Tales of sales

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

I knew Dan Arp was a salesman when I married him – it only took nine weeks and a war in Vietnam for him to convince me to marry him. He definitely knows how to pitch a product or an idea, and he has some funny and some savvy stories to prove it!

One of Dan’s funniest sales stories occurred during the 1982 World’s Fair. At the time Dan was the manager of a large paper company and when he saw how many food venders were going to be on-site, vendors who would need disposable paper products, he went about snagging a paper supply contract.

There was a lot of competition for that contract, but Dan won the bid by low-balling the price, knowing that the quantity of product sold would justify the drop in price. The fair’s food suppliers, who also sold disposable paper products along with food, were not happy about this contract and managed to get the fair’s officials to rule that only vendors delivering perishables could come on site and deliver directly to the customers. If you didn’t have perishables on your truck, you delivered your product to the fair’s warehouse where, at the price of 50-cents per case, they delivered your product to the vendor.

“You want perishables on my trucks?” Dan said. “We can do that.” Out he went to a supermarket where he bought a dozen frozen chickens, placed in an ice box, put on his delivery trucks, and voila, his trucks contained perishables and were legal to deliver to the customer.

Dan says selling is all about relationships and he tells this story. Starting around 12 years old, on weekends Dan would work on Ray Paden’s farm. Ray was Dan’s scout master and usually had a project a boy could do. One Saturday they spent a hard day cutting saw timber and before Dan went home Ray gave him $10, a lot of money at that time.

Dan decided to buy a double-bitted ax with his money and Monday morning saw him at Parker Brothers Hardware Store on Clinton Highway. Bill Loveless was store manager at the time and told Dan that the ax was $10, but with tax added, the ax would be out of Dan’s budget. Bill knocked a dollar off the price and threw in a free file. Mr. Loveless knew the value of building a relationship and Dan says that if Parker Brothers were still in business, he’d still be going there.

Sometimes sales work via happenstance. Dan had a horse for several years but had gotten busy and decided it was time to sell. He placed an ad in the paper advertising him for $225. That Saturday a minister came by to see the horse. He said, “Well, I’ll think about it, but if I decide I want him, I can’t buy it tomorrow because I don’t do business on the Lord’s Day.

“What’s the horse’s name?” he asked. Dan’s sister had embroidered the name of the horse on the saddle blanket and when Dan held the blanket up and the minister saw the name Sam, that sealed the deal. “My son’s name is Sam,” said the minister, “and I’m buying this horse for him. Here’s a check for the horse and I need you to deliver him to me tomorrow.” Well.

Selling and buying, two of the many things that help the world go around. I’m usually on the buying end and Dan is generally on the selling end. I guess that all those years ago when Dan talked me into marrying him, he knew what he was doing. After all, sales folks need the buying folks, and the buying folks need the selling folks. For all you selling folks, go forth and conquer. And for all you buying folks, remember there’s a deal around the corner, just waiting for you.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell


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