Yours for the low, low price…

Posted: September 18, 2011 in humor, Life, storytelling, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

There are three rules for being a good salesman. Know your product. Know your client. Know when to shut up.

I started in sales in the 1970’s. The Vietnam War was ending, the country was in a recession, markets were tough. Not the best time to open a business but my sister and I were reckless and confident. Our storefront was the street, our customers anyone who ventured into our neighborhood. Our product came right from the field, delivered by a silent partner who didn’t expect a share of the take. We bagged it, sold it, and every dollar was pure profit. My sister handled the money, I did packaging and distribution. A dozen ears for a buck, plucked from our little blue wagon, wrapped in a grocery sack and carried right to your car, if you wanted. At 7 and 9, we were building a sweet corn-selling empire.

We knew our product. It came from Grandpa’s farm and we’d worked in those cornfields and helped can corn at harvest time. Knew our clients, too. Many were our neighbors, some worked with our mom and dad, others were drawn in by our plywood signs when driving by our street. And we knew when to shut up. There was always somebody who wanted to negotiate price (as if 12 ears for a buck wasn’t already a deal). Our negotiating tactics were simple: we’d just stand there, side by side, bottom lips pouting, big sad eyes like those creepy pictures of the skinny kids with the big heads that were so popular in the 70’s. In a minute or two they’d hand over the dollar and we’d give them their corn.

It was a sweet gig and it taught me a lot. In the years since, I’ve sold lots of different things: thin mints, Big Macs, magazine subscriptions, clothes, drinks, pizzas, radio advertising, lottery tickets, packaging and shipping supplies (another business with my sister. She handled the money, I was packaging and…hey! What the…?). The three rules of salesmanship have always applied.

Now, I’ve got a new product. Me. Or rather, my writing. Until recently, I didn’t really have to market myself. Everything I wrote or recorded that was published or aired, while my work, was produced for someone else. I was already bought and paid for. There’s security in that kind of writing. Now, I’m hawking my own ideas, my own work, things I WANT to write, not things I HAVE to write. And it’s a little scary. Grade school scary, like being one of the last two kids standing by home base waiting to be picked for kickball. Am I good enough, you wonder? Do they know what I can do? What if I’m kidding myself and I really suck at this?

All right, panic attack over. I know my product. I’ve known it all my life, its strengths and weaknesses, its selling points and flaws. I’m getting to know my client, learning to tell good prospects from bad, open doors from dead ends. And I know when to shut up. And it’s not now. The publishing world is like a big field of golden Minnesota sweet corn, and me and my little blue wagon are coming.

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Comments
  1. Kay Vallery Young says:

    And I, for one, am buying! You go, girl!

  2. Blaze the way, girl! You’ve got what it takes.
    Love your story about selling sweet corn. Reminds me of the lemonade stand days.

    • Kelly Thompson says:

      Thanks and right back atcha on having what it takes. Shot any new and amazing photos lately? BTW, we still have some kids in our neighborhood who do lemonade stands and even one kid who sells Sno-Cones. I always try to stop and make a purchase when I can – even if sometimes they forget to put the sugar in the Kool-aid before they sell it…!

  3. Keep it coming, sunshine. I need a truckload of optimism and can-do attitude to keep me from ranting incoherently about how this writing deal is a masochist’s enterprise. Maybe I need a little blue wagon.

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