When I was a young whippersnapper in New York City and learning my craft, I used to get discouraged sometimes. As a publicist I was calling members of the media all day long. They were busy, annoyed and didn’t want to hear from me. Sometimes they were rude and it would get to me after a while. I would become afraid. The term “call reluctance” doesn’t really explain how heavy the phone gets at times like that. One day I was confiding in my Dad how tough it was and the mean things the reporters were saying to me. He told me to close my office door and throw my briefcase to the floor. Then, while he was on the phone, I had to jump over it back and forth and say to myself out loud, “I am! I am! I am the best publicist I know!”
I did this until I was too exhausted to be afraid, basically. While I felt ridiculous and sweaty, it absolutely worked. Looking back now I know why it worked: 1) my Dad loved me and was helping me which was heartening – connection can change your world in an instant; 2) it changed my state of mind as I giggled at the absurdity of what I was doing in my sensible suit and hose (Tony Robbins calls it a “pattern interrupt”) and 3) it got oxygen into my system which is a natural euphoric. It was also 4) a positive affirmation that I needed to tell myself.
He learned this trick when he was paying his way through college as a door-to-door Bible salesman. I was surprised to learn that he’d ever been discouraged because he was a really great salesman. He even sold Bibles to atheists, which is saying something. The fact is we all get discouraged sometimes. It is hard to run into obstacles over and over again. We can feel like failures even when what we’re experiencing is absolutely normal. For my Dad and me, rejection was an expected part of our jobs and yet it would be hard to take sometimes.
As Amazon sellers, we don’t have to worry about doors slammed in our faces or people swearing at us over the phone and calling us “little girl.” The worst we experience is usually a negative rating or angry buyer. And yet there are obstacles that can get us down. I went shopping at Walmart recently with a fellow seller and there was nothing to speak of for our hours of scanning. I wanted to show her that you can find good product at big box stores, but yesterday was not the day to prove that point, alas.
I’ve got listing errors in my inventory that I’m trying to unravel with Amazon and many of them are turning out to be things I can no longer sell which is discouraging. I’m having them destroyed or sent back if I think I can sell them some other way. Amazon’s rules change all the time. Manufacturers move in to forbid us from selling their brands. Fees go up, Amazon lowers its prices on your best seller, sales taxes are a pain in the butt…I could go on and on.
What keeps me moving forward (mostly) cheerfully is that I learned a long time ago that change is a constant and normal. It is in every business so I might as well love the one I’m with instead of trying to find that perfect business without any troubles or at least very few (thank you Dr. Seuss for writing I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew).
Amazon’s FBA program is much simpler than my day job and heavily technology enabled which is helpful…and sometimes a curse when the technology goes awry. Dad’s exercise helped me a lot when I was younger because I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t up to the task. I was somehow a fraud and now the world was about to catch up with me. He reminded me then that what I was experiencing was temporary and normal. I reminded myself as I was jumping that I was a good salesperson/publicist and this was just a tough day – nothing more.
I’ve done this exercise at different times in my career when I needed it and I usually felt better afterwards. Then I got back on the phone again and kept calling. I wouldn’t always have a success right away but I knew I would eventually. Persistence is the key to public relations as it is for most businesses. My failure at Walmart was forgotten by a fabulous morning thrifting and garage saling.
I don’t have the same fears any more so my briefcase remains unmolested today. I have internalized the beliefs that keep me going and I rarely have to speak them aloud, but I thought I’d share some of them in case they might help you in a discouraged moment:
- I will figure this out. I always do, eventually.
- When the rules change, an opportunity is created for me – I just need to find it.
- My business is not quite like anyone else’s.
- I am learning constantly.
- I have something to contribute.
- I am not alone.
- The end result is worth the trouble getting there.
- My work is important and meaningful (and thus, worth doing).
Say these out loud to yourself over time until you believe them, too. Find specific examples from your own life that prove these points to you. Remind yourself of their truth for you.
The first three on this list are hard-won, forged in sweat and tears. Basically, they come from experience. Change can be terrifying and letting go and having faith that I will figure it out only came after I faced failure and did it over and over again. Same with when the rules change. My profession is radically different from when I started back in 1988. Our “secret sauce” used to be our lists – lists that anyone can buy off the internet today. I’ve had to reinvent myself many times in the past 24 years to stay relevant in the marketplace.
The third point is enormously important to me – it may not matter a bit to you. This belief is what allows me to work with my competitors – “co-opetition.” Throughout my career and in my Amazon business I work closely with my so-called competitors. In my day job, I hired them for projects and worked with them side-by-side. In the Amazon business I’m training my competitors to perform better than me and I collaborate with other sellers to make the industry better for all of us.
While we all do the same thing – sell stuff online – I know that my business is sufficiently unique that I won’t be stumbling all over my colleagues. My inventory is different from yours because I am different from you. My interests, what I look for, those reflect me. I have a weakness for designer Barbie dolls, for example, that is entirely about my childhood and not at all about their profitability (per se). There are lots of items that have bigger margins and are less fussy to deal with than collectible dolls, but I like them. I like buying them. I like thinking about people displaying them. I’m weird that way…and so are you. You have your things that you gravitate to without even realizing it. You have your shopping spots, your “secret sauce.”
You work your business slightly differently than anyone else; you enjoy different aspects of the business. My friend Robert Prince, for example, loves competition. He may not verbalize it this way, but when he talks about how he whips other sellers into shape and gets them to charge the same amount he does for an item by his price maneuvers rather than playing the downward price spiral game, there is real joy and satisfaction in his voice far beyond the fact that he’s making margin. So why is it important that my business is unique? Because it reminds me that there is room enough for all of us – I’m a “big pie” person – and that I absolutely can compete and succeed even with lots of other sellers. There is a place for me in this industry…and a place for you.
“I am learning constantly” is the flip side of “I don’t know everything.” It is dangerous to think that I know everything there is to know about any of my businesses. Change is a constant so I need to be learning all the time in order to flow with it. I make mistakes and if I didn’t learn from them…I’d be a failure. Learning allows me to keep growing.
Learning also makes you willing to make mistakes in the first place. If you ever get afraid of making mistakes, that’s when you stop growing and trying new things. You become rigid in your operations. It is sure failure in a business like ours. No one likes to make mistakes, but if you are confident in your ability to get through it and learn from it, it is not a scary proposition.
You have something to contribute. You are not only selling stuff online, you are bringing value to our industry/community. You are important beyond being an economic engine. I see this constantly on Yahoo and Facebook forums where sellers help sellers perform better. Everyone brings something different to the table. I learn from other sellers all the time.
This belief that my contribution is valuable is also what helps make my work meaningful to me. I think about people paying their bills, planning vacations, sending their kids to school, realizing their dreams because I wrote about Amazon’s FBA program. It is a huge source of satisfaction and joy for me. It has always mattered to me that the work I did was valuable in some way. With the Amazon business I am helping more than a handful of clients and it is what keeps me writing my blog and learning new things.
This motivates me more than the money although I certainly wouldn’t do this business if I wasn’t making money. I have bills to pay, too! But when I’m doing something particularly boring like processing inventory, it sustains me. Knowing that what I’m doing is bigger than myself and the potential worth of this used book in front of me, keeps me going. When I’m struggling with all the sales tax stuff and other necessary but tedious business BS, I think “this will make a great blog post one day,” and it keeps me going. So does the belief that the end result is worth the trouble.
I pay for my son’s school with my Amazon income. I’m planning a family vacation this summer with my Amazon income. This makes me happy and keeps me motivated when things aren’t going perfectly. My family matters more to me than anything else. What are your emotionally satisfying reasons for selling online?
I am not alone. I have my family, friends and colleagues. When I’m discouraged, I call someone and that helps me change my negative thinking. Maybe we think through a problem or share “exciting moments in scouting.” Sometimes I go online to the forums and read about other people’s problems and realize we are all rowing in the same direction. Maybe I can find help from the community. Reaching outside of myself keeps me from being isolated and lonely. It gives me the connection I need at that moment. It changes my thinking.
What about you? What are your beliefs that keep you going? Do you have affirmations or “tricks” that help you when you are discouraged? Please share in the comments below!