I’ve always been a salesman.
Like many ambitious boys of my generation, I started out peddling the Saturday Evening Post door to door. Later it was stamps and, in high school, women’s shoes. I told all my customers they looked good, which sent them home happy—even if the shoes pinched.
During college I moved on to selling garbage disposals. Each morning, I would drive to an address chosen by my bosses, haul the disposal out of my trunk, and carry it from house to house in my rumpled suit and tie. I was usually drenched in sweat by the time some kind housewife invited me inside to demonstrate my product. I would recite a prepared speech about sanitation and the strength of our disposals and point out that a “dishmaster” came free with every purchase. (The dishmaster was a water-powered brush that connected to a sink’s faucet with a flexible rubber tube. It was a popular accessory in those pre-dishwasher days.) While my pitch was in progress, I dropped glass marbles into the disposal, which crushed them. The marble gimmick always impressed customers because they didn’t realize any disposal could effortlessly break a marble.
From that job I learned to project a lot of confidence. Nothing teaches perseverance like forcing yourself to knock on another door after one slams into your nose. Your confidence can make whatever you’re trying to sell—whether it’s a business plan to investors, an idea to your boss, or a product to a customer—sound irresistible.
I also learned ...