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Birth of a Salesman

Birth of a Salesman Graham Watkins' biographical account of his early career in sales.
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"Sell me this ashtray!" It was an unexpected interview question. I'd never sold anything in my life but my naive answer would change me forever. It took me into the world of speciality selling where salesmen find and close their own deals. A world of weighing machines, pretend greyhounds, films of men in trilby hats and Oxford bags, of commission, clubs and crooked customers.

  • Join me on this light hearted journey of discovery, learning the secrets of selling, the art of negotiating, of closing the deal.

  • "Button the sale with benefits," they told me and I did as I charged blindly ahead into the land of opportunity that lay before me.

  • "Look at the arse on that!" cried the women in the carrot packing factory. I ran, barely escaping with my dignity, my briefcase or my trousers. Others were less fortunate.

  • Brighton, an alcohol fuelled black tie dinner with Tommy Cooper and mayhem, as I celebrate success and discover how painful midnight leg wrestling is.

  • Learn why I was held at gunpoint on the Artillery Range, at Shoeburyness and how we stopped the phantom letterbox urine fiend of Chelmsford.

  • This is a land of naughty film nights, sheets in windows, crowds and policemen, of Yorkshire grit, fisticuffs and angry bakers.

  • "My God. You’re an ‘ard man," said the butcher averting his gaze. He didn't know he'd been staring at a glass eye.


If you've ever wondered what selling is about, would like to know some of the secrets of selling and enjoy a tale this book is for you. I promise every word is true. Grab a copy and explore my strange world of sales. What are you waiting for?

Two and a half hours of
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Part of my inspiration for Birth of a Salesman came from the 1949 play 'Death of a Salesman' by American playwright Arthur Miller. His play premiered on Broadway, ran for 742 performances and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Since then it's been revived many times and is regarded to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

In the play the main character, Willy Loman, is a 63 year old burnt out salesman with no future - the antithesis of my enthusiastic self when I was starting my selling career.

Unlike Birth of a Salesman, Miller's play is dark and brutal but also a valuable lesson in life. Sales people who don't progress do burn out and sometimes destroy themselves. But, before that happens, a life of selling can be great fun. Mine certainly was and that's why I wrote about it.

"But what is direct selling?" I hear you ask. Here's a definition.

Selling face to face comprises of two main business models: single-level marketing, in which a direct seller makes money by buying products from a parent organisation and selling them directly to customers, and multi-level marketing (network marketing or person-to-person marketing), in which the direct seller may earn money from both direct sales to customers and by sponsoring and supporting new direct sellers, potentially earning a commission from their efforts.

The Federal Trade Commission say, "Direct selling includes a variety of business strategies based on person-to-person selling in locations other than a retail establishment, such as social media platforms or the home of the salesperson or prospective customer."

According to the Direct Selling Association UK (DSA UK) In the UK, there are more than 400,000 people involved in direct selling. It is the association says, "A vibrant, growing industry offering a flexible earning opportunity to all, whatever age, culture, gender or ability."

And it gets better. A World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) report quotes a worldwide figure of more than 116 million people in direct selling.

These days direct selling includes sales through the party plan, one-to-one demonstrations, personal contacts plus internet sales. It has also been said that selling is, "The personal presentation, demonstration, and sale of products and services to consumers, either in their homes or at their jobs."

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