The salesman - Joel Hall

There is something thrilling and exciting about making a sale. Before I ever started working for Clayton News Daily, I sold suits for the now defunct S&K Menswear.

One of the things I enjoyed about selling suits was that you really got a chance to learn about the nature of people. After a while, you learn which people are apprehensive, which are open to new things, just by observation and paying attention to their body language.

Working as a journalist, you also learn a lot about the nature of people. By writing about current events, you learn a lot about people's fears, needs and prejudices.

However, sometimes, I miss the idea of having to win somebody over. Selling somebody an idea is one thing, but convincing somebody to purchase or accept an item you are selling, requires much more of a buy-in on the part of the seller and the recipient.

For the seller, there is a small sense of victory when you have worked your way into somebody's heart and convinced them that your product is worth their while.

I had a chance to dip back into my salesman roots this past weekend at the Geranium Festival in downtown McDonough.

Over the weekend, my newspaper company had a booth advertising our sister newspaper, the Henry Daily Herald. As a volunteer at the booth, one of my jobs was passing out promotional materials.

While the products I was "selling" were free, it is amazing how apprehensive people can be toward free stuff. Sometimes, you can make eye contact with someone from far away and tell that they are doing the best they can to avoid you.

One of the things that always helped me as a suit salesman was to be engaging. When someone enters your place of business, you only have a few seconds to greet them before they start making judgments.

If somebody stepped into my store, I usually shook their hand, got to know a little bit about them, and, if it was appropriate, tried to lighten the mood a little bit. It's amazing what can happen when somebody is comfortable and feels like you are paying attention to them.

Those sales skills helped me a lot over the weekend, as I was tasked with handing out packets of marigold seeds with the company logo on them.

Like a town crier, I reeled people in, describing in detail the benefits of marigold seeds. It sounds silly, but with handfuls of seed packets, I went to men, women, and children and did my best to win them over.

Women like flowers, so I told one man that he would be able to impress his gal with his sensitivity by planting a garden of marigolds.

I told some folks that you couldn't eat marigolds after you plant them, but they eventually smell really nice.

I told another person that while they might not be geranium seeds, the average person won't be able to tell the difference.

Mostly, I was being silly, but I followed the rules I had learned about making the sale. In the course of an hour, I must have won over at least 150 people who would have never thought twice about planting seeds.

While I enjoy the idea of helping people make decisions through writing, it was a lot of fun to make people consider a decision that they would normally pass up, if not for creative persuasion. If journalism doesn't work out, I know that I can always get a job selling marigolds.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.