The Greatest Salesman That Ever Lived

My cell phone rings and I notice it’s from an unrecognized or unknown number – hmmm, everyone deals with these differently; I always want to know who is calling.

The calls that I find disturbing are “spam” and “robocalls” – spam I classify as those from despicable people that want to steal from you and robocalls are those that typically want to sell you something, and sometimes they are one and the same. People trying to steal from you should be sought out, charged and jailed and I find it hard to believe that the technology is not here to make this happen – not to be a cynic but everything has a cost! For robocalls, I would never buy anything from anyone that would have a machine interrupt me and not be willing to call and speak to me live.

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I answer the phone and get a shaky “hello” from the caller. As the call continues, the caller is offering a service and free quotation to have my ducts cleaned, to which I politely explain that we do not have ducts as we have radiant heat and can you please take me off the list – followed by thank you for the call. Having grown up in the shadow of a consummate salesman (my father), right or wrong, I have an uncommon respect for anyone trying to earn a living in the toughest arena on earth; cold calling, today’s version of door to door sales – the ultimate in “push marketing”. I get goose bumps just thinking about it and I’m not taking about fast talking, foot in the door and obviously untrustworthy salesmanship.

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My father – while he was an educated man, instinctively understood that any kind of sales or creativity used to achieve a desired outcome, is about problem solving and negotiation. He was “old school” and believed there are no “Bluebirds” and no accident that people who always seem to be lucky in achievement, generally are those that work the hardest.  “Bluebird” is a term often used by salespeople describing how another salesperson achieved a great deal – in my opinion the term more often stems from a sense of jealousy.

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Retiring from his executive position within a large brewery in the mid-sixties, my father purchased a hotel in a remote area, let’s just say the middle of nowhere. A complete leap of faith which should have led to complete financial ruin, but I know the challenge only inspired him and I marvel today at the courage both he and my mother exhibited. While the hotel had 15 or so rooms, the business was really a place for seasonal tourist and work crews to enjoy a beer or two. Work crews were key; hard working men from local mines, sawmills and pipeliners that went through the area from time to time. Without these crews, the business would surely go under. On a side note, I remember my father being called almost daily from the bank to bring in the night’s take to support the overdrawn credit line.  My father tolerated these calls for a short time, but finally, and in true salesmanship fashion when understanding it’s time to fish or cut bait, gave in – telling the bank not to call again unless they wanted the keys to the business.

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It’s important to understand that these work crews were not necessarily bad people, but (as my dad use to say) were not being served milk either – and along with that came obvious challenges.

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One incident in particular, I will never forget. The pipeline crews had been working in the area for about a month. Their business, while much needed was being overshadowed by the damages they were leaving (the hotel was being torn apart) and had reached a point of crossroads – the business couldn’t survive without them but would surely be destroyed if something did not change.

I remember the drive out to the work site – quiet and yet full of anticipation, but I really had no idea what was going on. Arriving, my father walked across a muddy field toward the man he knew to be the Foreman (the man wearing a white construction hat); a rather large burly fellow who watched my father rather intently as he neared – the entire work force watching/wondering what the heck the hotel owner was doing here. I watched from the car as a few words were spoken, saw smiles and then a handshake – the whole discussion taking less than five minutes. On the way home my father advised that there would not be any further problems at the hotel.

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That was my father; always meeting things head on, usually enjoying the challenge and ultimately finding a solution. He left me with so many stories like this.

Years later I learned that my father made the Foreman an offer. The offer was; as long as the work crews were respectful and didn’t cause problems in the hotel, the Foreman would drink for free. I always smile when I think of this and while likely not acceptable by today’s standards – what a salesman!

That is why I answer my phone and take the call from the salesrep……………

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