In our regular #MrFirstMcJob series, high fliers remember when they were still soaring low
Hi Peter! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Peter Nixey and I'm the creator of productivity tool, Intentional, and also the man behind Butane.ai, which provides coaching and consulting to help people make use of GPT4 in their business.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Selling books, door-to-door, in America.
How did you get that job?
I was in my first year at Oxford, desperate to start a company, and saw an advert in the JCR: start in business in America and earn $500 a week. I went along to the interview which I later realised was not an interview but was in fact raw recruitment, and got accepted into the commission-only multi-level-marketing program. I signed up, booked and paid for my flights, went to America, trained up and then hit the beat, knocking on doors trying to sell books to people.
What else did you have to do?
That was pretty much just it. They’re actually a really impressive company called Southwestern. We went out from 8am to 8pm. The aim was to do 30 demonstrations a day, which meant knocking on a lot more than 30 doors every day. We'd do that from Monday to Saturday, then on Sunday, drive from West Virginia where we’d been posted, across to Pennsylvania for our weekly sales meet-ups. I went out there with a friend and we were so tired by those Sunday drives home that one of us would drive and the other would have to poke them to keep them awake!
How long did you work there for?
Three months one summer holiday.
Did anything funny happen?
You always make the sale inside the house, so your aim is to get someone to invite you in. I knocked on one door, and this guy let me in weirdly quickly, which was unusual. I then started the sales pitch and learning more about him. We’d been trained to ask indirect questions. If you give a choice: “Are your kids in grade school or secondary school?” you’re more likely to get an answer. We were mainly selling children’s books. He said: “I don't have any kids, but I would like you to pray with me.”
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
I learned the five stages of sale: 1) attention, are you even aware of this? 2) interest, there's a lot of things out there, do you want it? 3) desire - do you really want it, 4) conviction, have you decided you’re going to get it 5) close, do you actually get it? You need to go though all these in order. I also learned that the key to sales is not in trying to force non-buyers into becoming buyers, but in finding the people who want to buy and helping them “find the light” to do so.
Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?
My journey has brought me across one of the chaps I spent the summer with them. He's a lovely guy. We happen to be part of the same entrepreneurial circle in London.
Why is alumni important to you?
The institutions I’ve been a part of didn’t fire up alumni networks when I was there but I’m sorry they didn’t. I was part of YCombinator which is a phenomenal seed investor in the states that backed huge names like Airbnb and Stripe. It’s a very powerful Silicon Valley network. They’ve activated their alumni network much more over the years but since I’m in the UK it’s a bit harder to keep in touch.
What would happen if you went back and did another day trying to sell books in America?
I think I might sit hugging my knees and rocking on the ground!
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say, “Listen. You're going have a number of different ideas for start-ups. Follow them through, get all the resources you can. You've got the right idea, you're in the right place at the right time.” And then (obvs) buy Bitcoin as soon as you hear about it – and then sell it all at $60,000.
What was your favourite book you sold?
I had a good cookbook spiel, for people who didn't have kids. I'd say: “Do you like cooking? And do you like books? Then you're going loooove the new cookbook from Southwestern.” Nobody else managed to shift any cookbooks but I managed to get a few out of the door through making people laugh.