Everything I Needed to Know About Sales I Learned From my Father

I grew up in New Jersey, The Garden State. At least that’s what it said on our license plates. My dad was a salesman, selling fertilizer and other products to mom and pop farmers in the 60’s and early 70’s. I went with him on sales calls, spending the day riding around the state with him, and watching him work.

He wasn’t like the other salesmen. He didn’t like pushing people. In fact he truly cared about them. Here was a typical sales visit to a farmer:

Farmer (either spouse): “Morris – come on in.” They liked Dad (still do).

Dad: (After sitting with the first cup of coffee, which he didn’t like but drank anyway because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings). “How’s your family?”

Farmer: “The kids don’t want to do anything…[complain, complain, brag brag for 10-20 minutes].

Dad: “How’s Rosie” [Names the farmer’s wife if she’s not there, otherwise asks her directly].

Farmer: “The best” [complain, complain, brag, brag for 10-20 minutes]

Dad: “How’s things going on the farm?

Farmer: [Complain only for 20-30 minutes].

Dad: “Do you need anything?”

Farmer: “I need…” [places an order].

The farmers knew why Dad came – he never had to say. Often they told him that they liked buying from him, not because his product was better, but because he took the time to listen to them. They trusted him. He kept his word. When there was a problem, and there always was, he dealt with it.

Yep. I learned a lot about selling watching my Dad with farmers. He was caring, a listener, credible, reliable, and he rarely talked about himself unless asked. Totally trustworthy. Still is.


6 replies
  1. Michael A. Webb
    Michael A. Webb says:

    Growing up in the farmlands of Southeastern Missouri, I knew many like Morris Hirsch,  and until I moved away didn’t realize that they were, sadly, the exception rather than the rule.  

    Spending many of my later years in sales, I felt I had an "unfair" advantage, having gained my "people skills" from those like Stewart’s father. 

    Thanks for sharing Stewart.  Everyone can take a lesson from the art as practiced your father.

    Michael A. Webb

  2. Susan Kleiner
    Susan Kleiner says:


    What a great tribute to your Dad and proof of how trust is so central to all of our relationships — and sales. 


  3. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    Thanks Amy and Michael.  Listening really is a gift we can so easily give, and yet don’t do it nearly as often as we can.  It was really great to see how much folks appreciated it, and still do!


  4. Bill Young
    Bill Young says:

    That’s an hour of therapy. Some customers prefer to be engaged in constructive dialogue. But I sold fertiliser too so, yes, there are farmers like that.


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