Sales: A Numbers Game of Rejection and Perseverance

Sales may be a game of numbers, but for some (like me), it can be an even greater test of emotional fortitude in the face of nearly certain rejection.

tumblr_oo7plv54tF1rt7qgbo1_500It’s 2017 and I’m selling paper. Seriously. It’s not exactly like The Office, but pretty damn close. I am selling a “service” that nearly all businesses still need in one minor capacity or another, despite the prevalence of digital media in today’s marketing and advertising landscape: business cards, brochures, invoices, envelopes and letterhead, but also banners, apparel, signs, even yacht sales and every door direct mailing. If you can print on it, we can do it for you. Full service, all that Jazz. Now when somebody smugly says, “Okay salesman, sell me this pen,” I respond with, “that particular pen has 1.6 miles of ink inside of it. That’s a lot of deposit slips.”

I’m no stranger to outside sales. As I child, I sold lemonade and wrapping paper to my neighbors. In middle school, I sold custom burned CDs with original artwork. In college, I lived in my best friend’s guest bedroom and sold framed artwork door-to-door. At 19, I started a record label and sold compilation CDs through a network of “street teamers” and an obsolete web storefront. In Australia, I sold Vodafone upgrades door-to-door in residential neighborhoods. I sold circus school memberships in San Francisco and cedar beehives in Portland. Now I’m selling spiral bound manuals, wedding invitations, and high school graduation tickets. But this sales job seems different somehow. Lately I’ve been thinking… is this the job I’ve been avoiding my whole life?

Offset Press

I bound into work each morning with an absolutely unwarranted level of energy and enthusiasm, not only because you can still pick up the “new car” smell on me but also because, until just recently, I was the youngest employee by more than two decades. On top of that, I also happen to be the only homo sapiens in the office that drinks coffee at work. I had to beg the Production Manager to get us a five-cup coffee pot… and I have to provide my own coffee! (I know! Vietnam, right?) So I beeline over to my desk and sign in to the ever important “time clock.”

My daily responsibilities are predominately divided into two categories: inside sales calls (and database updating) and deliveries with a round of outside sales in the form of door knocking. I know! It keeps getting better and better, right? Totally. After the quick “work in progress” (“whip”) meeting, I settle down with my spreadsheet of “warm” contacts (specific to my territories) and I get to calling numbers. These contacts are every customer in our branch’s database, broken out by area code. I’m also given their last date of purchase, which often times is more than a decade ago.

If I’m relentless and meticulous with my notes, I can knock out around 20 calls over the course of an hour. Yep, that’s right, because most of the calls go like this…

Me: “Hi, how’s it going?
Receptionist: “Umm… good.”
Me: “May I speak with [some name], please?”
Receptionist: “Can I ask who’s calling?”
Me: “Chris from [blah, blah, blah, here’s my pitch about “winning back your business!” There’s absolutely no opportunity for them to talk.]”
Receptionist: “I’m afraid she’s unavailable, may I transfer you to her voicemail?”
Me: “Sure, that’d be wonderful. Thank you so –
Click… BEEP.
Me: “Chris from [blah, blah, blah, here’s my pitch about “winning back your business!”

“It’s a numbers game,” they tell me. What they really mean is, “you’re going to be rejected a ton, but don’t worry, because it’s all part of the job. You can’t take it personally.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but as I have been dealing with varying degrees of rejection and failure a bit more lately, I figured it would be no big deal. Oh yeah… did I mention my salary is 100% commission based. So I’ve got that going for me, which is great. Enjoy!

For the sake of transparency and to alleviate boredom, I crunched the numbers on all my sales calls yesterday, and they broke down into the following categories.

Voicemails: 46
Receptionist Messages: 12
Disconnected/Closed Business: 6
Not Interested: 6
Email Follow Up: 8
Recently Deceased: 1 (Yes, you read this correctly. She was crying on the phone to me that the person I was attempting to reach had just died.)
New Clients: 3
Total: 82

tumblr_omxs677zA81rt7qgbo1_500As I mentioned earlier, an additional part of my sales job is “door knocking,” where I go to the business around one of my clients (presumably after delivering a batch of scratch and sniff door hangers) and give them some free stuff (with my business card stapled to it) while seeing if I can get an item to quote for them. No Soliciting signs don’t mean shit, apparently, because I’m offering a “free quote,” I’m not actively selling anything… per se. The owner says he’s delivering “gifts” in the form of a calendar and some other branded stuff. I’ve circled my birthday in every calendar I give out.

Lucky for me, that part doesn’t last all day (although I’m sure Corporate wishes it did). In fact, most days I’m on my way home by 3:30 PM. When I get home, I descend to my garden-level suite to catch up on the Mystery Tin brand, whether it’s my screenwriting, affiliate marketing, the email newsletter, or the Happy Hour! game development. Mystery Tin is my night sales job, the only one that really matters.
During the Kickstarter campaign for Happy Hour!, I sent out personal emails to 170 of my friends to check out the campaign and take advantage of the special deals. Sales. Unfortunately, those emails only resulted in five backers, but perhaps more impactful than that, not a single person responded to the email itself. It took me hours to draft and write an email to each one of those people individually, informing them about the fun, new project I am super passionate about, but it was met with crickets. Nada. But wait… this is par for the course, right?

last-callAllegedly “consistency is king” and it requires around seven communications in order to close a deal (blah, blah, blah), but sales is a necessary evil of business. Passion projects and business forms alike, consistency delivers results and that requires blind perseverance and consistency. I can’t spend my time stewing about the rejections, I need to keep showing up. I could (and occasionally do) go back through the MailChimp “unsubscribes” from my monthly newsletter, letting each person occupy my thinking with anger and frustration (fuck those guys!) but why spend time looking backward at the 11 who unsubscribed versus the 600+ readers who are still signed up? (No but really, why would you unsubscribe from a once-a-month email newsletter? If you don’t want to hear from somebody only once a month, you’re basically telling me to fuck off.)

Taking rejection is really hard when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, which is why I’ve always taken things so personally, because I’ve always done my best to avoid doing jobs I wasn’t particularly passionate about. Music, circus, bees. This job doesn’t feel like the others, it’s different. It’s uninspired. I’m not passionate about the product. I’m not (that) passionate about the process. But I am invested in my coworkers. So I guess the real struggle is determining if that is enough to keep me here, doing what I’m doing in this outside sales position, door knocking and cold calling?

We’ll have to wait and see.



Starting A Monthly Newsletter

I took the leap yesterday and started a monthly newsletter called Mystery Tin MonthlyThe experience was enlightening, and humbling, to say the least.

I finally decided to put my money where my mouth is, so I started my own Mystery Tin newsletter. I previously wrote a post about what starting a newsletter can do for an artist, but after binge-listening to over 50 episodes of the Side Hustle Nation podcast on the 16 hour holiday road trip home (and back), it is the unanimous opinion of online business owners that in order to succeed, you absolutely must cultivate a mailing list for direct e-mail contact and marketing. Most importantly, this group isn’t primarily a sales pool. These people are your tribe. So at first, it is advisable to move slowly and tread lightly. I think I did that part right.

It took me a quite while (and a little bit of magic) but I managed to scrape together nearly 700 e-mail addresses of my friends, previous businesses associates, and business contacts. I know I didn’t get everybody on the list (I still don’t think my parents are signed up yet) but chances are if you’re my friend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, I most likely added you to the mailing list for my new newsletter. Did you get it? (If not, click here and sign yourself up!)

The newsletter is a monthly e-mail newsletter, Mystery Tin Monthly, containing the top blog posts, photographs, great links, and updates on projects under the Mystery Tin Brand, sent out on the first Monday of each month. This first newsletter was a little bit longer, broken into sections with an introduction to the newsletter, my top 3 blog posts on, my top pictures on Instagram, a sneak peek of Happy Hour!, and a reminder that Dinner’s Ready! is available for sale. Oh yeah, and a call for action and sharing. Duh.

I designed the newsletter in MailChimp, which also offers a number of added benefits that you can work into the campaign, including opens, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes. I clicked all the boxes I could and I scheduled my first newsletter to fire off at 12:15 PM, landing squarely during the lunch hour on January 2, New Year’s Day Observed. It definitely got my heart racing, but once the e-mail was out, I was refreshing the report over and over again, watching the results come back in real time…


For the sake of transparency in the pursuit of knowledge, I’ve included a screenshot of my newsletter report. At the time I’m publishing this post, Tuesday, January 3, the e-mail was opened by 38.1% of recipients, with 26 total clicks for a 3.2% click rate, 10 bounce backs and a grand total of 33 unsubscribers. At first I was weary of the seemingly low numbers, but when compared to the industry standards, it actually appears I’m doing really well with my list (nearly 2.5x the industry average!). Maybe there will be some promise in this newsletter thing for me after all!

Of course, as a glutton for punishment, I couldn’t help but go through the unsubscribes. Who would unsubscribe from my newsletter?!?! I was expecting a small number of unsubscribes, particularly from those obscure apiary connections from China I friended on LinkedIn, but when I opened the unsubscribe list, I was actually quite surprised. Former co-workers and bosses, fraternity brothers, high school classmates, and more surprisingly, a handful of close family friends had all opted out of my newsletter. Part of me was shocked to see that people I really cared about, people I was actively invested in, people I grew up with, were not interested in hearing about my life. The way I looked at it, it was a monthly newsletter, so if you can’t stand one e-mail a month from meyou’re basically saying “I really don’t give a fuck about you.” It’s only one e-mail a month!

Thanks for being a good friend… jerk.

Emotions aside, e-mail marketing is simply a game of averages. Yesterday, I e-mailed nearly 700 people, so there’s bound to be some blowback. I can’t spend my time worrying about each and every person that unsubscribes from my newsletter, because no matter what, there’s always going to be somebody who isn’t interested in reading what you have to say or isn’t interested in buying what you’re selling. The challenge is, you must go on ceaselessly toward your goals, because “you’ll never get where you’re going if you stop to throw rocks at every barking dog.” I think that was a Winston Churchill quote.

The only thing I need to do now is set up the all the extra bells and whistles to get people signing themselves up for the Mystery Tin Monthly mailing list. I have the sign-up page, but I’m having some trouble with the pop-ups on my own website and embedding a sign up box in the text box (anybody out there want to help me with this?!)

What did you think of the first Mystery Tin Monthly? What would you like to hear more about? Let me know what you think by responding to the e-mail to or by posting your comments below!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Personal Fire Ecology
 is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
The A-Z of My 2016 is my year in review mega post of 2016, complete with anecdotes, photographs, and some of my favorite songs and content from 2016.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.
Starting a Podcast (Network) for Under $200 on WordPress is the play-by-play I used in setting up the show MAD Potential (with Ben Mehl) on the Mystery Tin Podcast Network.

What Am I Selling?

No matter what your blog’s area of focus is, everything from creative fiction writing to business blogs, before you can sit down to write a good blog post, you need to nail down exactly what it is you’re selling. It could be a product. It could be a service. It could be your perspective. Whatever that thing is that you’re selling, that’s the starting point to creating.

So what am I selling? Depending on the venue, I’m selling something different. During the day, I’m selling Tung oil and beehives. For Mystery Tin Games, I’m selling Dinner’s Ready! But here, on the Mystery Tin blog, it may be a little bit unclear what it is I’m selling.

I’d like to think that I am a creator, and the product of my creativity is what I’m selling. Even as I’m writing it down, it feels too vague of a mission to gain traction and readership (at this point in my life). Are the products of my creative efforts in photography, art, podcasting, screenwriting and blogging solving real world problems? Dinner’s Ready! does. Tung oil does. But what about my blog? What problems am I fixing in the written musings on the Mystery Tin blog? Why have you read this far?

I think you’re here for entertainment. I think you’re here for inspiration. I think you’re here to laugh and most importantly, I hope you’re here on the off chance you might even learn a little bit. And I think you’ve read this far because you may feel the same way about some of your own endeavors. 

Okay. Let’s see, that sounds easy enough. My target audience is comprised of people seeking out a good story with a take-away moral cleverly tucked in between the laughs. That doesn’t sound like an easy egg to crack.

Perhaps my goal is to contribute to a growing community of creative storytellers across many intellectual genres; art, technology, politics, writing, science, comedy, all beautifully sharing with one another the delicacies of their crafts and supporting the successes of one another. A journey of creative discovery, taking place on the digital pages of the Mystery Tin blog. Learning! Now we’re getting somewhere.

So why would you come back to this blog rather than any others in the community? What could I possibly teach you that you couldn’t find better somewhere else? The easiest answer is that it starts with good, interesting content from my perspective on my own circumstances. My writing needs to be decisive and actionable. Recalling casual hikes and posting pictures of my lunch isn’t going to build a community. Empowering other artists through the life lessons gleaned from my personal experiences should be underlying theme of the best posts on my blog.

The other essential key to a successful blog is consistency. I set my watch according to the releases of my favorite blogs, television shows, and podcasts. Why can’t the Mystery Tin blog be that beacon on someone else’s list of important weekly events? Honestly, there’s no reason it can’t be.

Entertaining stories with a takeaway lesson… I can sell that.

What are you selling?

Learning from the Lumps

I’ve had a few “door-to-door” sales jobs in my life, and the truth is, I didn’t like them at all. I believed in what I was selling (sometimes) but for some reason, the unsolicited business proposition always felt a touch pushy. Yucky.

My first door-to-door sales job was the summer between Junior and Senior year in college. I was living in my friend Ward’s guest room, when I got a job selling framed artwork out of the back of my car. It was prints of famous works of art, that I was selling “at frame cost.” The whole thing felt kinda scummy, but the people were cool. I shadowed two people, and on the third day I went out on my own. I sold four black and white photographs to a dentist office then quit. I went home, drank tequila and watched the World Cup.

The second door-to-door sales job was a few years later in Sydney, Australia while I was living there after college. I was looking for a job, any job, and I found an opening at one of the large telephone companies. The posting was rather cryptic, but I was feeling pressured to find work, so I went for the interview.

I sat down and we briefly touched on the idea of door-to-door sales. I said I wasn’t ecstatic about the idea, but I was willing to give it a shot. So after the meeting, rather than going home, I was escorted into the back of a van and driven out to a random corner of Sydney to start canvassing. Trial by fire, I guess.

It was raining and cold out, and we got turned away from every single house we approached. After an hour of this nonsense, I literally walked away from the group. I had no idea where I was in Sydney, but the thing I did know, was that I had no interest in selling phone upgrades for some major conglomerate. That’s just not for me.

But the concept of “door-to-door” sales has once again thrust itself into my lap, this time with Dinner’s Ready! I’m no longer peddling garbage for a conglomerate, I’m selling my own hard work, my own blood, sweat, and tears. On it’s face, the situations are completely different, but inside, I felt the same unease, but now there’s the added elements of fear and rejection.

Last fall, while developing Dinner’s Ready!, I went store to store in my neighborhood looking for similar food-related card games. I found the same food games at every store. The sushi game. Slapwich. Nothing special, or even remotely related to my game. This, I took, as a good sign for my game.

The very first store I went into back in August, let’s call it Cute Store, seemed receptive to my idea, and on the way out, somebody said, “maybe you should make one.” Bingo. If there was any place that I should being my door-to-door sales, it should be with Cute Store, the same place that supported my idea in the first place. Not to mention, opening with that story could be a great way to ease into the sale!

Last week, I went into Cute Store and after introducing myself, asked if I could speak to the manager or owner. The woman behind the register seemed put upon by my request, so much to the point she didn’t even tell me her name. She remained withdrawn (and frankly rue) while I asked if she had a moment to chat. Of course she said she didn’t, despite there being no other patrons in the store. I marched on, telling the story of the visit last fall, and that I had developed Dinner’s Ready! after all.

“Does it have a CPSC certification?” she asked. “Because if it doesn’t, this whole thing is kinda moot.”

Wow. I had never even heard of the CPSC (which was a good thing for me to learn about) but her tone cut me to the core. She didn’t even want to look at the game before dismissing me. She wrote down “CPSC” and the owner’s name on a business card, telling me to come back when I have the certification.

The CPSC is the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and it requires that all products geared towards children must be certified by a third party laboratory to ensure safety, etc. No dangerous parts or chemicals, etc. This helps protect stores against third party liabilities, in the event a kid swallows their game piece or something.

But I wasn’t building a children’s game with pieces. I wasn’t even really building a children’s game, it’s just a card game that families and children can play. Does it really need all this expensive testing? And after a little more research, I found that the CPSC states that “general audience” card games are not considered children’s games and therefore, require no certification. So it’s looks like I’m all good!

So today I marched back into Cute Store, asked for the owner, and when she came out from the back, I pitched Dinner’s Ready! again, complete with sample deck in hand. It was my first real sales test out in the world, and I’ll be honest, I was shaking like crazy! I was nervous and jittery, and I stumbled a little bit, but I think I was able to get everything across I needed to. When she asked about the CPSC certification, I presented the FAQ’s page and told her that “general audience” games don’t need it. She was pleased to hear that.

When my pitch was over, she held my sales packet in her hand and looked at me honestly, “This is really cute. I think this is a great game and something that we could definitely carry in our store. I’ll have to check with my partner but we’ll be in touch.”

Yes, I know. That’s not a sale. But it’s not the flat out “no” I got last time. I had stewed on that first rejection really hard, debating if I should even go back into Cute Store at all. Part of me wanted to write them off all together, but the bigger side of me wanted to prove that Dinner’s Ready! really should be out in the world and in their store. I couldn’t let one rejection get me so far down, and in the end, it may pay off.

So I happy spent this afternoon, going storefront to storefront, peddling my wares.

You’re gonna take lumps. Lots of them. But if you do your best to learn from the lumps, refocus your negatives into positives (by asking questions and seeking ways to grow from the no’s), you’ll find that every experience, the good, the bad, and the really really ugly, can all be turned into a learning experience, and help build up your confidence for the next challenge, whatever it may be.

Don’t give up, get fired up!


P.S. If you’re a retailer or online distributor interested in carrying Dinner’s Ready!, check out our Dinner’s Ready! Sales Packet!