From time to time I’m asked about how I got into the sales profession. In this post I’ll take you back to the beginning of this journey. It originated on a hot July day in 1960 when, as a fifth grader, my mother handed me a brochure. It had arrived in the mail from a greeting card company. Its purpose was to entice me to sell their Christmas cards. In turn I could earn various prizes from their catalog. I didn’t know why it came addressed to me, but I flipped it open and looked inside.
As my eyes scanned the colorful pages of the brochure, there it was. Green with gold pin stripes and a three-speed shift on the handlebars. It was the English racer bicycle I often thought about, but knew was more expensive than Dad could afford. But the catalog stated it could be mine for selling only 35 boxes of their Christmas cards…to somebody. I didn’t know anything about selling, but my desire for that shiny bike overshadowed my fear of knocking on doors and showing those cards to as many people as it took for 35 of them to say yes.
When I showed the picture and shared my goal with Mom, she surprised me. She said, “If you really want that bike badly enough, I believe you can do this.” When my Dad got home from the factory and heard my scheme, he was less optimistic. However, he told me he wouldn’t stand in my way if I chose to try. In the same breath, he gave me a warning. I had to do it all on my own and shouldn’t ask him or Mom to help.
Over the next six weeks, I knocked on most of the over 400 doors in my modest subdivision. These were tract homes in suburban Louisville where we lived. I quickly found that discussing Christmas cards in July was a real oxymoron. Additionally, those cards were not the dime store variety, but very nice, maybe even a bit pricey for my neighborhood. But each time I began to get wimpy, I reminded myself to keep my eyes on the prize.
I won’t dwell here on some of the colorful things I heard through screen doors during that hot summer, but I think what is important to share was the exhilaration I experienced returning from school one late October afternoon. My mom pointed to a large cardboard carton with my name on it that arrived by delivery truck earlier that day. Glancing at that narrow cardboard box, my excitement exploded when it hit me what was inside. As the green fenders appeared from the shipping crate, the fruits of my labors were realized!
At that moment, the dozens of people who either said no, no thank you, you’ve got to be kidding, or simply just didn’t answer their door, although I could hear their radios and televisions through open windows; faded from my memory. The ones I remembered were those 35 who became customers by saying ‘yes’ to my rudimentary sales pitch.
Fast forward seven years, I graduated high school, having been awarded the senior superlative designation of Best Personality from the Class of ’67’. That fall I became the first one on either side of my family to enter college. Three years later I was also the first one to drop out of college. At the time it wasn’t a good fit for me, and I didn’t see the career payoff of a college degree. But during those years I often heard friends and fellow employees say, “You would do well in sales.” For the first time I began to think seriously about giving that a try.
After a break for military service in the Army Reserve I was offered my first job as a sales rep. I became convinced that I could make a better living than on a traditional job. I visualized a level of freedom my college educated friends who worked in office building cubicles didn’t have. On the flip side, my wife and other family members were less than excited, and frankly embarrassed over my new found career.
Since then, 45 years have elapsed, and during that time I’ve sold personally, both as a captive employee and on a self-employed basis in several different industries. I have been a sales manager for multi-state sales teams, a successful corporate sales trainer in a training center environment, and a sales coach for several hundred reps in a blue collar services industry. Today I’m semi-retired and own and operate a sales coaching practice.
During my working life I won’t brag that I was #1 in every position I held, because I wasn’t. I will state that I consistently resided in the top 20%. In the process I discovered there is no such thing as a natural born salesperson. Frankly selling, like anything else, can be learned. God has given everyone the free will to attempt and accomplish virtually anything they desire. They must possess the willingness to obtain the required training and exercise the necessary work ethic to pursue their dreams.
By performing this necessary function in society, I also discovered that I was right in my thinking that I would be able to earn an above-average income while maintaining my integrity. I realized that selling is something you do for and with someone, rather than something you do to someone. I was careful to weave those components throughout the book I wrote and published in 2012, entitled Sell is Not a Four Letter Word.
There are 7 super-short videos located here where Juliana, Keith, Shawn, Jeff, Paul, Tony, and Michael share something they learned from Doug and his publications that helped them increase their sales and income. They would like for you to take a look and see what they are excited about.
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