My first sale was to a company I interviewed with for a sales management position. I was candid with the president of American Career Planning Services, Inc. at that interview and mentioned that I might start my own business. So, when I did start Venmark, which did business as Sales Development Associates, I called him and set up an appointment to give him a sales pitch.
That was Friday, December 10, 1976. It was bright and sunny at 12:45PM when we entered the Prudential Center garage in Boston. American Career Planning Services, Inc. was on the 41st floor. We had a one o’clock appointment. I arranged for my wife to call me at about 1:15PM with an important business message. She was my secretary at the time. I wanted to appear to be busy! At that meeting Walter Cameron placed a publicity order with me and became my first client. I think he respected my persistence.
Ultimately, the sale boiled down to the following interaction. In response to my asking him how much he had spent trying to promote his training program he said, “I’m not General Electric, I spent $40,000.00 which is a lot of money for me.” I countered with, “Well, then you can’t afford not to spend another $395.00 to see whether we can help, can you?”
That was the story 35 years ago. I made my first sale! A couple of weeks earlier I had opened a company bank account with $300.00, bought a logo, letterhead, envelopes, and business cards for $125.00, and hired a salesman. After Walter wrote me a check for $395.00, I deposited it in the bank and bought a typewriter for $299.00. I was in business!
After that meeting I pressed the elevator button, my salesman and I hopped aboard and had to pee so badly we hit the button for the 38th floor. After leaving the men’s room we looked up and saw a sign that said, “Associated Industries of Massachusetts.” We entered their office and purchased a “Directory of Massachusetts Manufacturers” for $15.75 and began making cold calls that following Monday.
A couple of weeks later in January 1977 we really began “pounding the pavement.” On April 7, 1977 The Venmark Corporation was incorporated and within weeks we had seven employees, a few months later we were up to 10 employees and we ended up with $177,000.00 in sales that first year!
Experts always talk about companies failing for lack of credit. I’ve witnessed small companies make deals with vendors for special terms, customers for advanced payment, and all sorts of creative solutions to their money problems. My experience working with small businesses all these years is that intangibles such as desire, passion, persistence, and “luck” play important roles in success. The 38th floor was a lucky push!
© 2012 Steven M. Stroum