Unlike other 8-year-old boys who played cops and robbers, Doug Price played salesman as a child.
Price, 43, remembers riding around northeastern Ohio in a yellow Ford station wagon with his father, Harry, who sold kitchen appliances for Caloric Ranges.
Price is now a principal with Miles/LeHane Group Inc., a Leesburg company that focuses on career development, sales training and outplacement services for executives. He recently finished writing "License to Sell," a book for salespeople in which he outlines new trends in selling and discusses the old standby tricks, such as the "I'll get my manager" ploy commonly used by car salespeople.
With his co-author, Joe Ilvento, a sales and marketing consultant in New Jersey, Price wrote the book in two years. It includes work sheets to help salespeople pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.
The book is self-published, and the authors plan to sell most copies directly to customers via the Internet. Here, Price talks about the book and about being a salesman.
Q: Why did you and Joe dedicate the book to your fathers?
A: My dad taught me the basic principles of sales as a young kid. I just watched him. Joe's dad was in the restaurant business, and his dad showed him and his brothers how you take care of customers and how you sell yourself.
I grew up in Canton, Ohio, and he used to take me every once in a while "to work" with him. What that usually meant was riding in the car and calling on customers. I can remember those days vividly--the conversations with my dad and watching him. I remember his trunk was always filled with literature packets, and he used to teach me how to organize the trunk--which things you'd give to clients and how to keep track of everything. I was so young I never worried or wondered what would happen if the car were ever stolen.
How long did it take you to write the book?
It took two years to put it together, and we did it all by e-mail. Joe lives in northern New Jersey. His uncle was a college professor of mine, and he told me about his nephew several years ago while I was still working at Marriott. One day I went to an event at the National Capital Speakers Association where Joe was a speaker. We had talked by phone but never met, so we introduced ourselves. I told him I was trying to write a book, but it was all up here [in my head] and that I was having trouble getting going.
Joe had co-authored a book before, so we decided to sit down and talk philosophy and see if we were compatible. We came from different backgrounds. He came up through cable and wireless and telecommunications, and I came up through hospitality and service sales through Marriott, but we really did find we had a lot of thoughts in common.
Why did you decide not to go through a publisher?
We felt that writing the book [using e-mail to collaborate] and then selling the book electronically, we would really be living a lot of what we are talking about in the book.
We really can get the word out on the book via Web sites and everything quicker and faster than a publisher would for us. I believe we will come to a point when we take it to a publisher and shop it around and see what they say.
What was it like to write your first book?
There is a guy by the name of Dan Poynter who has written a book called the "Self-Publishing Manual," and it is A to Z. We used that book a lot. The book had good advice, such as knowing you're going to hit a wall [during the writing] and understanding that you don't have to write a book and start with Chapter One, then go to Chapter Two and so on. You can have a free flow of [ideas].
Another thing I thought was great advice was to write the back cover first and also put down what you want people to say about the book--the quotes that you'd like to see on the back about what people got out of reading it. Then [while you write] you can say, am I still meeting my objective?
The book has opened some new doors. All of a sudden, I'm both an author and a businessperson. I think a lot of businesspeople think about writing a book and are intrigued when they find out I have.
We've had clients [at Miles/LeHane] who have only worked with us on the career coaching side who are now talking to us about sales training, for example.
In your book, you talk about different ways to "close" a sale. You included a method used by cars salespeople that involves going to get one's manager. How is this method used, and does it really still work?
What we did when we put the chapter together on closing skills is, we wanted you to recognize as a buyer sometimes what's happening to you when you're being closed on. . . . [For a salesperson,] clearly closing is like something that you wear--it has to fit you, and it has to feel good, and you're going to have your own style. Does this method still work? Is it still out there? Absolutely.
It's good cop versus bad cop. What happens is that I, as the salesperson, am going to bring in my manager to negotiate. And what [the manager] and I will do is rearrange our chairs so that I will come sit next to you and my manager will go behind the desk so there is a barrier. It will be you and I against the manager. What we want you to do is mentally connect with and think that the salesperson is on your side, when in fact [the scene] has been rehearsed with the manager. [The reason it still often works] is that a car is a very emotional buy.
Talk about the upcoming "webinar" you are conducting and explain what that involves?
There is a company in Columbia, Md., called OutReach Technologies--their Web site is www.outreachtech.com--and what we're going to do with OutReach in the next couple of weeks is a webinar. We'll invite as many as 40 or 50 sales executives to log onto outreachtech.com at a certain hour of the day, and we'll do a Power Point presentation on "License to Sell." It will include voice and audio, and people can interact with us. They can buy books. It's real, live selling. These webinars are becoming very, very popular and cost-effective ways to get the word out to people all over the country.
There are lots of organizations getting involved in [online selling with an interactive component]. One example is the City of Philadelphia, which is getting accolades for its Web site. At the site, a meeting planner can log on, and there is a live salesperson from the city to answer your questions. . . . So a little bit of the personal touch is coming into it.
CAPTION: Doug Price hopes to sell his book largely through the Internet.
CAPTION: Doug Price was exposed to the world of sales as a young boy by his father.