At age 18, I responded to a paper ad that guaranteed $1,600 a month in base pay. The opportunity turned out to be a door-to-door vacuum sales job. I took it, and spent the next period of my life knocking on strangers’ doors with the goal of selling each person I met a $2,000 vacuum cleaner. To say the least, it was a daunting, and some days seemingly impossible, task.
And, it was the most important job I’ve ever had.
A teenager with limited experience, I accepted the job not knowing if I had any sales skills whatsoever. But, as soon as I got over my fear of approaching people, I realized that talking with individuals I’d never met was actually pretty fun. Solving their problems was thrilling.
As it turned out, I wasn’t selling vacuum cleaners, I was selling more time with the kids, better preparation for the in-law pop-in or just the idea of a fresher home.
I came to see that the formula for sales success was simply “Knock + Listen + Fix.”
It was that very formula that catapulted me to the position of top vacuum salesperson in Iowa! The sales bug had bitten me, and I was ready for the next level. I’d become addicted to the feeling of helping others reach their goals while also helping myself achieve financial stability.
That’s when I saw an opening for a loan officer. It was easy for me to get excited about helping borrowers solve problems. That career stop-off became a launching pad for starting my own businesses. Fast forward to today, and my third fintech startup, LenderClose, is solving all kinds of problems – for credit unions and their member borrowers. The platform enables a much faster, much more streamlined lender experience, which in turn, makes for a simpler and richer borrower experience.
I’ve learned a lot since my job in vacuum sales, but it was that first work experience that taught me the fundamental lessons I still apply today. These were the three most important takeaways:
1. Understand pain points and provide solutions. Most of the people who purchased vacuums didn’t start out asking for a new vacuum. But, they didn’t like tread marks or wear and tear on their carpets. Those were caused by vacuums that couldn’t effectively extract dirt and sand like mine could – and mine would last five times longer.
After being a loan officer for a number of years, I saw how laborious it could be for both the lender and the borrower to collect all of the underwriting documents. I knew the technology was there to develop a much better solution. So, alongside an excellent team of lending market experts, that’s exactly what I did.
2. Sell a product that sells itself. I never would have been a successful vacuum salesman if I didn’t believe the product I had was better. When people saw the superior performance for themselves, their minds were made up.
We experience a lot of the same as we visit with credit unions today. Once they see for themselves the possibilities of a superior technology, they join us. LenderClose allows lenders to gather all the underwriting information through one platform, instead of going to at least a dozen different places. It’s pay-as-you-use, without minimum purchase requirements, additional fees or exclusive contracts. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness sell themselves.
3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There were many reasons I could have failed as a vacuum salesman, as a loan officer or as a start-up entrepreneur. And, I certainly haven’t done everything right along the way. The fear of making a mistake or wrong decision can be paralyzing. But, not taking action is the bigger mistake.
I tried a lot of sales angles and techniques that didn’t work out, but I learned from each experience how to do things better. One of my favorite quotes is, “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start getting excited about what could go right.”
Not dwelling on what might go wrong, and instead getting excited about creating a game-changing technology solution for lenders is what brought us to the high-growth stage we’re in today. More than 100 lending institutions use the LenderClose platform, and we are constantly reinvesting in new technology that solves our customers’ problems.