Excerpts from a negative formula for success

Excerpts from a negative formula for success By Bob Karolevitz When I returned from the Korean War, I decided I should take a job like normal guys.

Optimistically I went to work as a printing salesman when nothing else was available. Sad to say, though, it lasted less than a year � and to make a long story short, I was a miserable flop!

To lessen my guilt, I wrote an article called "Why I Failed as a salesman." I sold the piece to the American Printer & Lithographer and later to a magazine called Sales Review. I had found my niche as a freelance writer, and I've been at it ever since.

In rummaging through a stack of old papers recently, I came across that 45-year-old article. I had written my nine rules for failure, and I'll be darned if they still don't make sense today.

To take advantage of what we in the freelance business call recycling, I thought I'd repeat edited excerpts from my negative formula for success. They might be beneficial to a few prospective door-knockers. The rest of you, if you'd like, can just read them for the heck of it.

Here's what I wrote:

1. I wasn't "sold" on selling in the first place.

Selling is a lifetime occupation. It should be prepared for just like any other profession. Without proper appreciation of the calling, a new salesman will wither under the first blast from a dyspeptic purchasing agent.

2. My feelings got hurt.

This is a personality trait which salespeople should lose in a hurry. Waiting in line, taking rebuffs and losing orders you thought you had are all part of the game. You have to learn to turn the other cheek, to retire gracefully and be back bright and cheerful the next time.

3. I spent too much time calling on people I liked.

To sell successfully in large volume, you have to call on people whether you like the way they part their hair or not. Calling on friends is an ideal arrangement � if they buy enough so you don't have to call on others.

4. I didn't make enough new calls.

The "cold call" separates the men from the boys in the selling business. If you can't knock on new doors, you're in real trouble.

5. I didn't ask for the order.

You don't just make regular calls and show a few samples; you've got to remind the customer why you are really there.

6. I didn't schedule my calls properly.

I wasted too much shoe leather and tire rubber hopping around aimlessly. I also didn't use the telephone to make appointments which I knew I'd keep.

7. I didn't do enough "creative selling."

I should have burned a little midnight oil thinking up new ideas to help my customers. A salesperson can't be a 9 to 5 man any more than a writer or a lawyer can.

8. I tried to save the customer too much money.

A good salesperson will show a buyer how a small increase in budget will give him far more for his bucks. I was too much of a penny-pincher.

9. I didn't apply the remedies I knew I needed.

I knew my weaknesses, but I didn't do anything about them. (See No. 1) You're doomed to be a failure if you recognize your deficiencies and then don't strive to correct them.


Needless to say, I quit before I got fired. But � to mangle a metaphor � my failure opened other doors.

© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz

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