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Keep it up, week after week, until you start to feel as if you get it. When you feel ready, talk to your boss about your plans.
Then approach key people in the department you’re interested in. Tell them (honestly) that you think their field is something you’d be good at. Say you’ve been learning about it in your free time and you’d like to volunteer to help them out whenever you can so you can learn even more.
In volunteering to help out, you have three objectives:
1. To demonstrate your commitment to the business
2. To develop relationships with essential employees in your organization
3. To learn an essential (i.e., financially valued) skill
Your first objective will be realized almost immediately. Most people will be impressed by your willingness to dive in and give them a hand. If your intentions are sincere and your follow-up is diligent, you’ll soon enjoy a reputation for being an up-and-comer (no matter how old you are).
Your second objective will be achieved over a period of months, as you demonstrate what you can do. Remember, the key to establishing
Step 4: Radically Increase Your Personal Income 131
good relationships with these people is to focus on helping them. If your efforts are transparently self-serving, it will have a neutral or negative impact.
Your third objective—learning a financially valued skill—will take some time. But the benefit you’ll get when you achieve it will be enormous. Mastery of a financially valued skill will virtually guarantee you a high income for the rest of your life.
IF YOU’RE NOT SURE WHICH SKILL TO MASTER,
TRY THIS ONE FIRST
Of all the skills you can have—the ability to speak like Winston Churchill, to paint like Rembrandt, to calculate like Albert Einstein— none will help you achieve wealth as well as knowing how to sell things.
So if you’re not sure which financially valued skill to target, I recommend becoming an expert in the kind of sales that make your company profitable. And I’m going to give you a minicourse in selling right now to help you decide if this is for you.
Every private enterprise—every school, restaurant, law office, hospital, building supplier, hardware store, and entertainment complex— survives and prospers by virtue of its commercial activity.
In my own life, this lesson was hard to learn. Coming from a nonbusiness background, I looked at the commercial world from the outside in. An art gallery, to me, was a place where intelligent people gathered to talk about the latest trends and connect with like-minded art lovers. When I fantasized about owning my own gallery, that’s the way I saw it. Until I actually bought one. The reality was very different.
A successful local dealer I knew told me in passing one day that he was planning on retiring in a few years. I immediately suggested that he allow me to buy into his business. He declined at first, but we kept talking. A month later, we had a deal. I paid him a sizable chunk of cash for a 50 percent interest in his thriving business. I was entitled to acquire the remaining shares over a three-year period, during which time he’d teach me what he knew and phase himself out.
The first thing he had me do was invite every friend and family member within 100 miles to come to a new opening of the gallery.
132 AUTOMATIC WEALTH
“When we get them in the door,” he explained, “we’ll get to work on them.”
I had no interest in “getting to work” on my friends and family members. But he was adamant. “These are prime prospects,” he told me. “They like and admire you. And they know you collect art. The seed has already been planted!”
I didn’t know exactly what he meant, and I didn’t feel good about it. Nevertheless, I dutifully sent out the invitations. When opening night came, I followed him around as he worked the room. I was shocked and embarrassed by how hard he was selling.
The evening was a disappointment for both of us. For him, because we didn’t sell nearly as much art as he felt we should have. For me, because I suddenly realized that the dream I’d bought into was, in fact, a business based on hard-core selling.
I shouldn’t have been that naive. After all, having been in the marketing business for years, I knew a lot about how to make a sale. But I had mastered the skill of selling through the written word. I never actually saw my prospects face-to-face. Now I was involved in this wonderful world of art, but I had discovered that it survived on selling, too. A very direct, person-to-person kind of selling—a skill I hadn’t learned at all and had no desire to learn, especially at the expense of my friends and family.
A month later, I bought myself out of his business. It was a very expensive lesson. But it taught me a great deal about business and life that has been enormously helpful to me since then.
The reason this art dealer was so successful (he was making a very high income even during periods when other art dealers were going out of business) was because he was an expert at selling art. His knowledge of art history was limited. He wasn’t ignorant, by any means. He knew the important, inside stuff1—what type of paintings a particular artist was admired for, what periods of production were considered the most valuable, and so on. But his main skills were in (1) getting people to come into his shop and then (2) getting those who bought to keep buying, year after year.