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I want to give you a bottle of wine. A good one. I realize I don’t know you, nor you me, and this is an odd way to start a book, so let me explain. My story has a number of stories, not unlike a high-rise. But I need to start on a “middle floor,” and work down to the foundation and then up to the roof, where today’s view is spectacular.

For some background, let’s go back in time. It’s the mid 1980s, and I’m pissing money up a wall. Just positively hemorrhaging cash. On purpose. Open-veined-gushers of moolah. Giving it away. And not asking for anything in return. But I was making it just as fast. Making it in restaurants. Very successful ones, with corporate clienteles. Wine lists as rich and sweet as Tuscan chocolate. Dazzling theater in the food presentations, with plate after plate putting on nightly West End and Broadway shows. And these were classy places, indeed. I know everyone says that about places they start, but I really do know the difference between class and style. You can’t acquire class. You’re born with it. Or not. However, anyone with a checkbook and an internet connection can acquire style. It’s for sale. Cheap.

Back then, I was driving a Jag (and tying a couple jags on too), and I was rich enough to be buying houses with cash. But then, like a doorknob coming off in your hand unexpectedly, it all stopped. And doors that were wide open to me could be opened no more. By 1986, I had nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Except an Ex, and two young kids depending on me – addicted to Private Schools, nonetheless. (They are both darlings still, my son at 22, and daughter at 17. And very well educated.) Oh, and besides the Ex and the kids, please toss in an estranged father, a once-close brother who I washed out of my life because of acts of betrayal (the worse and only sin), and, well, around 1985, as the saying goes, even down looked like up to me.

At that time, I didn’t exactly turn to a monk’s life, but I went to live on a rural property in New South Wales (yes, I’m an Aussie), and I figured I’d start my life over again. I’d done it before. I’d do it again. Reinvent myself. But a year went by. No high tides in sight. No boats. No life rafts. Middle management applications I sent out generated nothing. Resume’ versions came and went. I was getting desperate. Quite desperate. I took a job as a postman. And after that got boring. Not because it was door to door work, which I do now, but because it was the same door to the same door. After that, all the while looking for work, I was the French Ambassador’s chauffeur…and wouldn’t you like to know what he said in the back seat. But that’s for another book.

Was I reaching too high for a new job? I reached lower. I applied for sales work. Piece work. Any work. Nothing.

Out of sheet desperation, I paid a grand sum – and indeed my bottom dollar — to a consultant who said I should be applying for…guess what? Senior management positions!

I laughed. And laughed. Out loud.

I did finally get an interview at a food management company, but with no money, and one good suit, and no proper socks, I had to be inventive to look good. I stopped into a clothing store and bought two pairs of woman’s knee-high stockings. By wearing them both at the same time, one pair over the other, it seems I had expensive French socks on. Lo and behold, the director of personal hired me, careful to mention how elegant I looked… “Right down to your expensive French socks.” All for $1.99.

I was drawing a check – not like the old days, indeed! And I was still in a muddle. Directionless.

But then…

But then came an afternoon that changed my life.

And the lives of my family, and the lives of my friends.

And maybe by example, your life, my reader.

It was in my brother’s garage, rummaging around. I had some personal belonging there. I was picking through them, and something on the shelf caught my eye.

A brass fitting.

A simple piece of brass, shaped like a nozzle. I suddenly remembered that it was something my father had invented. Maybe there were 4 or 5 of them there. All custom-fabricated. He never mass-produced them. My dad, a tinkering inventor-mechanic, had sold a few over the years, but he never made a real go of it.

To know what this brass fitting does, you have to understand something about metal-cutting gasses. (And yes, I’ll get to that bottle of wine I promised, so keep reading!) You see, to cut metal, you need to mix compressed oxygen with acetylene to create oxyacetylene, which burns at 6,000F degrees.

Hot! In fact, it’s too hot for anything but cutting metal. Mechanics of all kinds need to cut metal now and then, but more often they just need to heat something up quickly, often to take it apart or disassemble it. A rusty muffler coupling. A pipe connection that is stuck from old age.

Yet a simple propane torch isn’t hot enough, yet if you apply the oxyacetylene’s full 6,000F degrees, you’ll destroy the metal. So, you need something in between.

So, my dad figured out that acetylene without the full blast of compressed oxygen will burn hot enough to heat metals yet not cut or destroy them. My dad achieved this by inventing a brass nozzle that slipped on the end of a brazing torch. With the nozzle in place, and just acetylene pumped through the torch hose, the nozzle atomized the oxygen from the surrounding air to give the acetylene just enough juice to heat the metal without cutting it. (Think of it, as I did, of melting the sugar topping on a crème brulee, my daughter’s favorite. Too much fire and it burns; not enough and you’ll lose a star from Michelin.)

Brilliant.

Mechanics around the globe would have exhaled a collective sigh of relief, on the mere prospect of getting their hands of this.

Thing is, no one sold this anywhere in the world. There were just four or five of them in the garage. That’s all there were on the entire planet. And they’d been sitting there for 40 years. Maybe longer.

With a bank account at zero, I borrowed $1,500, ate beans and rice instead of meat for weeks and paid to have 100 brass nozzles made to my specs. The angles and air funnels had to be exactly right. If it all worked, I thought I’d sell them until I got a real job. Little did I know it would shortly blossom before my very eyes into an eight-million-dollar enterprise with 2,500 distributors on four continents and 11 countries and I’ll be knocking down $10,000 a week. But how was I to know then.

Well, I’ve always been a fan of motorcycles. (The current one that throbs between my legs now and then is a 1700-CC V-Twin Kawka). But back then, I had a more humble machine, just for transportation, don’t you know. So, I threw some of my brass nozzles in my bag and headed off to the muffler shop nearest my home. The nozzles had cost me $15 each. I was going to sell them for $65 and pocket $50 for each sale.

I knocked on the door of the shop, asked to speak to the boss. He came out and I asked if I could show him a small product I manufactured. The man let me show him what the nozzle did – I heated up an old pipe and showed how it was not cut, melted, or damaged in the process – and I showed how it could save him money. Frankly, the tool is easy sell once you see this thing in action. After I had finished, I handed him one of the nozzles. And I held my breath, hoping for the sale.

This old Aussie was a man of few words, and goodness knows, it’s not easy to sell to someone who doesn’t provide you with feedback. But he looked, and fiddled and screwed it in and screwed it out. And finally he turned to me and say, “How much did you say this was?”

Very gingerly, I said “$65.”

And shortly thereafter his reply came, “I’ll have it.”

That was 1990. “I’ll have it,” he said. A simple twist of fate.

After that first sale, at the end of the first week, I have sold 17 more nozzles. That’s $850 net. On a pace for $44k/year. Not what I was used to tacking down, believe me. But it was a start.

Oh but it was “absolutely temporary,” I just knew it. Who could imagine selling tools door to door for a career, a lifetime, and assuming an identity that has consumed and defined me?

Now, 18 years later I’m still be selling these things, but on a global scale.

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Everyone says that the first sales call of the day is the hardest. But I’ve been making those “first calls” for 18 years. Summer and winter. English speaking and non-English-speaking environments. And as successful as I am, and as much as (or because of the fact!) I still piss away rivers of money, from any realistic point of view, I am a still a door-to-door salesman. Yes, even with 2,500 distributors carrying my product. I still get behind the wheel of my fancy SUV, in the U.S. (Yanks like a show from someone who’s selling, because when an American buys, he assumes the product’s stature). Or in Australia, when I travel in a slightly run-down car (Aussies like a show of someone in need before they buy). And when I am selling, I am selling and doing little else. Irrespective of my bank account. My success. My history. The car is clean as a whistle. I don’t even have a radio on. I don’t have any form of media on. I am focused on what I am doing. And that focus does not cease until the day is finished.

Lots of salesman will take a look at activity around 2:30 PM and if it’s not going well, they’ll knock off for the day. Not me. If I have not sold enough to satisfy me for that day, you’ll find me, even in the rain and snow, and even way after dark in the rain and snow, knocking on the door of a house where, perhaps, I’ve spotted a plumber’s van parked out front for the night. At 8pm. And more often than not, you’ll find me making that sale.

I have even pulled over people in their cars, for the love of Jehovah. Heating technicians. Plumbers. Mechanics. Recently, one fellow I pulled over thought I was a policeman, and he was in utter disbelief when I walked up to his window and told him that I stopped him because I made a product that I thought he’d be interested in.

“You mean to tell me you’re not a police officer, but a salesman?” he asked.

“That’s right,” I said.

“Well, if you had the stones to do pull me over, I’ll take a look.”

Of course I sold him. Right through his van window.

And it didn’t surprise me. It’s a great product. One of a kind. People need it.

Have I ever been told to f – – k off? I have been told to f – – k off more times than I’ve had hot breakfasts. It simply doesn’t phase me. Not that I am always a happy chappy, but I have never felt bad in those situations, because I have never given people permission to hurt me with their judgments. I’ll march into a strange shop, cold, and say to a complete stranger, “I’m the salesman from hell, and let me show you my snake oil.” Whether in shock, or just out of politeness, or a sense of needing to be entertained, more often than not, people listen. Am I extraordinary for doing this? I don’t think so. It comes naturally, but I do listen to the number of people who tell me that I am extraordinary for doing this. Not extraordinary as measured by wealth, though maybe as measured by eccentricity. Yes. Frankly, you’d have to be nuts to have made some of the sales calls I’ve made. At the times of day and under the conditions that I make them.

Why do I do it? It’s about the satisfactory sense of doing something well, with passion. We all have to survive. And to do so at an acceptable comfort level, we have to produce. By making my living this way, I demonstrate to myself, and maybe by example to you, that I can produce with a sustained joy in the face of something most people would find a miserable way to make a living. I’m defiant in this way. Happily so. Fearless. And I am rewarded accordingly. This life allows me to turn left when getting on airplanes – to join a class of luxurious people I didn’t know existed not that long ago. And it enables me to take my 1700 CC Kawa and even at my age find the exhilaration of wind in my hair.

At the existential level, it’s also because I like wow moments. I am not who I am to impress anyone. I really am in search of wow moments. First class travel and fast bikes for myself. Some sales theatricality to “wow up” my day. Yet as good as I am with the “one-day stands” in sales mode, I am just as bad in one-night stands when the sun sets on romance, because I am looking for the wow moments that gratify, irrespective of my own feelings. I get pleasure and enjoyment out of providing, out of offering wow moments to people, to my customers through the theater of my sales call. And through the extraordinary product I leave behind. And from the money I’ve made, which lets me offer more wow moments, where sometimes I get the greatest pleasure to people I barely know and will never see again. That same feeling of wanting to provide wow moments is the reason for this book, as I’d not only like you to have a wow moment, but a life of wow moments, through passing wow moments along. So you can see how, as I have, that even when you are generous to a total stranger – you get it all back, ten fold.

I was traveling in New Hampshire recently. Met a waitress along the way. A single mom, struggling along. She was someone I will never meet again. Ever. Nothing romantic happened between us. We merely talked pleasantly as she served dinner. But when I departed, I left behind a fantastic bottle of wine for her. I doubt she could get a hold of me if she tried. But I imagine her wow moment when she realized what’s she’s got in that package, and another wow moment when she realizes she got it from someone who never expects to be repaid nor thanked nor slept with.

That’s why, through this book, and my story, I’d like to give you that bottle of wine as well, expecting nothing in return.

Turn the page and open this gift box a little more. I come from a great vintage. You’ll enjoy it.

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Chapter Two

Tough Door-to-Door Selling?

Oh Phooey.

Sit down, right now, and get out a sheet of paper.

Ok, list out a dozen things that you would consider unpleasant.

Maybe unpleasant isn’t the right word.

So, substitute uncomfortable.

Or better yet, just list situations you work to avoid.

I believe I can assuredly guess two or three items on the list, having to do with such tasks as unwittingly mixing flammable quantities of tequila and bourbon; beach-sand mixed with tipsy passion; old lovers trapped with you in stalled elevators; and just about anything to do with US airlines.

But I can guess one thing that’s surely on your list…and that’s door-to-door sales.

There are many ways to describe door-to-door sales, but they can be summed up by most people in this way: Door-to-door sales are incapable of being done with any class. Or at least that’s people’s impression. The reason? It’s simple. It’s because the salesman is forever a supplicant at the mercy of someone who, perhaps powerless in every other aspect of their lives, can finally look (down) at someone and say: “Get the @#%$ off my porch!”

Thing is, I love it.

Yup.

Door to door sales. I eat it up. I’ve made living at it. Made millions at it, in fact. I’ve used it as an entre point for what has become a business interest of mine with global reach and 2,500 distributors.

Here’s something more that may amaze you. (Oh go ahead and take a snocker of that tequila and bourbon mixer to hear this one!) Even though I have thousands of people selling my products for me, I still do door-to-door sales. Willingly. And in bad weather. At late at night when you’re most likely two glasses into the eve.

Crazy?

Oh I’ve been called worse, and even called very worse, as I got chased off more porches than you can count.

But I never have let someone’s poor opinion of me affect my (some would say high but not unjustifiably high) opinion of myself. You see, you can’t be made to feel bad without giving your permission, some wise woman once said; I have to say I agree… And I’ve even felt that way around some old gal-pals of mine, although never stuck in an elevator together, admittedly. (Believe me, after 15 minutes with few of my gal-pals in an elevator, we’d most assuredly be onto other far more interesting topics and activities, but I’ll save that for another chapter. Maybe, in fact, the next installment. Oh but I digress.)

Now, on that list of unpleasant things, call it the Dirty Dozen, you may have also listed “traveling in the South in the U.S.”

It’s not as bad as it’s made out to be, believe me. The South, that is. But it is most decidedly another country, and as unique a place (at least in terms of personal interactions and interpersonal dynamics) as any other on earth.

So let me tell you a story about door-to-door sales in what some would consider hostile territory. Mind you, I always travel with some very distinct baggage: An Aussie accent…perfect in places where they distrust outsiders! And my sense of fashion tends toward loud rugby shirts.

So here goes: I am down in Tennessee, and I say “down,” because I typically fly in and out of New York or a Canadian international airport and – I know this comes as a shock to you – I willingly head Down South once I’ve racked up my metro sales.

Now, for anyone who has sold door to door in the U.S., the South is a place where people will brazenly, and in very short order, tell you exactly why and how they won’t do business with you. Jolly me, I was almost going to say “it’s hard to read your customer when your customer doesn’t read,” but in all truth that reinforces a Southern stereotype that is wholly cliché and inappropriate. Because I have found Southerners to be not only intuitive and sharp, but – once you get through the crust and distrust – among the most hospitable to strangers. Plus, as in love, sales, winding roads on my motorcycle, and shy B&B hostesses, I positively love the challenge of breaking through to someone, of connecting.

So, I’m in Tennessee and if I ever wanted a challenge – something to test my sales mettle – I surely had it on my hands in this case.

Before I go further, you must know that – although I sell door-to-door – I don’t actually sell single units of my product (a specialty welding tool). That is, I don’t sell retail, pe se. I sell to distributors, who in turn buy my product by the box and then sell it from their shops or off their trucks. In this case I’m about to tell you about, call it the Test from Tennessee, I had initial entre to a local sales force through a young fellow I had met who loved my welding tool and wanted his sales team to take it on.

Unfortunately, there was an Old Timer lurking behind the process who wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about taking on my product, and he was in a position to veto the younger eager friendly fellow. In fact, I really did have a challenge on my hand, because, he was entirely resistant to me, and to the idea of selling the tool. (When I say Old Timer, it’s with all due affection, as I am most assuredly moving toward the so-called Back Nine of the golf course of life. Probably on the 12 th green, about to two-putt.) In classic salesman’s mode, I had cleared nearly every obstacle to the sale, and I was now focused on the one remaining fellow in the way.

Believe me, at this point, I am motivated, and all my work to date on this account has but one last task that should be easy…because Mr. Stick in the Mud can actually make a great deal of money selling my product. I know that. But I needed to convince him of that, and to show him how easy it was to sell the tool.

So, like an attorney, I started asking him questions I already knew the answer to:

Do you have competition? I asked.

Of course, he says.

Wouldn’t it be great to have something new and different. I mean we all get bored, now don’t we?

Of course we do, he says.

Just when he thought I was going to roll out the cliché sales language and talk about value-adds and product differentiation, I said something surprising: Tell you what, you take me to your toughest customer, and if I can get that fellow to buy just one of my tools, we have a distribution deal, ok?

Deal, he says, just about rubbing his hands together, as he picked out the toughest customer ever in the history of time possible for me to sell to.

But I don’t dread the next sales call, with everything on the line. I loved the challenge, and we all loaded up in my car for our next visit

We all pulled into a shady spot, and I took the time to notice a BMW motorcycle as I got out of the truck. Oh, I know the type who owns a bike like that, I said to myself, as we sauntered over to the mechanic shop. That’s because old purists drive BMWs.

Next thing I notice was that the shop was spotless.

Another great sign.

In fact, just with these two observations, I feel comfortable that I know the man we are about to meet, and how to sell to him.

He comes out. A non-descript chap. Rough around the edges. A little like me. And I start chatting him up in a language we both understand, as I try to signal that we are from the same tribe.

You see, I own a motorbike too.

And I have a clean shop, just like this one.

“Been riding long?” I ask before even asking his name. It’s my way of sending up some smoke signals.

I gesture to the bike, with admiration.

He nods.

“Been to Sturgis?” I ask, to not only send smoke signals but to assure him that – despite the fact I’m an Aussie – that I know of, and have attended, the premiere biker roundup in the Lower 48.

Now, if you follow up the line “Been to Sturgis” with a smile like the one I used then, the Sturgis vet will smile back…and the two of you are most certainly simpatico about the delectable sights to be enjoyed there…mechanical and earthly (not always fully clothes and not always fully sober). A most dignified smile, I assure you. And he returns it with a smile in return.

I think I have him with that alone. He’s been disarmed.

I show him my product.

And of course he buys it on the spot.

I ask if he knows of anyone else in town who might want one of these tools.

Of course , he says immediately, now one of my team.

He takes a whole box of my product, with a nice margin, and hands of a fist full of dollars.

Ok, now remember the other two fellows alone for the journey? Well, the older one, the man who was so resistant to me, he stood there watching in… in… not exactly awe, but some low-level form of astonishment: His face seemed to say: That Aussie in a rugby shirt just sold a bucket load of tools in under ten minutes to a total Southern stranger.

The young one, of course, started screaming the product’s praises even louder. Then they chipped in and added another fistful of dollars to the order.

The moral here? (Yes, besides the cash.)

Well, it’s subtle, in many ways, and then it couldn’t be simpler.

In the end, like any human interaction – whether it’s high-school dating, or selling a $60 million piece of abstract art to a 82 year old billionaire – it’s ultimately about trust.

Once I convinced this most-difficult sales candidate that I was not going to steal from him, and that I liked his BMW bike, and that I was going to make him some real money… he was willing to be my advocate. At that point, the actual cost of the product was essentially secondary, almost meaningless.

From years on the road, and over the course of thousands of sales calls, I have arrived at a method for engendering trust. And I’m going to impart it to you now. But I suspect that this lesson is something you intuited long ago, as I intuited it on my very first sales call, when I was in dirty coveralls, riding around on an old motorcycle, acting as the sole distributor of a tool my father had invented. Now, with 2,500 distributors, and tens of thousands of units sold, and a fortune made, my approach finds its foundation in my ability to meet and get to know someone without judging them. I don’t judge. And when you don’t judge, people don’t judge you. And when you are not judging each other, there is a far greater opportunity for an authentic interaction, and for more trust to emerge. If you intentions are pure – and mine are: I have a great product, and I can make re-sellers of it quite a bit of money – I have no qualms about being who I am and accepting others for who they are, whether you’re European royalty, or Freddie Smyth down at the corner muffler shop.

And that, in short order, is the basis for my success.

Oh but I’ve got more to share in coming chapters. Trust me. Really.

Trust me.

Oh and the cheque is in the mail, and wherever you are,

I think I love you ”

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