excuses for failures to meet sales objectives or make sales calls. What is puzzling to many of them is why potentially outstanding sales professionals who can speak eloquently and are very personable fail to meet quotas. When a young sales professional with a speech impairment makes a cold call on such sales managers, often before 8:00 am, they have to be favorably impressed. They are being confronted with a person who asks for the business despite his obvious disability. Many sales managers achieved their position because they excelled as sales professionals. They had courage; they admire it; and they emphathize and are likely to invest with those who demonstrate it. Malcolm’s disability was a badge of courage with which sales managers could identify. Too few people today seek ways of transforming problems into opportunities and weaknesses into strengths. The demonstration of courage translates into admiration. Admiration, in turn, translates into new business.