The Dallas Business Journal featured the top 100 fastest growing privately-owned Dallas companies in one of their recent issues. Launched by Southern Methodist University’s Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship in 1990, the Dallas 100 is a tribute to the vitality and entrepreneurial spirit of the emerging business community in North Texas. Each year the interest and the crowds increase.
This same issue has a one-half page feature asking for nominations for the 2014 Minority Business Leader Awards. We have awards for students, employees, small businesses, Governor’s recognition awards. I was honored as the Speaker of the Year for the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association. It feels good to receive recognition for a job well done.
I’ve been selling something since I was 7 or 8 years old. I sold greeting cards. I had a firecracker stand. My real claim to fame was that I got top Girl Scout cookies sales in Iola, Kansas, for 5 years in a row. When I was age 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, I sold more boxes of Girl Scout cookies than any others in my Girl Scout troop. I would have gotten top sales when I was 12, except my Southern Baptist mother found out how I was getting so many sales. I was going into the local bars. I would find these guys bellied up to the bar and I would ask them, “How many boxes of Girl Scout cookies would you like to buy?” They would always buy 3 or 4 boxes and (back in those days) they paid up front. So when the cookies came in, they were nowhere to be found. Guess who got to keep those cookies? I’m not sure why it took my mother five years to figure that out. But when she did, she really put a damper on my method of selling.
I love to begin my seminars with this Girl Scout story, because at a very young age, I learned some very valuable lessons, lessons that have served me well my entire life. The first lesson was young girls do NOT go into bars by themselves! I learned that lesson well.
The second lesson is that everyone loves to be a winner. It was so much fun to be called up in front of my troop and dozens of interested parents and teachers in my hometown, not to mention I was related to at least 10% of the town’s population. I would get a big round of applause. I loved that feeling. And early on, I made up my mind that I wanted to perpetuate that feeling for myself. As an adult and a seasoned business person, I know full well that the best way to be a winner is to help other people win.
The third lesson I learned from my early sales experience was that there is much more to selling than just getting the business. And that much more is called customer service. Each year I had to round up an entirely new group of customers. Now I understand that selling is all about building relationships. They say that it costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain a customer.