Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Start of my Selling Career

When did my sales career really start? Thanks to the influence of sales leaders like Zig Ziglar I would have to at least go back to my first job. As Zig says, we are all in sales, in one way or another and I would have to say that delivering newspapers was my first sales job. In fact my newspaper business contained certain aspects of a sales career I only recently recognized.

A newspaper is a healthy combination of both product and service. It is reading material, reporting, and the possibility of home delivery. Like a book or magazine a newspaper is a material product. While reporting and delivery are services provided. In fact the advertisements within a newspaper are a service to many that connects consumers with other products, services, promotions, and events. Without a huge discussion on the benefits of the newspapers and how they influence our lives I'll focus on how my newspaper route shaped my sales career.

Interestingly I don't remember ever being told no while asking for new subscriptions. However, I certainly remember receiving healthy commissions on newspaper sales. None of those things are presently in my possession but I know they included things most kids had like baseball or football cards, comic books, and video games. In fact I had the nicest bike in town that would have cost me a years worth of delivery money earned in several months with new subscriptions. Undoubtedly, as any salesperson will agree, I must have received many no's to reach the yes's for such rewards. This was a reminder to me that although I will receive many more no's, than yes's, in my sales career the rewards of the yes's are the only things that should enter my mind while selling.

Not every newspaper carrier was as ambitious as I was and I rarely meet anyone that delivered newspapers, without the help of their parents, for as long as I did at such a young age. I started shortly after turning 12 and continued delivering until I was almost 16. I delivered seven days a week and even took on a morning route for a year and extra routes when others were sick or on vacation. This may make you wonder how I made time for my family, friends, and school. Unfortunately, it didn't leave much and a year after adding a morning route I had to drop it because my grades reflected the time put into my routes. In fact, my life was incredibly out of balance in pursuit of my many toys. I had the toys that others wanted but didn't have the time others had to enjoy them. My second lesson learned was that I must make time to enjoy family, friends, and the fruits of labor.

It's been pointed out in many management books that incentives motivate more than money and I'm sure you can see this was the case for me. Money was never really my driving factor, the toys were. Though I must say that the recognition, relationships, and appreciation received were my greatest rewards. My customers were the reason I had a job and I did all I could to show them my gratitude. I listened to their stories when I delivered, paid attention to their pets, and would go out of my way to place the newspaper wherever they asked. Without realizing it, I was putting people first, and as a result I have many great stories to share, one I will share before closing.

While delivering the newspaper shortly before Christmas an older lady I delivered to apparently waited for me to arrive that day. Of all my customers she was the least demanding and yet the most deserving of extra attention as frail as she was. She waved me to the door and handed me an envelope explaining that it isn't much but it's all she could give. Frankly, I rarely expected tips, perhaps only partly from those that demanded special treatment. For example, inside the side screen door under the carport. Anyway, as I mentioned, this nice lady never asked for anything more than a daily newspaper. I thanked her kindly for whatever was in the envelope, internally guessing about a dollar or two, and departed. To my surprise, inside the envelope was one twenty dollar bill for my efforts. Another lesson learned, you never know who your best customer's are until after the service is provided, so treat every customer like your most important one.

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