Contender or Pretender?

Do you accept credit cards for payment? Retailers, professionals and service providers must sell their products to survive. How do you stack up?

I remember watching a professional football game a few years ago and an announcer made a comment about a certain linebacker being just mediocre and likely never to be anything more. If I had been that linebacker I would have either seriously stepped up my game or migrated to a more suitable endeavor. I think most people have some ego or at least a little pride. I also believe most people want to be thought of as a winner, even if they won’t admit it. Mediocrity is boring, excellence is exhilarating!

Leaders in the human potential movement have talked about the keys to success for years. People buy their DVDs and thousands attend seminars looking for the silver bullet to success. While it is true there are many elements of success, experience has taught me that belief, massive action and an unwillingness to settle will take you a long way.

This blog is primarily for our merchants, and many of our merchants are sales people, but I can make the case that everyone is a sales person. Regardless of your goals, whether commercial, physical or intellectual, the same principles apply. You can become a super achiever by following a proven formula.


Years ago I met an interesting character who sold meat off the back of a truck. He was one of the best salesmen I have ever met and was a student of excellence in sales. I would begin a quote by Zig Ziglar, Tom Peters, Tony Robbins or Jim Rohn and he would finish the quote. He was passionate about his profession; truly a professional salesman. One day I asked him if I could ride along with him for a day. It was a day I will never forget. He utilized many of the keys to success, especially the three that have worked so well for me; empowering beliefs, massive action and the unwillingness to settle.


I arrived at his warehouse and helped him load his refrigerated truck with steaks. We left and headed for a residential area of town. He told me we would not go home until the truck was empty. He knew his goal and there was no consideration of failure. He believed that he would sell all the meat on his truck was firmly committed to achieve his goal. He put himself at stake and guaranteed me he would have a minimum of $1,000 in his pocket before we finished the day.


Massive action equals massive results. He approached everyone he could and gave them a short presentation on why they should buy. About two hours went by and everybody he presented to turned him down. I was beginning to wonder if he was crazy. Finally we stopped for gas and he began a conversation with a person at the next gas pump. A box of meat came off the back of the truck. Next we went to the parking lot in a large shopping center. Several people walking to their cars noticed him and it was obvious they had been approached before. A few started running to avoid him. Rejection made him stronger. He rolled his head back and laughed and said, “Everyone’s afraid of the Meat Man.” He was unstoppable, the more people ran, the more determined he became. Soon another box of meat was sold and then another and another.


It was now about 3:00pm in the afternoon. It was hot outside and the cab of his truck had no air conditioning. He had already earned several hundred dollars, but there were a couple of boxes of steaks left and he was just short of his $1,000 goal. Many people would have gone home and called it a successful day but the Meat Man was unwilling to settle. It was then I realized it was not just about the money. He had already earned enough to call the day a success. He reminded me of the ancient Viking warriors who burned their own boats upon arrival at an enemy’s shoreline. They were unwilling to settle for anything less than victory. The Vikings would either conquer the enemy or be trapped at the shoreline and die; there was no other option. The Meat Man was simply not going home until the last box of meat came of his truck. About 5:00pm we were heading home and the truck was empty. He handed me a large roll of cash and asked me if I would count it for him. It totaled more than $1,000.


The day I spent on the meat truck cemented many of the principles I have learned and taught for years and it improved my own sales performance. The Meat Man was a master persuader; a sales champion. He was perhaps the greatest sales person I have ever known.

He was a contender every day. He had a powerful belief system, took massive, massive action and was not willing to settle for anything less than excellence.

The unfortunate reality is an unacceptable percentage of people, especially sales people, are pretenders, not contenders. It’s not that they don’t know how. I know many new sales people who never get in front of the customer six hours a day because they are too busy studying what they hope to sell. While a reasonable amount of product knowledge is important, it shouldn’t become a crunch for not taking action. These are the people who have to have their ducks in a row before they can take action. By the time they get their ducks in a row, hunting season is over.

The reason people look for excuses is because of fear. Much research has been done on overcoming fear. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and other behavior modification technologies provide powerful tools for overcoming fear but these techniques are beyond the scope of this month’s article and best addressed another day. For now, if you believe strongly enough in what you are doing and commit to not settling for anything less than achieving your potential, it will go a long way in motivating you to take action. It is the ability to take action that will change your life.

If you’re not living the life you want, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I a contender or a pretender”? If you admit to yourself, even grudgingly, that you’re a pretender then ask yourself, “Am I willing to settle”? If you are willing to settle I recommend you acknowledge the reality of what you will be settling for. It might hurt more than just going for your dream.

Loathe any standard for yourself that is less than sensational.”

– Tan Le