We Are All Salespeople

When 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.

 

Then 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.

 

Ultimately, 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.

 

Now, 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.

 

I’m 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).

 

I 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.

 

When 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.

 

The business has changed a great deal since I entered it. Please forgive me as I tell you the whole story.

 

Have 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 birth dates.

 

The draft lottery was the only thing I ever won. My birth date was picked third.

 

At 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 latter.

 

Bottom 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.

 

I 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.

 

I 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.

 

We 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 on consignment.

 

We 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.

The 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.

I 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 than talent.

 

On 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.

 

On 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.

 

This 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 the stuff.

 

In 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.

 

My 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?”.

 

Without 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.

In 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.

 

As 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.

 

Another 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 is worthless.

 

In 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. Etc, etc.

 

By Ed Rider - United Sales Associates, Inc.

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Ed Rider nominated for Music and Sound Retailer "Rep of the Year" for second year in a row.

June 22, 2005

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May 1, 2005

Effective May 1, 2005, USAREPS appointed Reps for Mapex Drums in the states of NC, SC, GA, FL, TN, AL

November 1, 2004

Ed Rider nominated for Music and Sound Retailer "Rep of the Year", joining his partner, Wendel Hartman, who was nominated for that same award in 1995.

June 9, 2004

United Sales Associates wins Quota Buster Award from Audio Technica

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United Sales Associates appointed reps for Chauvet Lighting

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Trey Childress appointed territory manager for Virginia, Maryland, Deleware, and District of Columbia

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