When it comes to making millions, Dariush Soudi is no sheer fluke. Shagufta Patel sits down with the wise and tenacious sales guru to discover why he’s invested in to turning salespeople into gladiators. Written by Qiraat Attar
Darish Soudi is a man who is the perfect example of ‘when life turns sour learn to make lemonade’. Most people realize that their days are numbered when it’s far too late; for Dariush, it has been his reality since his boyhood days. Born in Iran, he learned early in life that time is everything. His father was only 30 when he died of a heart attack, and soon after, his grandfather passed away when the lad was just seven.
Not over yet, there were growing pains in store for him, more than what any young boy should endure; pains that have indelibly shaped him to what we see today. On uneven ground as an Iranian refugee in the UK, all of 13, Dariush was bullied mercilessly for his ‘funny’ accent. Dyslexic, beaten down, he eventually left school, which never held much appeal to him anyway. Since traditional jobs never seemed to be a good fit, Dariush felt a pull towards the high-octane, high-stakes world of sales.
He loved it instantly. Later in his book ‘Monkey Business’, Dariush attributes his resounding success to the fact that he is not inherently gifted but a lifelong learner and striver. He was never the best, but he won because he worked harder than anyone else. “Eight out of ten people are monkeys because they are not gifted and have to learn to grow with experience. I am one of them.”
The Turning Point
Twists of fate can bring even the strongest man to his knees. Having fought the odds, Dariush rose to phenomenal success in the UK. Anyone would consider their success a guarantee at that stage of life, but a series of unforeseen events snatched it away, and Dariush was tested in the battleground of circumstance.
One ordinary night when he was home with his kids, Dariush’s home was ambushed by intruders. Held at knifepoint, he grazed death by a whisper and was only just able to deter the attackers into leaving him and his children alone with the promise of more money. When he gathered his wits, the first thing he did was to put his kids on a plane to the safe haven of their mother’s home in Dubai.
Then came a heart attack out of the blue, owing to the overwhelming stress in his life. In the hospital, he broke down. “I remember crying, not because I was scared of death, but because I didn’t want to die alone, looking at the hospital ceiling.”
In a flurry, he wrapped up his business affairs in the UK. “I gave one of my businesses to a member of my staff who had been with me for ten years, and she is still running it extremely successfully. Sold another two of my businesses, but it so happened that the buyers gave me a 10 % deposit and cheated me out of the outstanding 90%. I left everything as is, burning the bridges because if I didn’t, I would always be tempted to go back.” He landed in Dubai with a measly 750 dollars in his pocket and the knowledge that he had to build up from scratch again.
To his credit, Dariush is no quitter.
Making the First Move
Gunning for glory, Dariush planned his life down to the minute to achieve his goals. “I sold my soul. I wrote out all my goals on little postcards. One of them was to live in a respectable apartment, and the other was to have a car. I broke my time down by hour, day, week, month.” Every minute was accounted for.
The other hurdle was learning the rules of the game, this time around in the UAE. “One that has served me well financially is knowing that a bounced check will land you in jail in Dubai.”
“At the time, I was going door to door, copywriting, basically doing anything that could make money. The need of the hour was to get a car, but there was no money for it, so I bought a car on credit and had 30 days to pay it back. Twenty-seven days had gone by, and I didn’t have a single paying customer. With only one prospect – a relocation company, whom I promised a 30% increase in sales, driving down to his office thinking on a loop, with the fuel dwindling and no money to refuel the car, ‘If I don’t make this sale, it’s jail time’. Despite this, I walked into the boardroom and sat there with more confidence and power than I felt, proposal ready at my side.” In the next 30 seconds that ticked by, Dariush remembers thinking that it would be the end of the world if he didn’t win this.
As the client went over his proposal, Dariush made the first move, extending his hand to seal the deal. This move is symbolic of his persona, his whole attitude – that of an initiator, a go-getter, who inspires confidence in people first and foremost because he stands on the solid ground of his own conviction. This entire incident is etched in his memory and with his impassioned rendition, etched in ours. “Sitting in the car after the deal was done, I felt physically sick and may have cried for about an hour. A year ago, I was buying Ferraris with a credit card, now I was begging for 2000 dollars. I made a decision. This too shall pass.”
If you want to make millions, learn from someone who has made the money, especially if he has made it twice over. Speaking to Dariush is a masterclass on the go. His anecdotes are littered with gems through the conversation, and grasping even a few of them could turn your life around. Indeed, he’s a master of sales; there are no two ways about it, but his uniquely challenging life overlapping with his hunger for a better, greater existence makes for a perspective few people possess.
One cardinal rule that he lives by – always deliver value. In the beginning, it’s your word against the work of experienced providers, so the odds are pretty slim in your favor unless you turn the tables with your skill.
“When selling most prospect would say they wanted to think and get back to you. 99% never do. You have to keep going, knowing that some people will say no. You train yourself anyway to always ask for the sale. I believe I overdeliver. That’s what makes me successful.”
Sales is really a people’s skill finessed to an art form, so reading people beyond their words is all part of the game. If you’re insecure, the buyer is going to suss you out. “You have to be hungry, but not desperate. When you know you bring value, you’re confident. I always believe I’m doing the prospect a favor; they just don’t know it yet. I’m conveying, take a risk on me so that you see for yourself that I overdeliver. Next time, you will be begging me to work with you.”
Straight off to the next lesson, change the script. The best salespeople have heard the repetitive responses of buyers and know how to respond in a way that reigns it back in their favor. For instance, he noticed that most buyers would thwart salespeople with a rehearsed ‘Oh, I’m just looking’ response when asked what they wanted to buy. So at Dariush’s chain of health clubs he flipped the script. “I would outright lead with – Are you just looking?” he recalls. “Now you’ve thrown them off, and you take the lead. Then, from A to B, lead them with a story. A story educating them about the latest trends, story of how you came up with the name of the business, never try to sell the prospect anything. Always educate them. Only then the buyer sees you as someone who knows what he is talking about. The moment they say, ‘Can you help me?’, you’ve got them. When there is trust, then you can make a sale.”
Beyond sales, Dariush imbibes some qualities, learned through life and his failures and successes alike, that make him a more upstanding human. For instance, he notes that he lacked humility when he sported a more high-flying lifestyle. All that changed when things took a turn for the worse. “When you fall flat on your face, it teaches you to be humble.”
Having seen the incredible highs and abject lows of life. Dariush lives a life of gratitude. Nothing is permanent, and nothing lasts forever. This gratitude reflects when he speaks and thus makes him a profoundly inspiring public speaker. “I’m not a professional speaker, but I speak from the heart, and that resonates with people. People feel that if this foreigner who was dyslexic, uneducated, and achieved everything that he did through passion and hard work, I can do it too. If I can inspire people, that’s my legacy.”
In business, more comforting or humane qualities are often derided for they are perceived as weaknesses. Nothing, in fact, is more misunderstood than empathy. “When you have empathy, you listen to others instead of simply talking about yourself.” Dariush cautions about balance though. Uninhibited goodness is naivete and will not survive, is his sagely advises. “If you are too humble, you get walked all over. Too egotistic, and you’re a bully whom no one likes. To be successful, you need the right balance of empathy and ego. That balance is what makes you successful.”
Dubai meets Dariush
Like most people with vision, Dariush is enamored by the spirit of Dubai. Here, despite the hardships and his eventual triumph, he is happier than he has ever been. “It’s no surprise that so many billionaires come to this land of opportunities. When you can see far, the horizons stretching beyond, it shapes you. Dubai does the same. We have an amazing leader, a visionary. I see potential in Dubai, with its open borders, tolerant behavior, and as a European, no taxes as well. If you treat people with dignity, they behave better. Everyone is very courteous and respectful in Dubai. There’s a rule against public swearing, which may sound like it’s curbing freedom of speech, but it’s really just being respectful to people. In fact, when Gary Vee came to Dubai,even he curbed his swearing, which is very rare.”
He also extols the virtues of Dubai’s leader, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “I have a company with about 100 people, and its so hard managing such a small company. Shiekh Mohammed runs a county, with millions of people which 40 years ago was just desert. Now it’s one of the most desirable cities to live in, superbly planned, methodically laid out. There are roads with hardly any traffic lights, a nine-billion-dollar tram system with not a single human running it. The train system, multiway, and highways are all feats of excellence. And yet, if you ask him, he says he’s achieved about 4% of his ambitions, and he keeps pushing at it.” I owe him my life.
Not Salespeople, But Gladiators Wanted
In the arena, a gladiator has two choices: win or die. Business is no different. These are the words that introduce you to Dariush’s latest endeavor, ‘Gladiator Mastery’, a synthesis of the ideas and principles that have made him a victor in the arena we call life.
The program is an embodiment of Dariush’s persona himself – A crucible in which courage is forged. This highly exclusive event draws participants who want to up their game in life.
The program is designed with activities that trigger our ancient survival skills and employ not just our capabilities but also the instinct that makes humans the most dominant of all species. Goading participants to band together, communicate, rely on each other, inspire trust through a series of activities that teach them how to sell, not just at the job, but intends to inculcate within them a keen eye that spots and grabs opportunities, each time.
“Through this course, you will learn to wield your weapons with expertise in the business battlefield, negotiate your way to freedom and close more deals, find the tribe that shares your vision, stand with confidence in the best and worst of scenarios, practice your defense and offense, derive more profit, and finally, look beyond just the now and leave an enduring legacy,” says the master trainer who wants to impart his powerful learnings to as many as he can.
As we seize the opportunity to catch some glimpses from the previous Gladiator Mastery course, what jumps out at us is Dariush’s infectious passion and zeal for life and his calling, transcending through the gladiators-in-training who have joined him. There’s the rigor and thrill on the faces of the groups of people as they go beyond their comfort zone and do the things that terrify us on an everyday basis – freefalling or the simulation of escaping an airplane in peril, but the biggest of all – collaborating with strangers, introducing themselves over and over humbly and with no ego, placing hard work over whatever excuse they may want to give themselves to escape the situation.
It goes without saying that not everyone can withstand such enthusiasm for sales. But if Dariush’s words have resonated with you, find out more about Gladiator Mastery, to be held monthly as an intensive two-day experiential workshop. If you have a spark, this skirmish to mastery will fan it into a flame. And we can guarantee this – when one has lived his life as boldly in the pursuit of passion and excellence, wouldn’t you want to learn the art of the deal from the Gladiator Grandmaster himself?