Selling Against All Odds

Bill Porter has been featured on ABC’s 20/20, served as the inspiration for a TNT movie starring William H. Macy and is now the subject of Shelly Brady’s new book, Ten Things I Learned From Bill Porter (New World Library, 2002). It’s the true story of a door-to-door salesman who, despite having cerebral palsy, overcomes countless physical limitations to become Watkins Product’s top salesman in all of Oregon, Washington and California.

Brady has worked for Porter, age 70, since 1980 when she was a senior in high school – assisting him with his Watkins deliveries, household needs, and running errands. Having spent more than two decades by Porter’s side, Brady has learned a thing or two about the importance of perseverance and the fine art of selling. And it’s precisely these important lessons that she weaves throughout the pages of her new book – lessons that sales professionals would be wise to heed.

For starters, while the Internet has provided Porter with an easy-to-access sales channel, Brady says that he still takes time to foster strong relationships with customers.

“Bill brings a personal touch that is really needed when you are selling. What he brings is something that has disappeared in this day and age when so much can be done over the Internet…. Bill truly believes there are some things that never go out of style, like a warm handshake and a friendly smile.”

Once deemed unemployable by the state of Oregon, Porter also recognizes the value of perseverance. It’s an invaluable trait, especially in light of today’s tough economy, which has prompted many businesses to cut back on buying.

Brady says, “Bill just persists. He doesn’t take no for an answer. When people say no, he doesn’t hear the word no. He hears: Come back next time.”

But it’s Porter’s attitude towards selling that offers the greatest lesson. At a time when many sales professionals are focused exclusively on the bottom line, Porter serves as a reminder that selling is as much about forming friendships as it is about closing the sale.

Brady adds, “For Bill, it’s not just about selling. It’s about making a new friend as well as a new customer and that’s part of the secret to his success. He isn’t selling just to sell. He really truly wants to know these people and they feel that.”