All I Really Need to Know I Learned as a Car Salesman

As many of you know, I gave my third Ignite talk Wednesday night at Ignite Seattle 23 at Town Hall, in front of roughly 800 people. I’d been collecting ideas for it for the last few months, and it really was a group effort. I turned to Facebook to get the idea for the talk to begin with; you helped me narrow down my list of bullet points from well over 20 to just 4 and even pick which t-shirt to wear night-of (Lemur Che won by a wide margin); and two of you in particular—you know who you are—gave me some great on-point feedback on the presentation itself that really helped make it stronger. The overall effect was that the 5 minutes I spent onstage giving the talk two nights ago was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time; the talk went better than I could have imagined, and it reminded me of how incredible it feels to connect with an audience in that way. Thank you for helping make the experience possible for me :)

The video hasn’t been posted yet (I’ll embed at the top of this post once it’s online [update: posted & embedded on 5/21/14]), but in the meantime I wanted to share the presentation with you. The format of Ignite is 20 slides over the course of 5 minutes, with the slides auto-advancing every 15 seconds; you can click on the picture above to see my HaikuDeck in its native format—without the auto-advancing, though—or I’ve posted the slides along with my script below so you can read it as a more traditional blog post if you prefer.

Slide01

Good evening, Seattle! My name is Sol—like the sun or the beer, depending on what you prefer—and tonight I’m going to share with you some timeless lessons I learned in my early 20’s and that I’ve used almost every day of my life since then.

Slide02

For tonight, all you need to know about me is that from August of 2002 to December of 2003, in addition to still having hair, I sold cars at a Ford dealership in Burien. I was pretty good, too—as I used to say, you can’t spell “Sold” without the “Sol” :)

Slide03

And have I got a deal for you :) Tonight only, the most important lessons I learned as a car salesman, which have been instrumental to my life for the last 11 years, can be yours for the low, low price of only 5 minutes of your precious time.

Slide04

Now I’m not going to try to convince you that most car salespeople are good people—even though they are—but I am going to try to convince you that what they do has some relevance to your life. And that’s because, as Forrest Gump here would say, life is a lot like a car deal.

Slide05

It’s all about getting what you want by helping other people get what they want. That’s what life is really all about, regardless of who you are or what you do for a living; selling cars just makes it explicit and puts it right on the surface…which is why it was such a great learning experience for me.

Slide06

So I think that’s enough by way of setup and introduction. Now…without further ado…I present to you…1.5 years of wisdom…in 4 easy lessons. Thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped me narrow these down.

Slide07

Lesson #1: Listen more than you talk. That doesn’t mean “take some time to think about what you’re going to say next while the other person is talking”; it means really and truly listening to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. I guarantee you the smoothest talkers you know are also the best listeners.

Slide08

Now most people aren’t as straightforward as this baby when it comes to telling other people what they want, but 9 times out of 10—99 times out of a hundred, probably—someone will tell you what they really want if you pay attention to what they’re saying and ask the right questions.

Slide09

In order for this to work, though, you have to be as excited about listening as she is. Active listening is really important—reflecting back what someone’s said to you so they know you’ve been paying attention. If you don’t know what someone wants, it’s impossible to help them get what they want. But you can’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it…

Slide10

In order for this to work, though, you have to be as excited about listening as she is. Active listening is really important—reflecting back what someone’s said to you so they know you’ve been paying attention. If you don’t know what someone wants, it’s impossible to help them get what they want. But you can’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it…

Slide11

And we love saying yes! Wasn’t that #HowSeattleRiots hashtag awesome? Doesn’t it feel great to be a Seattleite? I want you to stand up, right now, and give the person next to you a big hug!

Slide12

[lots of people actually do it!] I wasn’t sure if that was going to work! Like my dad always said, though, it never hurts to ask–the worst someone can do is say no. And if they do say, no, of course, that’s rejection.

Slide13

And rejection sucks, right? One of the great things about being a car salesman is that you can’t do the job without getting really comfortable with being rejected, which is great preparation for life. This is the most effective mantra that I’ve found for dealing with rejection.

Slide14

All it takes is one. Don’t think about the person who just rejected you; think about the one who’s going to say yes instead. Our natural tendency is to take each rejection personally, but everyone doesn’t have to say yes to you for you to get what you want.

Slide15

We have a certain degree of control over what happens to us, but we have near-absolute control over what we choose to focus on, and there are few things more powerful than the stories you tell yourself. When it comes to rejection, focus on the “yes” in your future, not the “no” in your past.

Slide16

This last one is one of my favorite quotes of all time, let alone sales quotes. It comes from a trainer named Grant Cardone, and if I had to condense the entire discipline of sales down into 14 words, these next 14 words are the ones that I would choose.

Slide17

#4. When you meet someone who has more conviction than you do, you get sold. You say “yes” to them instead of getting them to say “yes” to you. The reason that’s so important is that conviction is at the heart not only of sales, but of life.

Slide18

If you’re not convinced, to your core, of whatever it is that you’re trying to share with the world, you’re not going to convince anyone else, either. When someone says to “fake it ‘til you make it”, the “it” they’re talking about is conviction. So always have more conviction.

Slide19

To recap: Listen more than you talk. [and really mean it] Ask for the close. [you’re not going to get it otherwise] All it takes is one. [don’t worry about the rest] When you meet someone who has more conviction than you do, you get sold…so always be the one with more conviction.

Slide20

That’s it—as you can see, all I really need to know I learned as a car salesman :) My name is Sol Villarreal; I’m on Twitter at @solv17. Thank you very much, come talk to me at the break…and enjoy the rest of the show in the meantime.

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