Growing Up Poor Helped Make Me Rich
by Bill Sardi
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Book Review: The Street-Smart Salesman; How Growing Up Poor Helped Make Me Rich, by Anthony Belli, John Wiley & Sons, 2012, 220 pages. (Release date June 15, 2012)
What you want from a book is an experience, or a lesson, or some deep involvement where you get lost in the depths of the book and its fascination, which holds you to its end. Anthony Belli creates such an experience in his book entitled The Street Smart Salesman; How Growing Up Poor Helped Make Me Rich.
For this book to be read only by those who would pursue a career in sales would limit its message. Its lesson is poignant to every American regardless of their career path. If the book has no other point than to recognize the depths of poverty from which Mr. Belli rose, to help you get over your own personal pity party, then it has served a noble purpose. You can rise above your circumstances.
Certainly there are readers who would enviously say there are so many others who start out life on third base, that it is so difficult to succeed when competing against the privileged. But Mr. Belli's book seems to say there is far greater accomplishment in starting out at home plate and earning your way around the bases than to start off privileged and fail to learn many of life's lessons. Not that hardship is to be extolled, but overcoming it is what America is all about. The challenges Mr. Belli faced after his growing-up years were pale in comparison to what he faced in his first 16 years of life. If you want to be grateful for what you have in life, read Mr. Belli's book.
Mr. Belli's book is published at a time when most young Americans are facing a difficult future. There is talk of the wealthy 1% while the 99% face the loss of the American dream. Will the next generation feel they are part of the America when jobs are few and the idea of a career, home ownership, and a family have been dashed?
Yet young Mr. Belli, burdened with caring for a bedridden mother, having 32 rotten teeth, one set of smelly clothes and tennis shoes held together by duct tape, who flunked every class in grade school and became a truant to avoid the sting of being known as the dumbest kid in Harlem, rose from his poverty in a way that would overshadow the accomplishments of the most recent billionaire on Wall Street.
Through it all, Belli learned to be alert, on guard, to be watchful for trouble. See, he had friends who took bullets who were standing next to him. Simply out of a need for safety, he learned to show respect to the tough guys who bullied him, and therefore how to wean his way into starting a relationship with even the toughest prospects he would later call on as a salesman.
I can recall riding in a car years ago with Mr. Belli through Harlem, where he grew up, and he pulled up short of a car in front of his at a stop light so as to leave room for a get-away should something unexpected happen.
To survive, Mr. Belli had to study his street opponents. That led to his study of sales prospects. He learned to read people in order to survive. If we have no other lesson than to learn that from reading his book, we have travelled far in life. Mr. Belli says, to do that, you have to jot down notes about your prospect, to help you contemplate an approach. He provides more specifics in chapter six.
I discovered, somewhere about a quarter of the way into the book, that I had served as a mentor to Mr. Belli. I met him while delivering a presentation on value-added selling. He took to it as if it was tailored for him. But Anthony learned to take it further than I had. To make sure he let his prospects know his time had to be given in exchange for his prospect's business. I struggled with being taken advantage of. Mr. Belli learned how to make the other party part with their money in exchange for his valuable time. It's a lesson I had to learn.
Of course, it could be said we are all selling someone else to buy into whatever we offer in life, whether it be a potential spouse, an employer, or whomever we need to convince to come around to our view of things. The biggest lesson we have to learn is to get people to part with money for what I have to offer. That is Mr. Belli's most important lesson. To accomplish this, you have to be willing to walk away from your customer. You can read about it in chapter 18.
However, Mr. Belli's book is not about negotiation per se. It is about hope of rising above your position beyond your own wildest dreams. It is about how to develop ambition. That is something that can't be taught in school. It is something Mr. Belli agonizes over because he couldn't instill ambition into other members of his own family.
Mr. Belli makes a point when he says "personality, intelligence, math ability, social and practical skills and educational degrees" have nothing to do with a person's success. Whoa, tell me more. What have I been missing? His take is that we all need to become serious students of human behavior. To capture how to do this, read chapter two in his book.
Then you really have to take home another of Mr. Belli's strongest lessons. As he says it, "If you think this book is about how to scam your customers using my wily secrets, you're wrong. The truth is that most salespeople are honest and it's the customers who lie!" He is so right about that. Customers lie because they want to get rid of you. Of course, where have we been, not recognizing this main fact of life? Mr. Belli's book tells you how to deal with that and turn it into your own favor, regardless of what you are selling. For in essence, you are always selling yourself.
Oh, Mr. Belli knows you well. He knows you don't know how to sell. So you are going to drop your pants, so to speak, that is, give away free samples and drop your price right from the beginning, to sell your product or service. But why, asks Mr. Belli? He dares you to put away all those sales aids your sales manager taught you to use and sell with your wits only on your first couple of sales calls on a prospect.
Can you live with failure? Mr. Belli, as he began to grow out of his poverty-like thinking, became a star baseball player at New York City College. He learned there that star players make outs seven out of ten times. His book wants you to test yourself. If you even have a modicum of an idea you could sell something to anyone, you ought to try it. Or as Mr. Belli's book says, "if you think you have the skills to succeed at selling, it's too risky not to try!"