Encyclopaedia Britannica Salesman, Trainer, and Manager
Not everyone succeeded as a Britannica salesman. Not everyone would want to. It required powerful closing skills and a tough skin. Consistent production with EB, like most other sales careers, demanded discipline, time management, and tenacity. I was one of the best.
Working for Britannica taught me about human nature and selling products of intangible value. I learned the value of brand image, market leadership, and product differentiation. I experienced ethical dilemmas first-hand. I learned how to recruit, interview, train, and motivate independent sales reps effectively and efficiently. I learned the value of using a selling system. I was selected for the Professional Exhibit Team and worked trade shows and fairs around the country. I learned how to make decisions and how to make a sales office run efficiently. I learned the importance of making the job fun. Most importantly, I learned the value of information. .
I started selling encyclopedias like most people. It looked like an easy way to quickly earn some extra money. Few made a career of the book business. Most folks that could actually sell encyclopedias would drift in and out of the business. My career selling ENCYCLOP∆DIA BRITANNICA and The Great Books of the Western World began while I was a SSgt in the USAF, stationed at Great Falls, Montana. The first month I was named National Rookie of the Month. During the following two month, I sold enough sets to qualify for the big trip to San Diego and the "Beat '68 in '88" celebration. While in San Diego, I met many executives and successful managers. They seemed to earn an excellent income and occupy a position of respect within the organization, still I felt that I could easily outperform most of them. The opportunities in management looked promising. I surveyed the landscape, identified the players, and secured a management trainee position in Dallas. I had a new career.
When my enlistment was over in 1989, I moved to Dallas, Texas for my new job as Trainer for Dallas Division Manager, Debbie Egbert. Victor Picone, Mark Cooksey, and I were the young hotdog managers. Had a blast. Won lots of awards. Traveled and partied all over the US on the fair circuit with the National Professional Exhibit Team. Sold lots of books. Sold lots of "Great Books." Selected to personally field train corporate and foreign executives. Made lots of money. After a while though, I started to have serious misgivings about the management style I was directed to employ. Victor won the Brown Derby award, worked exceptionally hard, and remained loyal to the end. Yet, he was chewed up, spit out, and replaced. I was put in the position of having to ask my salesmen to endure racist and sexist onslaughts by my boss. I wouldn't do it. No one expected me to quit, but I knew my future lay elsewhere. Debbie and VP Mike Bearden weren't computer literate and didn't see the coming revolution. I made the right decision by leaving. Still, how many people can say they personally sold over a half million dollars worth of encyclopedias. I even sold an Heirloom binding to a blind man.
What my Customers have to say
Mark Cooksey, a good friend & hell of a book salesman, who is no longer with us.
We'll miss you, buddy. Sell a set to the big guy.
Copyright © Ronnie Oldham 1998. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 01, 2011.
visitors since then.