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How to get a black eye and what you can learn from it

A few years back I was MMA training (yeah, like knock-out hand-to-hand close combat fighting style) at a gym in Ottawa and I learned 2 valuable lessons. Firstly, you will get punched straight on in the face. Secondly, when you are grappling head-to-head with an opponent, save up all the strength you can while you wait for your takedown moment.

Why is this relevant? After a year of figuring out our business, we’ve learned that face-to-face product demonstrations is our key “get” strategy for growing our customer base. You can expect to get punched straight in the face, and you can learn to save your energy for when it matters most.


Black Eyes, Birds and Stars

When you put yourself out there with your gift to the world, it will be received with a wide assortment of feedback.  That punch to the face moment will happen to you and it will sting.  Here’s what it might look like:

A) Nobody will care and you will stand there all alone.

B) People will walk by, look at your product and rolls their eyes.

C) Someone might stop and ask you what you do, then proceed to tell you why it isn’t really that great.

D) Someone will exclaim that what you’ve got is a great idea, then walk away showing zero further interest at all.

There you will be, standing in the ring dazed and confused.

The more effort you put into your idea, the more dazed you’ll feel when you get knocked down. Someone will stop by and you’ll try to sneak in every selling point, every angle, every feature, and in the end, you are standing alone, with your widget in your hand, questioning your place on this fine earth. Product demonstrations can be rough, and the knockouts will hurt.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Drag In

Here’s where the second “in-the-ring” lesson comes in handy.

Allow me to describe the situation: you are standing there with your widget (app, idea, poster, cd, whatever) and a curious looking person approaches. Instead of jumping into your pitch, bite your tongue, take a breath and speak these simple words:

“What’s your first impression?”

Take a breath and listen. And listen, and listen, and listen. You can learn to save your energy for the people that matter, but only after you bite your tongue cowboy (cowgirl), and listen.  It is so tempting to tell that person your whole story, what you’ve got, what you’re doing for the world… but don’t. Here’s why:

I remember getting 2 minutes through a pitch to a stranger when she stopped me and said: “That’s really nice and all, but I hate when my food touches.  I would never buy your product, I just thought it looked odd that someone would actually do something like this.”   K-O.  Down for the count; stars in the sky.

Had I just asked her first impression rather than jump on it, I might have saved 2 minutes of oxygen supply and half of my day’s dignity.

I can’t think of an author that captures it better than Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly: “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”

Closing thoughts

You are never beyond the customer demonstration stage. Get out there with what you got, expect to receive some punches aimed directly at your face, and patiently save your valuable energy for the folks that matter.  They will make themselves known, and they will ask the questions, tell you what they think, and make you a whole lot more effective at what you do.


carson-kolbergCarson Kolberg

Co-founder of Meal In A Jar

Twitter: @koolberg