“Hey Mr. Johnson, Can I interest you in the worlds’ most informative and fun, fact-filled newspaper in America?”
“Huh. Who are you?” he asked,
“I’m your neighbor, Lawrence Wilson. Don’t you remember? I helped find your lost dog last week?”
“Well, I don’t buy from strangers and especially door to door salesmen.”
“Hm. Hope you dog runs away again you crabby old fart.”
“Hello Mr. Anderson.”
And so it went. “The opportunity to make a fortune,” the add promised. “Put yourself through college, attract girls and be the envy of all your friends.”
So much for that. I couldn’t sell enough copies of ‘Grit'(or anything like it) to buy a pack of gum, let alone a fancy car or get girls.
I’d be lucky to get out of 5th grade.
Opportunities came and went, along with their respective fortunes.
“Sell ……” “Learn Real Estate.” “Become a Licensed Financial Planner in only six weeks.” “Earn Real Wealth with …..”
It all came to a head while working my way through college. I got a summer job selling Cancer Insurance which was the new way to address the rising costs of treatment.
My boss/mentor had an opening line that went something like this. We would pull up to a new-looking home with the owner outside, painting.
Mr. Salesman of The Year would walk up and start a conversation.
“Nice looking home you got here. Is it new?” Why thanks replied Mr. Homeowner. Then the hook. “I’d sure hate to see you lose it if you or a loved one got cancer.”
About that time, Mr. Homeowner would either run for the shotgun or let the dogs loose.
After three months of going hungry and flinching every time I heard a dog bark, I got a job as a bartender.
Eventually I found something that required no selling, no convincing, and I didn’t really have to talk to anyone.
All I had to do was run into burning buildings.
Yep, I got a job as a firefighter.
After 30 years or so and yes, I did talk to people from time to time.
Stuff like “Change your clock, change your smoke detector battery.”
“Stop, drop and roll.”
Stuff like that.
Then one day a friend called and invited me to help sell boats at a Midwest boat show.
I was retired and who knows maybe now I can get it. “Sure, I’ll be there.”
He sent some literature with instructions. “Just know everything about these boats. Watch a You Tube video or two and come prepared to sell.”
Thirteen makes and models, along with all the various sizes and prices. Fishing, sport, ski, pontoons, deck boats, day boats, cruisers. And about a hundred options to boot.
Nightmares of fifth grade came rushing back. I broke into a cold sweat and didn’t sleep for days, waiting for the inevitable rejection and failure.
“Sorry about your house, mister.”
“Hi folks, see anything you like?” “Just looking,” they replied as they hurried away.
“How are you today?” (Nothing).
As if I were a leper, the closer I got to people the farther they shied away.
Then I tried the tactic of hovering between the boats while they looked. You know, like the used car salesman who suddenly appears out of nowhere when you stop to look at a car. He just pops up like a groundhog at Chuck ‘E’ Cheese.
Two women who were interested in a pontoon boat stopped and I led them to our show special. “Yes Mam, 22 feet of deck with a captain’s console, room for eight and a 150 horse engine pushing her.”
I no sooner got them on board than another salesman started up a conversation with them. It seems that they all vacationed in the same area, of Wisconsin. Sounded like they might have been neighbors or something.
After about ten minutes of being ignored, I just sort of faded away, back down to the fishing boats.
Forget about the cruisers, the bow riders….
At least I knew which end was which on the fishing boats. The pointed end is the front (bow). Right (starboard) left (port).
The horsepower is printed on the engine so even I could get it right just by looking.
Finally, a middle aged man and his son approached, looked around and settled on one of the more expensive models, a 20 footer with a walk-through windshield, 200 horse motor.
“We’ll take this one, he said. With these options. “Ok I replied, I’ll write it up.” “But we have a few questions.”
Oh, great. More questions about options, packages, trailer accessories and about seven other things I knew nothing about.
I got another guy to come over and help. I got my manager to help. In fact, he not only spent several hours with the buyer but closed the deal and wrote it up.
First one in the bank. Wow. My first commission ever, and it was a big one.
Not to say that I didn’t really do anything to earn it. Just said “hi” and handed them over like a quarterback to the running back for the heavy work.
Sold one other just like that. Actually it was the manager’s previous customers who stopped by and bought not one, but two boats.
I was on a roll.
Then they started to close down the show. This was the last day. They didn’t need me again until next year.
Next year? I’m rolling now. I’m selling. Now.
They thanked me for my efforts and promised to call in January when the shows start up again.
January? I was just getting the hang of it. What am I supposed to do ’til January?