How it all began
He was not a born salesman. Who is? Nothing about him indicated that he would one day become one of the nation’s top sellers and generate astounding revenue. His childhood was inauspicious, carefree, and happy – at least until Miss Mayer, his third grade math teacher, began to overwhelm him with facts and figures. It was no fun! To make matters worse, many of his other teachers were also strict and demanded that students “buckle down” and memorize vast quantities of dry information. Our hero wasn’t used to this, and he didn’t like it one bit. He much preferred to spend time with his friends, inventing fantastic tales full of monsters, fairies and magic. Of course, the adults said that those mythical creatures weren’t real, but our hero and his friends knew better. They were real and could be seen through the lens of their imagination. The bedtime stories were his favorite. He loved snuggling under the covers and listening to his mother describe the most incredible stories as he drifted off to sleep. Sometimes he even dreamt about them.
School seemed to get drearier every week. Our hero had lots of friends and got along well with his teachers, but he hated spending hours memorizing information that didn’t captivate his attention or stimulate his mind. Gone were the fairies with their colorful, diaphanous wings; in their stead were algebra, Latin, chemistry and physics. Fortunately, school wasn’t always complete torture. He enjoyed biology, for example, and became enthralled with the human brain. Certain aspects of physics, such as electromagnetic oscillations, also interested him. In biology, he learned about the human brain and in physics of electromagnetic fields. These things were easy to learn because they naturally held his attention. Many of his classmates did not fare so well and seemed to struggle in every subject. With the passage of time, our hero honed his memorization skills and developed the ability to store huge masses of facts and regurgitate them in exams. His teachers called this “learning.”
When he was a university student, he began building computers and selling them to his fellow students. It all began when he salvaged a Commodore VIC 20 and sold it for a handsome profit. Soon, all his classmates wanted one, and the computers sold like hotcakes. In almost no time our hero shelved the VIC 20 and started building Commodore 64s instead. These computers were more powerful and easier to use. However, they were also more expensive, and he eventually lost a large sum of money due to the price wars of the early computer industry. Despite this financial setback, he stayed in sales and enjoyed a lucrative career by the time he had turned 30. He had an incredible memory for detail and could remember information that other salesmen never could. Additionally, he had a knack for finding and exposing flaws in competing products. He went in to every sales meeting armed with data about his product’s benefits, costs, environmental impact, and market niche. He also had the same information for all competing products. Within seconds, he had most customers in the palm of his hand.
On the outside he was a seasoned professional. Inside, however, he felt burned out, frustrated, and increasingly angry. As time passed, more and more of his customers began placing orders for competing products, but he could only imagine vague reasons for them doing so. One customer admitted that he could not justify the switch, and that our hero’s product was clearly superior, but stated that the superior product didn’t “speak” to him anymore.
This began to happen with increasing frequency. Our hero felt sad, dejected, and disappointed in himself. He wondered if he had passed the peak of his creativity and felt like an old wolf no longer able to keep up with younger and faster members of the pack. This was not a tenable situation, and he seriously considered changing careers. Perhaps I could become a truck driver, he thought to himself. Dreaming of the free life on the open road. Riding into the sunset. Crazy stuff.
One day, while our hero was brooding over his disappointing sales figures, his colleague Carl noticed his melancholy.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. Our hero sighed in resignation.
“Nothing,” he whispered. Carl was the company dispatcher and had been irritable all week due to delays in receiving new inventory. However, on this day he wore a broad smile.
“The new products have arrived and are ready for delivery,” he announced, still beaming. Our hero tried to return the smile, but felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. With plenty of fresh inventory, a lack of sales would rest squarely on his shoulders.
Evidently expecting a more positive response, Carl faltered.
“Have you seen a ghost or something? ” He fidgeted uncomfortably. “I mean, don’t you think that’s great news about the inventory?”
“Yes ,” sighed our hero , “but I’m losing one customer after another. ”
Now the cat was out of the bag.
“Hmmmm,” said the dispatcher, “maybe it ‘s time to talk to the StoryMeister.”
The StoryMeister! How could he have forgotten that?!
Our hero leapt to his feet and practically kissed Carl.
“What a great idea!” The world suddenly seemed like a better and more hopeful place. He rushed out of the building into the parking lot, hopped in his car, and flew out of the driveway, tires screeching. Carl watched him go and thought, “Wow, what a misguided salesman. “
He was driving at top speed to the Institute, where he had heard a fascinating speech several years before. The speaker was a preternaturally gifted international expert who touted his sales technique as the best in the world. That’s just what our hero needed: the best sales strategy in the world. As he drove, he tried to remember the speaker’s appearance.
He had been in his early 40s, tall, handsome, and charismatic. The speaker’s name, however, eluded him. He was unconcerned about that; he could find out at the Institute. The one thing he did still remember was the man’s title: StoryMeister.
Our hero was a bit embarrassed to remember that when he first encountered the StoryMeister he had not given the lecture his undivided attention. At the time, he was so successful on his own that part of him wondered if he really needed to hear this speech at all. By the end of the speech, however, he was convinced that the StoryMeister was a true sales expert. He remembered walking out to the parking lot with Carl, who had also been impressed. “Carl,” he said, “if at any point in the future I ever get stuck and don’t know what to do to keep my numbers up, tell me to remember the StoryMeister.”
He gently turned his car into the Institute parking lot and nestled it in an empty space near the back. As he walked to the door, he smiled softly to himself and thought, Thanks, Carl.
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