Closing that first sale, writing that first sentence, or making the first attempt at anything is always difficult because you’re entering uncharted waters. Many highly successful entrepreneurs had to endure to get past that first sale. Let these anecdotes serve as inspiration and reminders to get you through all the “no’s.”
Steve Jobs’ first order for Apple
As Steve Wozniak could tell you, that first order of 50 computers at $500 each, paid on delivery, changed everything for him and Steve Jobs in 1975. The customer, Paul Terrell, told PC Magazine, “Steve was hungry for an order, and knew he could get Woz and some of their buddies to put this order together in their garage. And I knew where they lived. So we did the deal and that got Apple Computer started,” as Harry McCracken reported in 2007.
Apple historians know that this first order for the Apple-1 was built in Jobs’ garage in just 30 days and eventually 200 were made.
How David Ogilvy got a copywriting job
While selling Aga Cookers door-to-door in Britain in 1935, Ogilvy’s sales persistence got him noticed. “He sold stoves to nuns, drunkards, and everyone in between,” we learn from his bio. That lead to his first attempt at corporate copywriting as the author of the oven salesman’s manual. Perseverance coupled with strong sales skills, Ogilvy suggested, “The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship.”
Three years later, the Englishman set up a NY-based ad agency. As Ogilvy & Mather, it became one of the world’s largest agwith customers like Rolls-Royce, American Express, Schweppes, Dove soap, Shell Oil and General Foods.
Richard Branson learned the hard way
Many years prior to founding the Virgin Group, Branson relates the tough story of his first sale. As kids inspired to earn some cash, Richard and his mate planted fir trees from seed, hoping to sell them at a £800 profit as small Christmas trees in a couple of years. Alas, all the seedlings were chewed up by rabbits. Disheartened, they shot and skinned a few rabbits, sold them to the local butcher for a shilling each and took it on the chin as would-be Christmas tree farmer-merchants.
Virgin Group now controls more than 400 companies and Sir Richard’s net worth is estimated at more than $5 billion.
JK Rowling got loads of rejections
In response to a question from a budding author, JK Rowling tweeted that she was turned down over and over when pitching the first Harry Potter book prior to its acceptance by Bloomsbury Publishing. It has more recently been revealed that using the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Rowling received an extremely rude rejection letter over the pitch as well.
The Harry Potter author is famously recognized as the first person to become a billionaire from writing novels and her empire is now larger than the queen of England’s.
Mark Cuban sold garbage bags, milk, and beer
Self-made billionaire Mark Cuban didn’t start out by selling his internet streaming radio sports channel, Broadcast.com, to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999. No, he started out selling garbage bags door-to-door to earn enough money to buy some sneakers his dad wouldn’t spring for. The New York Times summed him up by saying, “Cuban has sold garbage bags, newspapers, stamps, milk and beer, but he didn’t truly achieve his goal until he began selling an idea.”
Mark Cuban is now the owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, a media company owner, TV personality, business leader, and philanthropist.
The moral of these stories? Rejection is part of the process toward success. That first sale can surely be the most difficult, but without it, there are surely no others to follow.
This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr for Small Business Pulse