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Famous Salespeople that Started with Nothing

TeleArk believes that willpower and motivation are two of the most important factors to becoming an effective salesperson. We’ve found that success in sales does not necessarily require a college degree, high-profile connections, or even a business background.

Sometimes, the most profitable salespeople are those that started from nothing except an idea, a loan, and a desire to succeed. Below are five famous salespeople who turned their rags – from selling beer on the back of a donkey to milking cows at 4:30 a.m. – into entrepreneurial riches.

5. Joe Girard – Before Girard was recognized as the World’s Greatest Salesman by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Detroit-native was a dishwasher, a shoe shiner, and a delivery boy. With immigrant parents and no formal education after tenth grade, Girard had difficulty finding a job outside manual labor – until he begged the local Chevrolet dealership for a sales position. During his fifteen-year selling career, Girard sold 13,001 new cars and trucks, making him the number one cars car salesperson in the world. His secret? Not elaborate sales pitches, but greeting cards. Girard allegedly sent out over 13,000 greeting cards a month to former customers — for everything from Valentine’s Day to Groundhog’s Day —to inspire customer loyalty.

4. Mary Kay Ash– Although Ash did not start from “nothing” in the traditional sense, living a comfortable life both as a daughter and as a wife, her status as a woman in the male-dominated field of business left her without opportunities for growth. While working as a saleswoman for Stanley Home Products, Ash became furious when a man whom she had trained was promoted to a position above her — earning twice her salary. She quit and intended to write a book to assist women in business, but ultimately turned the book into a business plan for her ideal company: Mary Kay Cosmetics. Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics has more than 1.7 million consultants worldwide and a wholesale volume of over $2.2 billion.

3. Dale Carnegie– The man behind the best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, spent the first half of his life as a farmer. Rather than learning how to pitch a sale, Carnegie spent his mornings in Missouri learning how to milk cows. After graduating from college, he began selling to local ranchers, boasting products from bacon to lard. He had a brief, unsuccessful stint in the acting industry before beginning his career in sales — as an unemployed man living at his local YMCA. What began as a single public speaking course at the YMCA evolved into an empire as a lecturer and developer of courses in corporate training, salesmanship, and public speaking.

2. Napoleon Barragan- The iconic creator of 1-800-Mattress spent the majority of his childhood selling beer and soda off the back of donkeys. In 1969, Barragan swapped his straw-bed in Ecuador for a relative’s pull-out sofa in New York City. He depended on several odd jobs, such as selling encyclopedias door-to-door, just to make ends meet. One day, while reading a newspaper on his way to a secondhand furniture sales job, he saw an ad for Dial-a-Steak and thought: why can’t I sell mattresses the same way? From that moment on, Barragan became renowned for using technology – including 1-800 numbers and the domain mattress.com – for opening sales channels. Eventually, the boy from Ecuador became the nation’s largest mattress tele-retailer.

1. Ralph Lauren- Before Ralph Lauren was a renowned fashion designer, he was a clothing salesman. And before he was a salesman, he was Ralph Lifshitz, the Bronx-born son of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants. During the 1960s, Lauren studied business by night and sold a variety of men’s clothing – from gloves to ties – by day. While working as a salesman for the clothing company A. Rietz & Co, Lauren was inspired to design a wide, European-style necktie. He was then able to open his own necktie company with a loan – and eventually turned that loan into a franchise for all forms of business and casual attire. As of 2012, Forbes estimated his wealth at $7 billion dollars, making Lauren the 191st richest person in the world.

These famous entrepreneurs prove that becoming a great salesperson is all about willpower and hard work, and Teleark agrees. We believe that with the right tools and help, you too can be on the path to sales success. We’re here to help by finding your company the most qualified leads to get your sales process started. Visit Teleark’s lead generation and appointment setting services page to learn more.

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