Kasey Seymour writes for Investor’s Business Daily that nine-year-old Bill Rosenberg knew his sales pitch didn’t work.
The question was, what would?
On a hot summer day in 1925, he was trying to sell watermelons in front of his dad’s Boston grocery for 50 cents each. He had to get rid of the watermelons before they went bad. Passers-by weren’t buying.
It was time for a different approach, he recalled in his autobiography, “Time to Make the Donuts.”
Standing near a streetcar stop, he yelled at people: “Bring a watermelon home! Surprise your family!”
Impressed, people began wandering over. Soon Rosenberg had sold all his watermelons.
A man on the street came into “Pop” Rosenberg’s store and told him that his son was “good as hell. He’s gonna be a helluva salesman.”
Rosenberg (1916-2002) kept honing his sales technique until he built the world’s most successful coffee and baked goods chain, Dunkin’ Donuts. He established a successful method of franchising his stores, founding the International Franchise Association in 1960. Today, Dunkin’ Donuts boasts close to 9,000 shops around the world and $5.5 billion in annual sales.
Rosenberg’s philosophy for sales was simple: “You don’t sell to people; you get people to buy from you. You say to yourself, ‘If I were in their position, why would I buy this product I have to sell?'”
Rosenberg began Industrial Luncheon Service in 1946 to provide convenient food service for factory workers on break. He had to keep the sandwiches, doughnuts, pastries and coffee fresh and easy to serve.
He thought about his experience working for two ice cream truck operations and decided it was time to innovate. He bought 10 trucks from New England Telephone Co., insulated them and installed stainless steel shelves and a stainless steel coffee holder.
The canteen truck so common at workplaces today was born.
“We were always brainstorming, finding solutions, making things work better,” Rosenberg said.
The second oldest of four children, Rosenberg had a modest childhood. To help support his family, he quit school in the eighth grade. He worked at whatever provided the most profit: selling ice cream out of boxes at the beach, delivering orders for his father’s grocery store, running telegrams for Western Union.
The boy listened intently when his dad told him that reputation, not money, was the most important thing. “He said, ‘You know, when you die, the only thing you’re going to die with is the reputation you created as a person when you lived. All the money in the world isn’t going to make you a better person. You’re going to be respected and remembered for the type of person you were and the character you had,'” Rosenberg recalled.