Craigslist has been a part of our lives for years now. I have used it to both buy and sell stuff. It’s…quaint in that it is an online version of those classified ads newspapers ran for decades.
Indeed, in the eighties and nineties, the Sydney Morning Herald’s editor once memorably referred to the classified advertising in that newspaper as his “rivers of gold” so profitable were they. All gone now, buddy.
The whiff of olde worlde dust hangs over CL. And, dare I add, there’s not a little fragrance of sleaze, too. It has no competition, which is always a bad thing, because it means there’s no incentive to improve. Staleness has set in.
My question is why I cannot post up on a local website the second-hand items I am looking for – or services or whatever – and have sellers find me. Here I am, with money and a need, and I have to go find these things. Why aren’t vendors doing all they can to woo me?
If I think a particular way about something, others do too. It’ll be an unknown percentage of any population, but I’m not deluded enough to think my ideas are any different from the bloke or bloke-ette ahead in the coffee line. He or she is wondering the same thing as me: Why is the coffee line taking so long?
Selling to me is actually pretty easy. I’m interested in new and different and shiny, but I am annoyed by the subterfuge of tricky sales maneuvers. The first new car I bought, a Mazda MX-5, back in 1993, was my first experience of “the grind”. In the car business, the grind is the time-wasting and frustration-inducing process that some salespeople use to manipulate you into taking their finance deal, or otherwise get more money. It didn’t work on me, because I had cash, and knew a fair price for the car. The guy had no leverage. I left feeling he was a fool for not being honest with me. His loss.
Now that I do selling for myself, I took that lesson to heart. I’m as upfront as possible. Yes, this is a request to give you a sales presentation. Of course I’m planning on making money by selling. Naturally I want you as a customer. What’s the point of me doing this otherwise?
The corollary of this brutal honesty is the following:
The products I sell are ones I use and love myself. Yes, love.
I believe my company’s products can (and more than likely will) improve your life.
I know my company’s products are at least as good as any supermarket brand.
I know my company’s products are a better value than any supermarket brand.
I know my company’s products are better for you, better for your household, and better for the planet.
Hello. I’m Tim. Are you interested in my sales presentation?
Self-help books extoll a life of satisfaction from self-expression. Find your passion, and make it work for you. Don’t be satisfied until your reservoir of pent-up you-ness is fully drained and out there in the world.
Great. I wish everyone on that quest the best of luck.
The problem I have seen with that approach to life is that stuff gets in the way. Pesky stuff like utility bills, the need for food, and landlords wanting their rent. It’s a hassle, man, just keeping your head above water.
So the kind of self-help book that should be written would follow this kind of recipe for life:
1. You will always need a minimum income simply to get up in the morning. Find out what that is, and understand that it will vary over the course of your life.
2. If your passion, the thing you most want to do can provide you with that amount of money (and hopefully a little extra) then go right ahead and indulge yourself.
3. If your passion isn’t, cannot, or won’t likely in the future come close to creating the cashflow required in point 1, above, do something that will, then…
4. …pursue your passion as a hobby.
Having a jones for a particular way of spending your days will not overcome the misery of being poor, or behind on the rent, or interminably in debt. Debt squashes everything about your life, by which I specifically mean your freedom…freedom to be creative, freedom to have ideas, even your freedom to look clearly at the world. Likewise if you have insufficient money to pay all your monthly bills. If you are struggling to make ends meet, if there’s more month left at the end of your money, you’ll be miserable. And miserable people stop having passions.
So here’s my hierarchy of self-help: Be able to pay your bills. If possible, be able to pay your bills with recurrent income. Once you know the bills can be paid, then you can try your passion, to see if that makes money. Self-help is about never needing help from others. That’s a somewhat different spin than all those books provide, don’t you think?
It must be because I’m so new at this sales business. This morning a (nameless but close) friend and customer told me how much she liked my company’s protein powder in her morning health drink. With that, she presented me with a cup of the cucumber and spinach juice to which she had added the protein powder. It was delicious. Frankly, I was surprised just how good it tasted.
My reaction was a new one, for me, a mix of pride and happiness. Pride because receiving an unsolicited accolade like that brings to sharp focus that people really do like – or even love – the products I sell. Happiness because it means my friends have gone beyond the idea of being customers as a favor to me, and found their own fit for my company’s products in their life.
It’s an important transition, and one that reinforces that I am selling good stuff, for the right reasons, and that people get it.