Lesson # 1—Learned from the Best Shoe Shine in Texas

So, you want to learn to how to sell.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money or sit in a classroom to learn the basics of sales—great lessons are all around us. My wife Donna (Dee) and I keep notebooks of lessons learned from everyday encounters by extraordinary people—just like this one.

Lesson # 1—Learned from the Best Shoe Shine in Texas

Soon after deplaning at DFW airport, I could hear my favorite shoe shine guy just ahead.

“Shine ’em up….Shi-i-i-i-i-ne ’em up,” he bellowed in a deep voice.

As I walked toward the terminal exit, I could see him leaning against his stand wearing the same oversized blue smock and dark Jimmy Cap.

“Today’s special…” he announces.

“Shine one shoe, get the other shined for free,” as he winked at the man walking past him.

He was closely monitoring passers-by to identify potential customers. I fit the target profile — tall man in a suit with slightly worn, road-warrior wing tips. I was conflicted about stopping. My flight was delayed and now I was running behind schedule.

As I approached, among the thousands of people that walked by him every day, he recognized me. I’d been in his chair a few times. He looked at me, paused for a second, then waved his arms in the air. In a strong, friendly tone he cried-out, “The City of Brotherly love…OR so they say!” He let out a huge belly laugh. I admired his effort and could not resist his charm. His slightly crooked smile was absolutely infectious.

The first time I sat in his chair, he’d asked me, “Where are you from?”

“I’m from Philly,” I’d said.

This led to a lively debate about the city’s reputation. Although he’d never traveled there, he claimed that Philadelphia didn’t live up to its motto. His argument was based primarily on the antics of Philadelphia Eagles fans. He had a point; after all, we’re known for booing our own quarterback and throwing snowballs at Santa Claus.

The service took a little longer than a shine should—his right side moves a little slower than his left. However, sitting in his chair was something I cherished. He’d ask me questions about my travels, then waited for my answer. He listened more than he talked. I always walked away a little wiser and more motivated to go to work (in what looked like a new pair of shoes).

I can still recall that first encounter. He finished shining my shoes and said, “I’ll show you brotherly love.” And then he unexpectedly reduced the price. I became a frequent and loyal client.

Walking away, I could faintly hear him welcoming his next customer onto the chair saying “that’s my friend — he’s from Philadelphia. You know, the city of Brotherly Love.”

Twelve minutes later and $15 dollars lighter, I had a beautiful lesson that will stick with me forever — enthusiasm always sells!

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