Door-To-Door Vacuum Salesman Educates Youths About the Benefits of Direct Sales

Dan Cook If you told Daniel Cook in 1981 that selling vacuums while hitchhiking to and from work would be his key to a lucrative career in direct sales (DS), he probably would have laughed in your face. Cook had been happy to get a job as a junior expeditor with IBM. It was manageable work that provided a decent income and a reasonable amount of job security. So it seemed to be the perfect job for a recent college graduate. Eventually Cook realized he wanted more money, so he took a weekend job with Electrolux selling vacuums.

Cook would be the first to admit that there is nothing glamorous about selling vacuums; but going door to door as a salesman taught him two valuable lessons. First, that he liked direct sales and second that he could make more money doing part time DS work on the weekends than he could working his full-time job at IBM. "I made $42,000 in 11 months doing door-to-door vacuum sales in 1982, so I kept at it," he said.

A year later, Cook found himself in a more trying situation. "I worked 52 miles away from where I was living and I had to hitchhike to work every day for three months because I had no car, but that is what kept me in the field of DS," he said. "I was no longer trying to make a fast buck and sell to my parents and family and friends. I had to sell to strangers, and that's harder -- but it made me persistent."

Taking the leap

In 1982, Daniel took a leap of faith and became a full-time DS rep with Electrolux. He stayed with the company until 1993. His best year was 1992, when he made $179,000 pedaling vacuums to homeowners in Maine. "Sometimes the job picks you," he observed.

After his most lucrative year, Daniel took another leap of faith and left the world of vacuums with his close friend and mentor, Joe Galluccio, to work at Colliers Publishers. "I had problems in school with reading comprehension and that's really where the pressure started. My background is in teaching and coaching, so I like to help students."

Less than a year later, Colliers Publishers was sold to a European company that gave Galluccio the exclusive rights to sell educational products (encyclopedias and educational materials). Galluccio called his DS company BrainstormUSA, and Cook began selling their educational products -- just as he had once sold vacuums.

vacuum cleaner Start-up costs

Daniel invested $150 in start-up costs. For that money he got a kit that told him about BrainstormUSA products and how to sell for them. Across the country there are currently over 200 reps selling these products. According to Daniel, "most of our reps are full time, as this is not your average weekend gig."

How BrainstormUSA works

Direct Sales companies today have a different face. With the creation of mega malls, shopping plazas and the ability to purchase anything on the Internet, door-to-door salesmen are obsolete, so BrainstormUSA generates its leads by giving away scholarships and working with local schools.

"When a school participates in our program, each teacher gets free software products from our company to use in their classrooms for an assigned project. We select the winning projects. It helps prepare kids for college and offers students exposure to the software we sell."

Sales reps make their money by cultivating leads from schools, visiting with students' parents, and using referrals, exhibit programs and educational fairs.

For $14 per month, the BrainstormUSA software offers educational content to students who want to work at their own pace on the same material they are studying in school. Parents can also be involved by tracking their child's progress with the schoolwork and helping the child in problem areas.

Pros and cons

To Cook, the biggest pro is that he gets to help students, which makes him feel that his work is meaningful. "The products I am selling are making a huge difference in people's lives, as compared to a vacuum."

On the downside, Daniel says, "some people often look at me like any other guy trying to sell them something, and I have to explain to them that I am selling something that invests in them. Its hard. Today's consumers are very educated, and salesmen have to be as well. Also, the DS sales reps at this company often meet with parents and educators in the evenings and on weekends, which not everyone likes to do." Cook notes that "when the schools are in, I work long days; but in the summer I get to spend a lot of time with my own kids -- so it evens out."

Advice for others

Cook 56, is the VP of expansion for the Western United States for BrainstormUSA, and has more than 50 people on his team learning the DS business directly from him. Here is his advice for finding success in DS.

  • Have a passion and a plan. First, do your research and remain open-minded.
  • If you have to make a large investment upfront to work with a company, be wary, because if the company is that good, they should invest in you.
  • Set yourself a trial time limit, such as 90 days.

Next up in our series is the story of a persistent single mother who finally found MLM success with Partylite.

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Phil, You are so correct that direct sales is not for everyone. Like the article states I took a chance.
I worked very hard at the opportunity that was presented to me. Listening and following what other successful people did before me truly helped.
Having parents install in me that if you want something in life you must earn it.
As to the products I have sold I never had to pressure someone into buying.
I always believed in these products and was well versed. Service plays a big important part of my success. I always sold and serviced my customers as if they were family. Offering packages around the client's needs and pocketbooks always made selling easy. Most of my sales come from referred customers and strong follow up.
Setting my goals each day of 150 doors, talk to 50 people, showing the product to 3 people, or selling 1 person was my focus. I would not, could not go home until I achieved 1 of these goals.
Selling has always been a science to me and though I been doing it for over 30 years I am still learning. I enjoy most of all passing and sharing on this knowledge to the next generation of sales people. Hoped this help and inspired!

February 10 2011 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was an Electrolux salesperson for a couple of years.
I was pretty good at the door-to-door stuff (this was when someone would actually let a stranger into their house..).
I sold quite a few vacuum cleaners but I always felt like I had high pressured the people into buying a very expensive (albeit high quality) product that they didn't really need and couldn't afford.
I sure as heck didn't get rich.
I did learn to fix a vacuum cleaner though.

February 05 2011 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sunny's comment

Hey Sunny: Direct Sales is NOT for everyone. It may not be your cup of tea. I have been in direct sales for years, and have found that it offers me freedom! That is priceless. I am on straight commission so I determine when and where I wish to work. I own the company so I decide how to work. Awesome no?

I would not advise DS for someone with no experience selling. It is the toughest work you'll ever do...if you hate it. Learn how to sell. Find a good company that will train you and offer you a product or service that you can believe in. Now...WORK! Self-employment is the wave of the future. It is a portable skill. You can wake up in any city in America and go to work tomorrow! Best of all. At the end of each day...I know EXACTLY how much I'm worth. The instant gratification that selling provides is a high like no other. Never give up. Never Surrender!

February 05 2011 at 7:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Cunningham

This guy Cook is a model for success. Sounds like a pretty persistent guy. His background is the all American success story - if you do the right thing and hang in there. Must have a great family of pretty understanding folks. I say this because one could glean the idea that here we have a Ralph Kramdon type from the Honeymooners. 'Will it core a apple?' Not so in that he's not apparently looking for a get rich quick scheme but a genuine life enhancer. Good for him and for the kids he services. Take heed do gooder rich guys - these are the kind of people to back if you want to do some good.

January 28 2011 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob Cunningham's comment

He may be right . I recall a movie about a guy with cerebral palsy that wasa door to door salesman . Tough jobbut he made a success of it . Very inspiring film

February 05 2011 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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