Fifty years ago this week, I started my first selling job. I was given a Ford Escort and my area was the South East of England from the Thames to the coast. I had to call on DIY and hardware shops.
Even with my moustache I still only looked 20, so I told all my customers that I was new and inexperienced and could they help me please. It turned out to be a very good tactic. Now that I am 70, I still find it works.
I made 8 calls every day. It was much easier then; you could park near to each shop without having to pay. In each town you quickly learnt the whereabouts of the public convenience and a restaurant where you could get a cheap nourishing lunch.
There were no computers. I carried a box of cards, one for each customer. They told me what that customer bought from us and I pencilled in notes to remind me to ask how his wife’s operation went or how his daughter fared with her “O” Levels.
I was very successful. They felt sorry for me because I was so young. The older reps taught me how to fiddle the expense claims. This proved useful knowledge a few years later when I employed my own team of reps. I also learnt that the sales office manager was not my friend. He was there to obstruct orders going out and new accounts being opened.
Six years later when I had my own business, I made the sales office manager go out for a few days with reps. They took him to their most awkward customers so that he could see the consequences of his actions.
Most importantly, I learnt how to establish relationships and to convince buyers that it was in their best interest to buy from me...
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