Jun 30, 2009 at 02:11 PM
written by Jim Loria

How I First Learned to Sell!

Key Learnings is an ongoing collection of insights and stories from thought-leaders within the sponsorship industry. Today's key learning comes from Jim Loria who has over 30 years of sports management experience and for the past 10 years as served as President of the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede.

My breakthrough in first learning the sales business came at about the lowest point in my life. It was in Minneapolis, MN. The year 1985. I had made a career move to leave my public relations job with the NHL's Washington Capitals and seek a more normal 9-5 existence. But after seven months in the Twin Cities, I had no nibbles and was jobless. Not a fun time when you are married and a father of two infant daughters with no income.

After what seemed like hundreds of employment rejections and my savings account now dwindling, I had to make something happened. It didn’t help in that one of my last job interviews, an advertising agency for some of the local pro sports teams, boldly told me that my resume showed “I Couldn’t Sell a French Fry!” Yet, I had a resume filled with many accomplishments, including working at the White House in 1984 with President Reagan, the 1982 NHL All-Star Game, the 1979 Memorial Cup of Hockey and even had references from people like CNN’S Larry King promoting my abilities.

Needing instant cash flow for the family reserves, I was desperate and took a job with the Minneapolis Star & Tribune, delivering newspapers. Yes, I was now 30-years old and a Paperboy! Remaining positive, I told my wife that I was going to set a goal to somehow break the all-time Tribune "Tips Record” for the coming holidays (didn’t even know if one existed, but it was what drove me through this job!) Suddenly, a light bulb turned on in my head and I remembered what my Capitals’ boss (Roger Crozier) always preached to me years back… “Jim, if you have fun in your job. You produce. You’ll get rewarded!” So, the Sunday before I was to start up my 190 home deliveries M-F, I purposely drove my carrier route. Did it on a Vikings’ football Sunday when I thought everyone would be home. Knocked on all doors. Those that answered, I introduced myself. Asked one question: “What was the previous service like?” Most everyone bitched at me and said the same common theme: "The previous person just tossed the paper from his car window driving down the street". Wherever the paper landed, the customer had to fetch it regardless of the outdoor weather conditions.

So, I developed a plan. Every morning I would drive two blocks at a time. Park my car. Count the number of houses. Get out and deliver each customer their paper on the doorstep and continue on. (FYI: I also carried quite a few rocks with me everyday just in case trouble sprung up!)

As I neared the Thanksgiving holiday, I reiterated to my wife that I was going to set the all-time Tribune paperboy “tips record”. How? My plan was to buy 190 Greetings Cards and tell each customer how much I appreciated their business and that I hoped they now enjoyed their service! I delivered the cards to each home the Friday morning after T-Day, the biggest shopping day in the country. I purposely made sure the customer could read my writing, so I printed my name & home address. Guess what happened: Well over $4,000 in tip money came to my home by mail that holiday season!!! The customers showed their appreciation and almost every one of the 190 households rewarded my efforts!

The motto of the story: We all have to suck it up sometimes in our lives and shove away the ego. Without that newspaper job, I hesitate to think where I'd be today? So, how did I learn the business of sales? I KNOCKED ON DOORS. I ASKED QUESTIONS. I FORMULATED A GAME PLAN. I EXECUTED THE PLAN AND I GOT REWARDED, a method I still employ 24 years later... just like my boss always preached to me!

PS: What also motivated me was the French Fry that I would tape on my car dashboard everyday when delivering those papers!

Jim can be reached at loria@sfstampede.com. If you are interested in contributing your key learnings, shoot us an email at info@sponsorpitch.com.