4 Lessons Every Salesperson Should Learn, as Taught by Dad

What did your dad do? I get asked that question a lot, and it’s a long answer. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll say he was in sales his entire life, though the road was not normal.

My dad started in the restaurant business in VA.  He “sold” a couple restaurant concepts where he was able to land investors to help him and his brother successfully run and manage these restaurants around Virginia. Eventually looking to get out, Dad sold his part of the company and decided to move on to something else. 

Having visited Cape Cod for his entire life, both as a kid, and then taking his family as an adult, Dad always had a yearning to live there. So when I was 7 and my sister 6, he moved us to Harwich, MA on Cape Cod.  If the Cape is an arm, Harwich is one of the towns on the elbow. My dad ended up at a home improvement company, quickly becoming their number one sales producer. The guys who had been there a while would only take the big leads: room editions, kitchens, baths, etc. Pops would take the scraps: one replacement window or a storm door. He was by far the hungriest, taking all the leads he could get. Sometimes he’d close those smaller leads; more times than not, they turned into much bigger jobs. Lesson learned, never predict an outcome. Always explore and be curious about every lead that comes your way; you never know how it may turn out.

One term I learned from Dad that I have never forgotten is the term “porched.” This happens when you have been given a lead, but the people you visit won’t let you past the porch.   

The success in sales gave him the opportunity to buy into another home improvement business. He was able to own and work for a company that competed with his old company. This worked out great for him as they had screwed him on a bonus and he was extra motivated to beat them, which he did for a number of years. He used his competitive spirit to become one of the top producing home improvement companies on Cape Cod. But, life changes and with two kids in college in the early 90’s the economy tanked. He was forced to sell his portion of the business.

His next chapter, I now find more fascinating than ever. He decided to sell Craftmatic adjustable beds. He had a couple guys who ran the company out of Boston, and they would send him daily leads. Dad had figured out the financing per day for the bed, and the term could be very long. He would be sitting in the living room trying to close the business, and he would ask his potential customers: “The bedroom on the left has your current bed where you can sleep for free, but the bedroom on the right has a Craftmatic bed where you can sleep for only a quarter a night. Which will you choose?” He always knew how to put a spin on things. It worked and helped him become one of the most successful Craftmatic sales producers in New England. 

He wound up his career working for a company that sold water systems. At this point in his fairly advanced age, he wanted the job on his terms. So he told the owner of the company, “If you want someone in the office pushing paper and looking busy, I’m not your guy.” He ended up selling their water systems for 12 years on his time and his terms. He never again had to “punch the time clock.” The lesson here – trust your sales people. If you have to micromanage them, get rid of them. If you don’t trust them that means they’re not doing their job. With more sales people working remotely, this level of trust in your team has never been more important.

Sales Lessons Learned from Dad:

  • Be curious – don’t judge leads without asking questions and exploring their potential.
  • Be competitive – know that you can beat everyone if you are hungry enough.
  • Be creative – come up with ways to close like pops did with the Craftmatic Beds.
  • Finally, live on your terms – if you’re great, know that you’re great and work for someone who believes in you.

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