This episode of the Best Sellers in History series is different from the other episodes we’ve had. We are going to do an interview not with the person himself, but with his friend, Lin Hart. He wrote a book about a period of Reginald Lewis’ life. As we talk to Lin, we discover how Reginald was able to inspire us to achieve our goals and become great sellers as well.
Lin had a great experience when he was still a customer, back when he first purchased his own computer. His brother had told him to get a computer and with the help of his colleague’s daughter, who was a salesperson with a new computer company, was able to decide what computer to buy and make all the purchasing decisions
He was reluctant but the young lady was excellent. She came over to his office and explained to him all the things he needed. She also picked out the right package for Lin. The computer came with a lot of instructions and she explained how it worked and explained the purchase price in detail. Her attitude was great. She called personally, came, and delivered the product herself.
Lin started working for Western Electric, a company that later became AT&T Network Systems. This company manufactured all the telephone equipment for all the telephone companies back when they were still in a monopoly arrangement. Lin left the company in 1995 and decided to work for himself as a professional speaker.
With success as a professional speaker, the company expanded into executive coaching. The job allowed him to travel around the country. By 2011, he decided to relax and began to limit his traveling. It was then that Lin was asked to write down his thoughts and record his experience. Lin wasn’t keen to do it until Reginald’s wife and mother personally asked him to write about Reginald. There weren’t many people who were close to Reginald Lewis, as he was an extremely private individual. Being so close to Reginald, he was in the perfect position to write about him and Reginald F Lewis, The young man before the billion-dollar empire was born.
Reginald Lewis passed away in 1993 and at the time of his death, he was arguably the richest African-American on the planet. He had several business deals including that last one, the International division of Beatrice Foods. It was a company that was doing an excess of $2 billion a business. When he closed a deal, they didn’t realize that he was a young African-American businessman. Reginald was an extraordinarily successful businessman with extraordinary wealth. Unfortunately, he was gone too soon.
Linn and Reginald’s relationship started when they were young men growing up in the same Baltimore neighborhood. He lived three blocks away from Lin’s family. They would see each other often and eventually, they became friends and competed against each other in high school sports. While Reginald went to Dunbar High School, Linn went to Edmondson High School. They both won athletic scholarships to attend Virginia State University for football were Linn and Reginald became roommates and close friends. They remained close and would stay connected through their professional careers as well.
Reginald didn’t come from wealth. He was a man who had sustainable beliefs about the inevitability of his own success. He never doubted for a minute he was going to be successful despite many shortcomings. Regardless of the situation, Reginald didn’t let those things deter him from his path to success.
While people talk about how to think in terms of a box, he, on the other hand, never saw a box. He was always upbeat and was able to overcome his lack of money with good grades in school.
Every salesperson has the innate ability to survive. This instinct is embedded in their brains. We are all born with a desire to be good at something, whether it’s in sports, speaking, or some other skill. The trick is to find what lights our fire. We have to figure out the drive that propels us to go where we want to go in this life. Discovering what lights our fire requires a certain amount of determination. Reginald was certainly driven and it took him a long way.
Lin and Reginald started to look for jobs so they decided to apply at a recently opened bowling alley. It didn’t take a long time to note that it was a predominantly white institution. While black people can come in, there were certain lines they didn’t cross. Reginald didn’t see those lines and didn’t want to work under such limitations. After a time, Reginald began getting to school late. Apparently, he’d gotten the job and was running the bowling alley as the night manager! It was extraordinary.
Lin was working for AT&T and he had the responsibility for network systems engineering in the Western part of the country. He had a little workgroup of guys who came up with ideas about how to provide the propagation studies for towers in Australia. The cellular phone business was just starting to ramp up and the propagation studies were designed to know where the towers should be placed. Lin had 30-40 engineers working for him. Reginald heard about this and called to suggest buying assets from Lin’s company. It was a considerable business and through their discussion, Lin discovered Reginald had the money to afford the assets. It was then that Lin realized Reginald was playing in a different league.
There are so many things that people didn’t know about Reginald. He was a private man and he was a behind-the-scenes guy. The inspiration to write the book stemmed from the desire to let people know who Reginald really was as an individual and not just a person who made a fortune.
Reginald didn’t have a straight line to success. He had some rough patches as well, with bumps and obstacles he had to overcome. The most important thing was that he understood when there was a need to change direction and change plans. Most people are reluctant to change because they fear the outcome that may come after the changes.
Change is difficult and is never free. If you think about the resources that a person brings to their job, whether it’s a salesperson, a businessman, or another career, you only have certain things that you can invest your time, your capital, and your money in. When you make significant changes in your life, you see you don’t have to expend all of these.
Reginald was able to overcome failures. Salespeople can do the same thing by loving what they do. You need to make sure that whatever you do, it takes you in the direction of something you feel good about. You need to feel proud about it and see that it’s meaningful work. Examine yourself and ask yourself if you are really doing what you could be good at.
Do a deep dive and understand your business at a granular level as opposed to a surface level. Sometimes people are in the right place but they’re not getting any success in their business because they haven’t spent time truly understanding what it is that they do.
You can be brilliant even if you don’t have a command of the details but there’s a big chance you’re going to miss some steps in the process. You don’t need to be mired in detail but you do need to have a deep understanding of all the details. We fail when we put limitations on ourselves. Again, the most impactful limitations are the ones we put on ourselves.
Lin’s very first client was a man named James White, a young African-American businessman who worked for Nestle Purina. He’s now the chairman and CEO of Jamba Juice. That’s his life now as an executive coach and a writer. You can follow Lin via his LinkedIn and Facebook.
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Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth.Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.