At the outset of our lives, we depend on our wails to get our Mom’s attention. It’s our earliest sales pitch: we cry to get a mother’s breast, which quiets the stomach for a spell before we have to sell Mom again to get access to what we need and want. Selling to get what one needs must therefore be one of nature’s primal instincts. .

As we grow, we hone our pitch – slowly adding smiles and laughter to our sales arsenal.

Most kids, of course, are master salespeople by the time they’re 8 years old. We “sell” our parents on a bike, a pet, or some deeply-desired toy, using each success or failure to hone our skills and refine our pitch. In due course, the objectives grow larger: we learn how to wheedle car keys for a first date. And then we sell the date — finding ways to get them to snuggle not quite the way we snuggled as babies.

Soon enough, we begin to have to learn how to sell in the real world. Some folks are naturals at it; some have to learn the hard way.

The following true story set me on a path of learning about selling that persists through today.

I was in boarding school and was working for a school magazine. One of the important tasks was to sell ads. I was told to go to the stores on Main Street and solicit ads.

I went into the first store and blurted “You wouldn’t like to buy an ad would you?” The very nice owner said “Whoa there young man! I really do not need or want your ad, but I am going to teach you something important and to drive the message home, I am going to take your ad. You made a rookie mistake by starting out making it much easier for me to say no than yes. Always be affirmative and confidant and say: “I have a good cheap ad available which can increase your business with students.”

I have never forgotten that great advice. I tried it on the very next call and it worked. It has continued to work in everything I sell—myself, ideas, services, and investments – for 83 years.

Who would have thought that the very first thing we learn in in life is selling?


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