Lesson from 8-year old

Posted almost 2 years ago by David Sweet


“Hello,” he said. The 8-year held a large cardboard box and was obviously selling something. He wore slacks and a tie, and his bangs were neatly pressed, though a bit of a cowlick stood up in back.

He looked up at the women wearing a pink sweater, standing in her doorway. It was a nice neighborhood, upper-middle class with two stories and big, well maintained lawns.  

“Would you care to buy some stationary?” he asked.  

She thumbed her way through the pastel-printed note cards, “Thank You” cards, “Get Well” notes, nodding to herself.

She looked at him. He smiled. Then she went inside to find her purse.

* * * *

That was me when I was 8. I had started my first company with a cash infusion of $15 from Mom and my own $15 from cleaning Nana’s house.  

I wanted to buy a tape player and needed more money than the house cleaning job could afford, so I went into the retail business. Mom helped me buy stock from a mail-order magazine that sold stationery. I selected based on what I liked, price I could afford, and what Mom thought would sell:  “Thank You” cards and “Happy Birthday” cards and blank note cards with mountain scenes and fields of pansies. “Everyone needs note cards sometimes,” Mom said.  I liked the grocery list note pad; “We always buy groceries,” I said. We ordered them as well.

The box of stationery arrived and I took the cardboard box and decorated the outside and put holes at the top so that I could put a rope through it, making it easier to lug around. Next, I arranged the cards. We decided that there was more money in Westgate, where Nana lived, then where we lived. They were older people with money. Also, older people used note cards more than young families.

I had practiced what I needed to say after the door was answered. I stood in front of Mom and role-played. Then I practiced in front of the mirror.  I was nervous, but the words came out strong, “Hello! Would you like to buy some stationary?” My first killer sales question.

I made $78 on my first day. In my delight, I ordered more cards, and continued the stationery business for several months.

Now all these years later, I still teach the same principles of sales to teams. Here are some of the points that I still carry with me:

  • Have a plan and execute.
  • Know where the money is and go there.
  • Have a goal. Buy something you want. A goal of only making money is boring.
  • Work on commission and make sure there is no cap on your salary. As a sales professional, you want to make the money off of your hard work.
  • Know your customer.
  • Write a script. Practice your lines. Role Play. Get feedback.
  • Have the nerves to go out and fail. Adrenaline is good.
  • Make your numbers.
  • Have a killer sales question.
  • Do something different (I wasn’t selling chocolate or Girl Scout cookies or delivering newspapers).
  • Dress the part.
  • Smile.
  • Make sure your investors earn back their capital so they will invest more.