Are you afraid of sales? If the thought of making cold calls for a living makes you anxious then this episode is for you.

In Selling Is Not Optional, Mike Brunel (@BrunelM) shares the key insight that led to his own sales success: How we think about sales has more impact on our success than what we actually sell.

The step-by-step process outlined in his book offers even the most reluctant salesperson a pathway to increased sales, and it’s as easy as having a belief in what you sell and being yourself.

Listen in to Mike to learn:

  • Why selling yourself is just as important as selling the products and services you offer
  • How to turn a rejected sale into an opportunity
  • What it takes to build lasting, value-based relationships that lead to sales success

How did you first start selling?

My journey probably started during my teenage years when I used to work in a shearing shed in New Zealand. My job was to stand near the sheep shearer and pick up the fleece, throw it on the fleece table, and clean it up.

A sheep stares off into the distance.

The first thing I learned from that experience was how to get along with other people because I had to get on with the shearer.

Then, when I reached my later teenage years, I was reasonably good at rugby, so I left school early and traveled across to Australia to play rugby. That’s when I first got involved in selling.

Part of my first job in Australia was to sell stationery to newsagents and stationery shops all over Sydney. It was a lot of door-to-door and shop-to-shop selling. I’d introduce myself and try to build rapport, but it was tough. I was thrown out of shops just because I just didn’t have my script right.

How tough was that first real sales job?

There’s this particular area in Sydney which is a pretty tough area and a lot of the business owners there keep their shop doors closed permanently. I remember going into one particular stationery shop saying, “Hi, I’m Mike Brunel” and before I could say another word the guy said, “What part of no don’t you understand? Don’t come near me, goodbye.”

Rejection can really sting, but there are always going to be ups and downs.

Along with the “Who are you? Why are you knocking on my door?” and the “You’re probably the 50th person that’s knocked on my door today.” responses, you also have those clients that you’ve built a rapport with.

I remember that every Sunday evening I’d take all the products that I was going to sell for the week and I put prices on them. Then I’d put them in a big blue bag and I’d walk around with that bag to businesses and introduce myself. I’d open up the bag and they’d buy my products out of the bag. It was fun.

Over time, more and more people there got to know me and I gradually started to sell more and more. It was during that first sales job selling stationery in Sydney that I really learned the craft of selling. It was the first part of my journey of learning to be a salesperson.

Was your breakthrough sudden or gradual?

It was gradual.

After that first sales job in Australia, I traveled to the United Kingdom and worked for a business cleaning carpets, but the company was actually looking for someone to go around and sell the company’s services.

Since I had sales experience, I ended up traveling around to meet with some very wealthy people in some of the most amazing homes in London as it was a very top-end company.

Again, over time I was able to build rapport with these extremely well-to-do people and honed my sales skills.

Eventually, I ended up back in New Zealand with a broken heart selling ad time for a radio station. That was the moment I discovered something that I really loved doing. I ended up staying in that career for several years until I started my own sales consulting company, NRS Media.

Since then, I’ve taken NRS Media overseas to Australia and then into the United States and Canada. After 20 years, we built up the consultancy to over 23 countries offering services in 11 languages. We had pretty close to 200 staff in offices from Atlanta and Toronto to London and Bogota.

So that’s sort of my journey in a nutshell; the lights really came on when I started to build NRS Media, but my journey has been very gradual.

What’s the #1 takeaway from your book, Selling Is Not Optional?

We’re all in sales; even if you’re not a salesperson, you still have to sell from time to time. The two most important aspects of sales are 1), you have to have the right mindset around selling and 2) you have to believe in what you’re selling and you’ve got to be authentic.

If you have a good product or a good service and you believe in it, then, in a way, you’re obligated to go and tell people about it.

My book really teaches people how to have the right mindset around sales, how to learn about your product, and the importance of having good questions when you go and meet clients. I’ve learnt all of these first-hand during my many years in sales, and so I lay out many different types of tools that you can use to approach sales.

“But if I were to pick one takeaway it would be this: ‘Don’t call it sales, call it relationships.’ A lot of people get hung up on the word ‘sales,’ but again, we’re all in sales. If you want to call it what it really is, call it ‘relationship building.'”

A man reaches out for a handshake.

The underlining principle of the book is that as a salesperson, you’re job is to create lasting relationships with your clients, and there are a lot of tools that can help you do that.

How can someone start to shift from that traditional “sales” mindset to a “relationship” mindset?

There are three key tenets.

The first one is to keep your agreements.

One of the biggest things I notice when I travel around the world and train salespeople is that they say they’re going to do something and then they don’t do it. If you say you’re going to be somewhere or if you say you’re going to meet someone, then be there on time.

My dad always used to say to me, “Being on time is being early.” It’s incredibly simple, but also very effective.

The second tenet is that relationships don’t end if you don’t get the sale. Often, when I go and meet with a client and come out without a sale but I’ve still had a good discussion regardless of that, I’ll send them a thank-you note.

A handwritten thank-you note that I then put in the mail and send to these clients goes a really long way for relationship building because no one does it. I’ll send two or three notes a month along with an occasional “how are you doing?” note. Again, it’s all about relationships.

The final tenet is that people buy you just as much as they buy your product or service, so you’ve got to be authentic. You have to learn to be yourself.

“You have to be true to yourself more than anything, and what I mean by that is that you’ve got to learn to be comfortable in your own skin.”

If you know your product and if you believe in that product then that authenticity will actually start to come through automatically.

How do you stay relaxed enough when meeting clients to come across as authentic?

One thing that I often teach salespeople is don’t listen to sell, listen to hear.

If you’re presenting a product or a service to a client, you’ve got to be present and you got to actually hear what they’re saying to you.

It’s also incredibly helpful to believe in your product. If you show up to a client meeting and you’re excited, motivated, and believe that your product will add real value to them, then any nerves you might feel won’t matter because that authenticity will show through.

Finally, a lot of people let the fear of rejection hold them back, but at the end of the day, the worst case scenario is that the client says no.

“You have to get comfortable asking for what you want in business, so ask for the sale. You do that enough times and those nerves will disappear.”

What’s Mike Brunel’s parting piece of advice for anyone looking to get into sales?

I had one particular client who wasn’t willing to change their mindset around selling. They just didn’t see that selling was actually about building relationships. They were stuck in the traditional way of thinking that people buy on price and price alone.

But people also buy on value and they buy based on the salesperson too. You can’t just sell your product, you have to sell yourself in addition to your product or service.

Great salespeople know it’s all about relationships and that lore of reciprocity is so true. The more that you give in some way, the more that comes back. So really think about how you can add value to your clients, not just through your product or service, but also in other areas. It could be as simple as bringing an extra coffee to your next client meeting.