I’ve been going through an oral history project that I did with my grandfather probably about ten years ago now in order to get it into a good shape to share the document with my cousins and my brother. I came across this bit where I’d asked him his tips for selling. Fairly straightforward…
Bill Powell’s Tips for Selling
Try your best to get something that people want. And try your best to get it to where you can sell it a reasonable price and try to be nice and polite and kind to people. Just do the best you can is all I know. I have sold all my life. I have found out what a prospect was. It took me a long time to find out when a person was a prospect. But a prospect is somebody that has the desire to buy and the money to pay for what he wants to buy.
You have to help people decide to buy what they want to buy. I remember one fellow that looked at a tractor two or three times and talked and talked to me about this tractor and twisted around and couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that and couldn’t make up his mind. It was Ellis Bryant. And I finally said “Ellis, do you want this one over here or do you want this one over here.” And he said “I believe I’ll take this one over here.”
And that’s what he wanted all the time, but he never would say “I want this tractor.” So I had to help him say this is the tractor I want. That’s called closing the sale. And it took me long time to learn how to close a sale. I didn’t know how to do it. I’ve been to lectures and this that and the other always talking about closing the sale, closing the sale. And I finally found out that that’s what you had to do. You had to try to ask people questions with which they would respond with a yes or in the affirmative. And not be negative and ask them questions which would let them get negative with you.
I never did sell a whole lot of stuff, but I’ve sold all my life. I’ve made a good enough living, I never had any desire to get rich. I didn’t have any desire accumulate a lot of wealth. I think I could have, if that’s what I wanted to do, but I just never did have any desire to do that. But I always worked at something. Trying to do this, trying to do that, trying to do the other.
I was raised up selling. I was raised just like the Amish are raised now, we didn’t have electricity or running water. We didn’t have a bathroom. We didn’t have anything, ‘cept just plenty to eat. We raised enough chickens and eggs and milk to buy our groceries. And we raised enough hogs to sell in the year to pay the debts that we had on the farm.
And when we weren’t doing anything else my daddy would buy and sell mules. ‘Course that’s a longer story, the thing I remember is the fact is like Amish had iron-tired farm wagons with a bed on ‘em. We would hook up to a wagon like that, two mules and take a gate and lay down on top of the bed and go up and down the road trying to buy little old calves. And my daddy would try to buy ‘em for 25 cents up to whatever he had to pay for ‘em. And then after he bought ‘em he tried to sell ‘em for various prices, but usually tried to sell ‘em for five dollars a piece. But if along late in the afternoon, somebody offered him about 25 cents more than what he paid for the calf. He’d say “Son, I believe we’re gonna let this man have this calf. He might jump out of the wagon and break a leg or something and die before morning.” He’d say “We’ll just let him have that one and we’ll have the quarter and tomorrow we’ll go buy us another one.” So I’ve just always been selling. Not a lot, but a little.
I really didn’t know anything about Ford tractors when I started selling ‘em. I could have just as well been selling steam boats or outboard motors or anything else. I know now that it’s important to find out a place where there’s a good market, where there’s potential. Because there was a fellow in Columbia which is a town about twice the size of Lawrenceburg went in the Ford tractor business the same time that I did. Now he wanted to make money, he wanted to make it bad. That was his ambition. And he made a lot. But he sold a lot more tractors than I did, because he was in an area where you could sell a lot more, the potential was a lot greater.
But I didn’t know anything about that, I just started selling Ford tractors because they were available here in this town. I liked the town. My wife liked it here and I liked it here. We just worked here together and did the best we could. Lot of people have a desire to leave a big estate when they die, but I don’t have a desire to leave a big estate. I’ve always given a fair amount of money to church and given a fair amount of money to my family and fair amount to this that and the other. I’ve never tried to waste money. But I have never tried to make money just for money’s sake.
Photo credit: Blue Tractor (150) from dougww on Flickr