My parents did not have a lot of money and both worked labor intensive jobs, my dad at a bowling alley, a barber, a roofer, parks department, steel company and finally retired working for a large aircraft company in Seattle. My mom like more technical jobs and she worked at a shoe factory, a microchip manufacturing company, a magazine distributing company, a laundry and also at the large aircraft company in Seattle.
They both worked hard and struggled to make ends meet, but we made it and for whatever reason, I knew I didn’t want to live like they did and the alternative was to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. The key was being a good listener and if you were a good listener, people thought you were smarter than you really were and it proved me right throughout my life. The old adage is “He who speaks first loses” and that simply means if you ask a question of someone, wait for their answer. Sales people specifically hate to wait for an answer after a trial close and usually say something that causes a delay or to reevaluate because you did not wait for their answer.
Sales people hate objections and that is what they fear most when they ask the closing question. If the answer to your closing question is an objection, that is another opportunity to close and gain the confidence of your prospect so use that to your advantage.
This section is an assimilation of short and interesting stories about my life and where my career has taken me as an entrepreneur.
I have launched over 70 new products both at Fortune 50 companies and many from an idea literally written out on a napkin while having breakfast.
I am lucky in that I have never had a job that I didn’t like or learn from, I have made a lot of money for myself, my family and the companies that employed me. The one fault I have is that I get bored and have left career opportunities others would have cherished but I am always on the lookout for a new challenge to conquer much as a mountain climber wanting to climb Mount Everest.
Kool Ade and the Construction workers.
My very first job other than collecting bottles, paper and wire and selling to the recycling people was selling Kool Aid. Most kids sold Kool Ade or lemonade in front of their house and the parents, relatives and neighbors would drop by and purchase a glass. About a couple of blocks down the road a group of construction men were building homes and in the summer in Illinois, it really got hot and it was humid and I figured they might have a thirst that I could quench.
I took several gallons of Kool Ade and filled them up with ice and sugar and put them in my red wagon and I trekked off to the where the construction workers were and opened up shop.
I didn’t even get the opportunity to set up my table when one of the construction workers yelled at me to come over and soon every construction worker purchased a glass of my cold Kool Ade and I was sold out in 10 minutes.
You can guess what I did. I ran back home, filled up the containers with more Kool Ade and ice and I hurried back to where the workers were and I was with them the whole summer and I probably made $200 selling glassed of cold Kool Ade.
What did I do to close this business?
- I recognized where the market was and I filled a need.
- I made sure the product was cold and flavor full and promised them I would be there every sunny day with cold drinks.
My Intrinsic Values
I believe that your intrinsic values make up the person and how you develop your intrinsic values is dependent on many variables. I believe your environment creates or steers you on how you perceive your values.
Parents are your first
While going to college I needed to have a job other than the box boy job I had during high school and I applied for and was hired to sell Collier Encyclopedias door to door in the suburbs of Seattle. I will never forget some of the sales techniques I learned during training and I still remember and use them today long after being retired. As a box boy even 20 years later some of the women checkers still remembered me as the best box boy they ever had and I was welcome to come back any time and I did a few times.
I had to buy a suit and all that goes along with being dressed up for the Colliers job. It was summer and really hot and after being trained and following along with an experienced closer, I was dropped off in a town called Bothell to see if I could sell encyclopedias.
Some of the key skills I learned were how to gain prospect interest and get in the door of your prospect. If you were invited in, you were half way there and it was up to you to sell the benefits and close the deal and get out before buyer’s remorse set in with your customer.
I remember one sale I made was using a negative closing technique and you had to be very selective when you used it. It goes like this. You knock on a door and no one comes to the door and you are leaving the door and then someone comes to the door and asks what you want. You turn and say I don’t think you would be interested and slowly walk away and the prospect asks again what do you want and again you say you don’t think he or she would be interested. The person might just close the door but in this case, the person did not want you to make the decision on whether or not he or she was interested so they ask you what you are selling.
I immediately turn and size up the person and have already scoped out the yard to see if there were play toys and try to judge the ages of the children in the household before I ask my first question. A dog ran from the door and I could tell the dog was not ferocious and he jumped on me and the owner called him off but I grabbed the dog and began petting him and that makes the prospect feel good if you like their dog so I have already succeeded in two things. One I have been invited in to discuss what it is I am selling and he knows his dog likes me and I like the dog.
I now am in the front door and I immediately see pictures of his children and they are young and that is a great sign and he has pictures of boats and fishing expeditions. I ask about the ages of his children and he says they are in elementary school and then I ask about what type of boat he has and what type of fishing he does and he opens up and asks if I wanted a glass of water or a soda and I say yes to the soda as it was hot.
We finally get around to my pitch and I explain the benefits a home set of encyclopedias would give to his children and how they would not have to go to the library for information and that there is a yearly book that comes out that updates the books with latest happenings in the world. I really key in on the children. I have pamphlets that open up to about four foot square and I place them under his feet on the floor so that he has to set up straight and lean over to read the print and keep his attention.
The books are in color, leather bound with quality paper and printing and I get him to browse through the first edition. Soon his wife and children come through the door and he is my salesperson. He introduces me to his wife and children and the dog again comes to me and I pet him while they are discussing my books.
Money is always an issue so I offer a payment option and will throw in a walnut bookcase that can also take an additional 20 new revision as they come out and they close the deal.
What did I do to close this deal?
- I used the negative approach to get his attention.
- His dog liked me and I petted the dog throughout my presentation.
- I scoped out his yard and recognized he must have young children.
- He invited me in and I noticed pictures of his children and his boat and prize fish he caught. I asked questions about his children and his hobbies and he felt comfortable in discussing his family with me.
- His wife and children come home and he introduced me and I began interacting with his children and they liked me and I asked the older child if he ever had occasion to need to use the encyclopedias at the school library and he said he did so I showed him the book and he liked it and said he would use them for his homework.
- I now sold the benefits of my product as having all the knowledge of a library but now it is in your home to better help his children succeed in school.
- Price was an issue so I had easy payment plans and threw in a nice walnut bookcase.
- I sold the razorblades and in this case it was a subscription service for 20 years with a new book covering the prior year’s events in history.
- I asked for the order, the down payment and left while I was petting the dog.
I had a knack for sales and sold four sets of encyclopedias my first day and even sold my briefcase for $20. One lady come to the door in her night gown and invited me in and I kindly refused and moved on. My day was done and I sold four sets of encyclopedias including my briefcase and when I was to meet my ride back to the office, he didn’t meet me so I had to take a bus back to Seattle and I quit on the spot. I was told I set a sales record for sales in one day but I was so pissed at the guy that didn’t pick me up I just quit and they paid me $200 in cash and I took the bus back home.
Goat Herders closed the deal.
I was working for a Sheik in the Middle East and he introduced me to the Minister of Power and they had a unique situation that required a lot of out of the box thinking to resolve the problem. The problem and my opportunity was to find a solution to the goats eating the utility bills when they were delivered to the villagers. If the villagers did not get to the utility bill first, the goats had a snack and the bills were not paid.
I enter the Ministry of Power and the building was large with imported marble on the floors, walls and the bathrooms. There were pictures of the King on several walls and overstuffed furniture situated around the large rooms. There were oriental rugs on all of the floors and the fixtures were gold. There were also statues of lions and of Roman leaders.
We are invited in and we are all seated on the overstuffed chairs and served tea and we exchanged pleasantries. My Sheik named Mohammed introduced me to two Pakistani gentlemen that were in charge of the Information Technology department of the Ministry and they explained the opportunity in great detail. Boiled down it was to produce an invoice that goats would not eat and if I could do that, they would order 60,000,000 or a three year supply. I roughly calculate the order to be in the range of $30,000,000 US dollars.
I immediately seized the opportunity and suggested that there must be some sort of aroma that would deter the goats and sheep from wanting to eat the utility bills and they thought that was a great idea. I asked for a copy of the current utility bill and asked if there was anything that they would like to see different on the bill to make it more meaningful so the villagers would be more responsive and understand that they had to pay the bill otherwise their power would get shut off.
It ended up that we had a picture of the King on one side of the bill so they knew it was important and then a picture of a light bulb on the other side representing what the invoice was for, to keep the lights on. The invoice was to be three parts carbonless and inserted into an envelope.
The two Pakistani men were pleased that I had a proposed solution and if I could create a bill that the goats would not eat, I had a deal. My sheik was super excited and couldn’t wait for me to get the process started to create a bill the goats would not eat.
I called back to the states and had a forms company lined up to handle such requests and I emphasized the need for the invoice to have an aroma that would repel the goats and sheep from eating the invoice when delivered.
My forms people had never had a request like this nor for an order of this magnitude. It may have been the largest volume in actual forms and money ever proposed in the United States.
A chemical company was contracted with to come up with a solution to repel the goats that could be mixed in with manufacturer of the paper or sprayed on after the forms were printed.
I took about 60 days for the chemists to come up with a formula that was repulsive to the animals and it was tested to make sure the odor would not be harmful to humans nor hurt the animals if they were to accidentally ingest the paper. The ultimate solution was to be mixed in with the paper when it was still in liquid form.
I had requested 10 cases of the completed invoices for testing and the test was to take the invoices to a goat and sheep souk and dump them in various pens of goats and sheep and see how they reacted.
When the 10 cases of invoices arrived it was set up that the goats were not fed that morning to make the goats hungry. We loaded the boxes into our car and the two Pakistani IT men drove Mohammed and I out to the goat souks and we were to begin or test.
The Pakistani men knew many of the goat herders and they recognized me as an American and they all asked if I could find them an American woman for a bride as they all had a lot of money and they would make great husbands. It was funny and I told my wife about them and we got a good laugh out of it.
We had the boxes loaded on pull cart and the two Pakistani men walked over to one pen, opened up the box and dumped the invoices on the ground and the goats come running over and immediately stopped and just sniffed and turned back around and left the bills alone. All of us cheered but we still had to dump more bills into another five pens. If all went well, I was in for a million dollar commission. The bills were dumped n other pens and this time they were wetted down with a hose to see if that made them more enticing to the goats and sheep and it didn’t matter. The deal was closed and everyone was happy.
My name and picture was on national TV as the one that solved the invoicing problem.
How did I close the deal?
- If it wasn’t for my Sheik, I wouldn’t have been exposed to the opportunity and my Sheik could be considered like a lobbyist in the United States that makes key introductions and they take a percentage of the total deal. Mohammed was that person.
- I listened to the problem they were having and offered several solutions. I planted seeds such as the aroma and they seized on it and I amplified how great that option would be and we ultimately arrived at that solution and that was my opportunity.
- I trial closed and my close was that I would come up with an invoice that would have an aroma that would be repulsive to both goats and sheep and if I did, would you give me the order. They said yes and the rest is history.
The Railway maintenance deal.
Calling on a large railway company and the opportunity was to be able to identify when any one of over 300 locomotives had to be serviced and to be able to have the right parts, craft personnel, diagrams and anything required to maintain the locomotive when a given part was due to be serviced, replaced or rebuilt in the entire country.
We spent about $200,000 on the proposal and the VP told me I had to sell the Materials Manager and if I did that I could win the deal. I made him a dinner bet that I could and quickly accepted the bet as several vendors had approached him and all were discounted.
My approach is to go where the problems are and ask the field people what the difficulties were in maintaining the locomotives and they were logistics and having the necessary parts, people and any other equipment at the location when a specific component was due to be replaced or maintained and that could be anyplace in the country.
I identified each department and person and asked them what was most critical to them in completing their assigned tasks. I did his with every department and field manager and detailed the issues and how our company would provide a solution and then got concurrence from the department head that if in fact I could do what I said I could, they would encourage management to purchase our solution.
Day arrived for the proposal presentation and I had a large map of the country depicting where actual locomotives wold be and worse case scenarios of maintenance issues and how we would respond.
The Materials Manager recognized the people and departments names that gave me real world input on maintenance issues and within about 30 minutes the, Materials Manager was giving my presentation. I looked at the VP and whispered, where do you want to go for dinner. The deal closed for $7,000,000 and my team did a fantastic job and all were recognized for their effort.
Page Printers to the rescue.
Boeing was pretty locked into IBM and it was difficult for other vendors to get in so most just ignored Boeing but I requested Boeing as an account so I was given the account. I knew that there was a real need to speed up the printing of documents and some were as large as a half million pages. Being technical I was able to reach the managers that handled the printing of such documents and was ultimately able to teach them the advantages out printers had over competition and after several months of demonstrating and flying them off to see the printers in action and being able to talk to other managers with similar problems, they were convinced that my printer could handle their problem.
What started out as a “Oh just let John have Boeing but don’t let him spend too much time on it” John ultimately sold 15 Page Printers valued at $300,000 each with that much again in supplies. Not bad for a throw in account. They wanted to promote me to National Sales Manager for the product.
Three closes in one day.
I set a record for 11 new name turn key computer accounts in one year for Honeywell and I did it by target marketing my assigned territory and I received an 11% return on my mailing. I identified my contact, sent a self addressed stamped return card asking for more info, please call, interest and so on. The national average for return calls is about 1-2% at best.
I went into my territory and followed up on every and once my pipeline was filled, I proceeded to close and I had the largest irrigation company in eastern Washington that was ready to close so I made the appointment, brought the closing documents and sure enough, closed the deal for about $150,000. I was making a second call that day to another prospect and they decided to purchase as well so I had to copy the first contract and white out the names and other pertinent info and I presented the contract to the client and the contract was signed on top of a 50 gallon can of grease. The company sold industrial grade lubrication products to long haul equipment manufacturers. That deal was for about $100,000. I had a final call that afternoon for a unique product called a Page Printer System and it was about $300,000 and sure enough the owners met and decided to purchase and the same story again, I had to white out the names and info on the last contract, copy in the new info and it was signed.
Not bad for a days work and it was written up in Honeywell and Data Pro, a paper for computer people.