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John Paul DeJoria: How to get your foot in the door and nail the sale

By the time John Paul DeJoria founded John Paul Mitchell Systems, he’d already sold encyclopedias on commission door-to-door, and he understood the importance of persistence in the face of rejection. No one likes being told “no,” of course, but the skills DeJoria acquired knocking on doors have proven invaluable to his later success. In his Big Think+ video “Knock on Lots of Doors — Earn Success Like a Salesperson,” DeJoria explains why, and what to say when someone finally lets you in.

Knock, knock, go away

The commission DeJoria was paid for each set of encyclopedias he sold was worth fighting for, but it wasn’t easy to make a sale. The company dropped salespeople off in neighborhoods, where they simply started knocking on doors — many of which were immediately slammed in their faces.

“Sometimes you have to knock on 100 doors to get through one,” recounts DeJoria. He quickly learned, though, that when you finally get that one opportunity, you simply can’t afford to waste it. He realized, “You have to be just as enthusiastic on door number 101 as you were on the first 100 doors closing in your face.”

In the end, it turned out, it was a numbers game, and the commission was good enough that it was worth it in the end. In business, DeJoria says, “You are going to receive a lot of rejection. Be prepared for it. Successful people do all the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do.”

When the time came to build his beauty business, DeJoria loaded his Paul Mitchell materials into the back of his car and drove up and down Ventura Boulevard in L.A., beauty salon to beauty salon, knocking on doors until his new company was able to gain some traction.

When door 101 opens

The key to making a sale, DeJoria says, is showcasing your product’s features and benefits — “what’s unique about it, but more important, how it’s going to benefit them.”

He suggests, in connecting with a person you’re trying to convince, the key is to structure your presentation so that it’s all about meeting their needs. Part of that is making the deal as simple for your customer to accept as possible. Provide them a sensible package that you think will work for them — don’t ask them to to do the work of coming up with it themselves.

Another component of this is finding common ground. By presenting an offering in which you share the potential risk with the customer, the transaction will feel fair to them. For this reason, Mitchell says that if “they say no, don’t walk away. They have to say no three times before you walk away. They’re just saying you haven’t convinced me.”

In response to that second or third “no,” communicate that you understand the customer’s issues, and sweeten your proposal each time to address them when you can. With Paul Mitchell, DeJoria was able to offer training and sales help, as well as limited-time money-back guarantees. In your business, the specifics may be different, but the idea is to shift some of the risk from the customer by offering specific benefits that communicate your genuine dedication, support, and understanding. This will make them comfortable enough to say “yes.”

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