A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Could the Biggest Obstacle to Your Success Be…You?

success obstacle Often, we believe that if only we knew “how to” do more–more blogging, more Tweeting, more SEO or social networking–that our business would be successful.

But all the “how to” information in the world won’t help your business succeed. Your own ingrained beliefs are stopping you without you even knowing it. In fact, the biggest obstacle to your success (I hate to say it) may be you.

We all have a set of beliefs about how the world operates. We form many of these beliefs to protect ourselves: we know that a fire will burn us, for instance. But there are some insidious beliefs–perhaps beliefs we don’t even know we have–that can seriously damage our earning potential.

One belief that is incredibly common is the belief that money is scarce–that there is only so much of it to go around. I was reading a friend’s blog recently and came across this paragraph:

“In the end, there is only so much of the almighty dollar to go around…somebody has got to sit in cattle class and it isn’t always the lazy arses. Quite often it’s those people who are ‘making stuff that matters, even if it seems stupid because it feels good and important.'”

Whenever I read, hear, or see someone say that, I know they’re broke.

Is Money Truly Scarce?

Scarcity happens in real life, and it starts at a young age. Your parents probably told you “no” when you asked for something when you were younger. Maybe you reached for that last can of soda in the fridge or apple on the counter only to find out it was gone. You wanted another helping of dinner, but it wasn’t available…the bowls and plates were empty.

That’s scarcity in action, and it’s easy to think that applies to money, too. For someone to be rich, someone else has to be poor, right?

Not at all.

Money is being created and distributed all the time. (If you want the technical details, read up on fractional reserve lending.) Our world has more money, that is worth more than it ever has been before. We live in staggering luxury compared to those only 50 years ago.

Consider this:
In 1950, only 9% of U.S. households had a TV.
In 1970, less than 1% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave.
In 1990, only 0.25% of the world population owned a cell phone.
This year, in 2010, only 26.6% of the world population will use the Internet.

We are unimaginably rich. And the best thing is that the trend will likely continue. There is no shortage of dollars to be earned (or spent!)

Who Are The Unsuccessful People?

I tried coaching people in a monthly program in 2009. I launched quietly–most reading this wouldn’t even know I did it. I took 20 students. I figured I’d be able to easily help them see their first online success.

Some of my coaching students have done really well. But many floundered. At first I wondered what I was doing wrong. Then I talked to some other coaches, and found out this is pretty normal.

One of my coaching students, J, wanted to set up a blog and be making $10,000/month within 30 days. He stated to me in our first 1-on-1 call that this was his goal. I told him I appreciated his enthusiasm, but that his goal wasn’t realistic. I explained he would have to work hard, probably for several months, before he saw much income at all. And only then, after he pushed through The Dip, would he see any real success.

He dropped out of the program. It wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear.

I now understand why many people don’t make it in business. They assume that they can start with 2 hours a week of spare time and no previous online business experience and be making 5 figures a month online within a month or two.

That’s the extreme case. Then there are many more in the “fat middle” who muddle their way through it for about 3-6 months before giving up. In the first two weeks, they have huge enthusiasm. They’re ready to take this on! It’s going to be great! Amazing! And then they fizzle. Slowly but surely, they stop working on their projects. Their blogs fall by the wayside. They get preoccupied with the “next big thing”. They give up.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who made anywhere from $30 to $100 a month and then gave up. The number astounds me. What they don’t understand is that $30 a month to $10,000 a month or more is about 24 months in the making of figuring out the systems that work and replicating them. They only see $30 a month and give up, thinking it’s a waste of time.

So, the honest truth, is that those who “sit in cattle class”, as my friend wrote it, really aren’t lazy. They just give up too soon.

Or they have another harmful belief: They’re uncomfortable with selling.

“Sales is For Slimy People”

Going deeper, we find a strong concern with many budding entrepreneurs: that if you sell something to someone, they are left with less than what they had before. If you sell them a $20 book, they’re suddenly $20 poorer.

To get over this feeling, you just have to be confident that what you’re selling them is worth far, far more than the money they paid to acquire it. Perhaps the knowledge in the $20 book you sell them will enable them to make far more than the $20 they paid for it. Perhaps it will help them find the romantic love of their dreams, or lose weight, or be happier.

It’s that confidence that many of us are lacking. We write the story for our potential customers, making assumptions and judging them. We assume they can’t afford something, so we don’t bother trying to sell it to them. Or we remember other stories similar potential customers have told us about how they can’t afford it, and assume this potential customer is similar.

Here’s an extreme example: Your friend is dying from a disease. Coincidentally, you happen to have had this same disease earlier in your life, and you’re now cured. It took you a lot of time and effort to find the cure, but you finally found a $2,000 pill that worked.

Could you convince your friend to part with the $2,000 to save her life?

That’s selling.

If you wimp out on this question with an answer like “If it really worked, I’d buy it for her!”, I suggest you do not start or attempt to run a business. I’m serious about that point. Go find someone who wants to sell and work for them…or make it your #1 priority to learn how to sell to someone who truly needs your product.

Sales: The Key Ingredient to Success?

When you start a business, it’s your job to sell like your prospects’ lives depend on it. And, to take this even further, it’s an equally important job to only sell products that are really worth it to your prospects, in order to engender goodwill.

To take a recent example from my own playbook, I was comfortable promoting the crap out of Profit Instruments both here on my blog and to my email list. I personally reviewed Profit Instruments, thought it was worth it, and even offered amazing bonuses to those who bought through me to help people succeed. I really believe that if you follow the system in Profit Instruments, you can be successful online. (Note: I’m not selling it right now, because Profit Instruments is sold out. I write this because I truly believe it.)

As a result of my genuine belief in Profit Instruments, 183 of you bought it through my link. That is an incredible number. It’s so huge in part because I don’t promote something different every week. I pick a few things that work well and promote them hard.

I was a driven salesperson in the web hosting industry. The more commoditized and cutthroat the industry you are in is, the more sales skills matter. Contrary to popular belief, though, sales isn’t all about skeezy convincin’ and fast talkin’. The biggest sales skill is also one of the hardest to learn: listening. The key is getting to know your prospect’s story first and then fitting what you’re selling to their needs…and being honest if what you’re selling doesn’t fit their needs.

You must be a closer in order to succeed in business. That means, if your prospect really needs what you have to offer, you have to ask for the sale and then get them to take action. Sell something that matters and that will truly help your prospects. Get your friend in the hospital to buy the $2,000 miracle pill. Get creative if that’s what it takes. But close the sale.

Using Your Business Skills to Make a Difference

Lydia, one of my four foster kittens.
I sell people what I believe in and what they want to buy. Then I use that money to do awesome things in the world, like help foster kittens. I partnered with a nonprofit no-kill shelter here in San Diego: The Rescue House.

Rescue House gave me four kittens that had been abandoned by their mother. I bottle-fed them, took them to the vet, and loved on them for hours at a time. I’ll have the foster kittens for a few more months, at which time they will go to a permanent, adoptive home. My goal is to foster another set of kittens again next year when “kitten season” comes up, as well.

The foster kittens are just one of my nonprofit, charity activities. Without sales skills, and without believing that what I offer is the best, I wouldn’t be able to fund these charity activities. (Kitten food alone runs $6-7 a day!)

The market speaks for itself. I wouldn’t get paid a lot of money to foster kittens all day. But the market pays a lot for products on how to make more money, so that’s what I sell. I don’t fight the market or beg for it to be different. I don’t whine about inequitable distribution of money. I simply sell what works, and use the money I make to feed four hungry–but very cute!–kittens.

Did you fail the “friend test” above? Buy this book and read it cover to cover: Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition by Jay Abraham. I’ve read it and it’s one of the few books I go back to again and again for business advice.

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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