we think of the word “salesman” or “salesperson”, most of
us get a mental picture of a person in a snappy suit, sometimes
carrying a briefcase, and trying to get us to buy his or her
product. The truth is, we are all salespeople. From the day
we gain any kind of reasoning capabilities we are selling
something. Our initial selling venture may be to our parents
when we want to be picked up and held. And selling them on
the fact that we are hungry is usually a pretty easy sales
job. As a matter of fact, our parents generally will be the
easiest buyers we will ever face.
we advance into social gatherings like church or school. The
selling gets tougher. Now for the first time in our lives,
we really have to sell on our merits. We have to sell our
worthiness to be friends to our playmates. We have to sell
our prospects of being capable learners to our teachers.
we have to sell our virtues to the opposite sex in our quest
for a mate, and our productive potential to prospective employers
as we search for our life’s career. The selling continues
our entire lives. I can guarantee you that the most successful
people in any field are good salespeople, and many of them
never sale anything but themselves.
let’s discuss the more conventionally acceptable definition
of selling. You know . . . the one wherein a person is trying
to get another to buy his or her product.
sure you have heard the phrase “He is a natural born salesman”.
Hogwash!!! There is no such thing. Selling is a skill that
is acquired, just like any other skill. Of course, there are
people who have a head start on others in the profession.
But that head start is simply due to the fact that we arrive
on the scene with different levels of self confidence. And
by the way, self confidence is also an acquired skill (yes
. . . I do mean skill).
can tell you that during my career, I have done business with
hundreds of music dealers. Who are the best salespeople among
them? That’s easy. It’s the Jewish dealers. And it’s not because
that are better business people. It’s not because they have
a penchant for driving a better deal for themselves. It is
simply the fact that they have more self confidence than the
average dealer. And that self confidence comes across to their
customers as well as to their suppliers.
I got into this business I had very low self confidence. Even
to this day, I must admit that my confidence level is not
what it should be. My wife has often said that if I thought
I was as good as I really am, I would be unstoppable. Deep
down, I know she is right.
business has changed a great deal since I entered it. Please
forgive me as I tell you the whole story.
you ever heard of the draft lottery? The way it worked was
by writing each date of the year on a slip of paper and placing
that slip of paper in a capsule. The dates represented dates
of birth. The capsules would then be placed in a fish bowl,
and randomly picked from the bowl one at a time. The order
in which they drew the capsules determined the order in which
they inducted men (boys) into the army according to their
draft lottery was the only thing I ever won. My birth date
was picked third.
that point I knew I had two choices. I could sit idly by and
wind up in a rice patty in Vietnam . Or I could join and at
least have some say about where I wound up. I opted for the
line is, I wound up as a trombone player with the 2 nd Armored
Division Band in Fort Hood , Texas . It was truly an experience
I would not trade.
got out of the army in March of 1972. The war in Vietnam was
winding down, so I got out ten months early. My wife and I
had been married for less than two years, and we had a month-old
daughter. I had no idea what I was going to do. I pretty much
figured out that making a living playing trombone was probably
not going to work.
brought my family back to North Carolina , not having a clue
what was next. Shortly after our arrival, my cousin and I
hit upon a plan . . . a plan that involved selling. And this
would be real selling. It would not resemble the selling I
did as a ten year-old kid when I bought Grit Newspapers
for a dime and sold them for fifteen cents. People bought
them because I was cute. Being cute would play no part in
this sales gig.
arranged for a lease on a 45 foot furniture van. You know
. . . the kind where the bed of the truck comes out over the
cab. Thank goodness the leaser agreed to a weekly lease. We
then went to several small independent furniture manufacturers
in High Point , NC and convinced them to give us furniture
would load the truck and take off to some of the Northeastern
states like New Your, New Jersey , and Pennsylvania . We stopped
any place we thought we could sell furniture. Bars, service
stations, and motels were all fair game. We did very well
for several months. We figured out that we could buy a recliner
for $75 and sell it for $150. And the folks in those Northern
states were tickeled to get it for that. We could sell out
an entire truck load of furniture in a week and bring home
about $500 each after expenses.
problem was, we were supposed to purchase a peddler’s license
in every town we went to. We never did that because we were
seldom in a town for more than a couple of hours. Consequently,
we regularly spent a night in jail in some small town in Upstate
New York It's hard to admit, but yes, I was a jailbird at
the age of 22. We ultimately decided against continuing this
venture in favor of something a bit more legitimate.
had been a musician since I was about 9 years of age. I started
playing in bands when I was 13, and this continued until I
was 23. I really did want a career in the music business,
but realized that stardom is often a result of luck rather
July 23, 1972, I spotted a classified advertisement in the
local newspaper for a sales trainee position for musical merchandise.
I answered the ad, went for an interview, and was offered
the job at $100 per week. Being the skilled negotiator that
I was, I held out for $105.
August 1, 1972, I reported to work at Southland Musical Merchandise
Corporation in Greensboro , NC . I was officially a stock
clerk who was checking in and putting up merchandise. I didn’t
know shack jit about the product I was dealing with, but I
was willing to learn. Oh, I knew about guitars and strings
and picks. But I didn't know there was no such thing as a
bass violin chin rest. That was kind of like a number two
blue sky hook. It didn't exist, but smart elecs would send
you through the warehouse looking for one.
continued for eight months as I learned more and more about
the business and the product. During this time, Southland
loaned me the money to pay my tuition into the Dale Carnegie
course. This turned out to be one of the best investments
I ever made. I began to find my self confidence. In addition,
it whetted my appetite for further knowledge concerning development
of sales skills, personal achievement, and motivation. I became
an avid reader of self help books which later led to audio
tapes of the same genre. Today, I have a whole library of
April of 1973, I literally begged for a territory that became
available in Georgia . I asked the sales manger to give me
a chance with the understanding that I would relinquish the
territory if I did not achieve a predetermined level of sales.
On April 9, 1973, I hit the road for the first time as a rep
in the music industry. I have been out there ever since.
first week on the road took me to South Georgia . Notably,
I remember one incident from that week that has stood out
in my mind all of these years. I walked into a pawn shop in
Bainbridge , GA on a Thursday morning. Being a student of
Dale Carnegie’s teachings, I walked up to the man behind the
counter, stuck out my hand, and said “I’m Ed Rider from Southland
Music. My friends call me Ed. What should I call you?”.
batting an eye, and with a rather stern look on his face,
the man behind the counter said “Call me Mr. Bluestein”. I
said “In that case Mr. Bluestein, you can call me Mr. Ed”.
Needless to say, Mr. Bluestein loosened up and became much
more receptive. We ultimately became such good friends that
I was invited to, and attended his son’s bar mitzvah a couple
of years later.
those days I had coal black hair, and I managed to keep a
pretty deep tan because I spent a good deal of time fishing.
A dealer in Columbus, Georgia once asked me during this time
what a Jewish firm was doing sending an Arab out on the road.
Of course, he was kidding. But I asked him if he had ever
seen an Arab with a Southern Redneck accent like mine.
the years went by, I honed my sales skills by reading books,
listening to tapes, and asking myself how the last sales call
could have been more successful. Within a matter of a few
years, I was a true salesman with skills that surpassed most.
And over the years, those skills have improved to the point
that the sales modus operandi has become second nature.
very important thing I figured out through the years is that
sales talent alone will not cut the mustard. Knowledge of
your product is equally or more important. My first sales
manager at Southland Music, Mr. Lee Ingber, once told me that
the most important thing I could do was to study my catalog.
Of course, he was right. Salesmanship without product knowledge
conclusion, there are two points I want to make sure you understand.
First, you can learn to sell. There are ample books, tapes,
and CDs available on salesmanship. Second, learn your product.
Knowledge begets confidence. Confidence begets sales. Sales
beget more confidence. More confidence begets more sales.
By Ed Rider
- United Sales Associates, Inc.