It’s early in the school year, and already the barrage of fundraisers are coming through the door. There is intense competition between good causes for your charity dollars.
My oldest son, Sheldon, is closing in on the rank of Eagle Scout, and our scout troop uses popcorn sales as a funding mechanism. The leadership of the troop had decided to have the boys work on the salesmanship merit badge. Being an assistant scoutmaster and a “salesman”—I was the natural selection to make a presentation to the scouts.
Checking over the merit badge guidebook, I saw one question, which was, “Why did you choose a sales profession?” That got the wheels turning as I searched back in time to see how I ended up in the tool business. For me it occurred when I left my last job as a mechanic and called the toolman whom I owed money.
He said these fateful words to me—“Have you ever considered the tool business?” That is when I began my search to see what there was to offer in the way of opportunities. I wondered how you got started. In the past it was mostly mechanics that came into the business. If you wanted more than a paycheck and to be self-employed, the tool business provides a great avenue for change. I still believe that it is one of the best sole-proprietor businesses.
I know it’s difficult to explain to someone what you really do for a living. Responses range from “How can you see the same people every week?” to “How many tools does someone need?”
We do our best to convey how the business is run, however, it is still very abstract for most people to grasp. For most of us who don't hold a college degree, it provides a level playing field for entrepreneurial aspirations. Unlike some professions, our success is not guaranteed by simply having the right educational pedigree.
Not needing employees is a plus as I listen to countless stories from shop owners regarding the headaches associated with having people work for you. I think most of us like the fact that each day we have a tangible way of benchmarking our results.
Another question was, “How is your product sold?” I indicate that ours is a store on wheels. People are shocked when I explain how the money aspect of our business works. I know we all have had similar experiences—this is truly a one-of-a-kind business.
“Do you use a sales plan?” was another question, one to which most of us would answer, “Not really.” Yes, we all have some dollar amount in mind we need to sell or collect each day, but beyond that, we do a poor job of sales planning, don’t we?
How about this one: “What training is required for your job?” Zero of the formal variety but plenty on the job. This is a relationship business, and understanding the human animal is crucial to your success.
Respect, honesty, genuine praise and truth are yours to dispense. Similar to most selling is the fact that we need to be chameleons as we encounter each person. It can only help you to be a good listener and care about people. Remembering special occasions, and asking sincere questions about their interests and lives is good for both sides of the relationship. The more you put forth, the more that comes back to you.
Here was a real thought-provoking question: “What items should be considered when opening a new account?” That is a special mission as we need to size up a new customer and make credit decisions. I find your intuition serves you well most of the time.
Isn’t it amazing that you can do business with someone for years, but when he leaves your territory and isn’t picked up by someone else, you are forgotten about in spite of your best collection efforts? How about that sale you made on that slow day to a new dude, and you got burned later because you relaxed your normal rules? We have all done it. Stick with what has worked successfully.
Selling is a proud profession, and owning your own business is a tremendous accomplishment. We do lots of good work on the street and are a vital link in the success of countless others we serve. You know—"salesmanship" is only a fraction of what we do. Only after we make the sale can we fully serve our customers.