Going to market with my dad (Tom) was always among my favourite things to do, as I could learn so much from a top-class trader such as he. He could always manage to make that little bit more of whatever he was selling but also buy extremely well when it came to striking a deal with any seller. He always taught me that when dealing with any buyer or seller that your word was your bond at the point of agreeing on a price for any transaction, and that should never be broken even if the deal that had been struck turned out to be less than satisfactory at a later date. Everyone knew that when they had shaken hands with Tom on a deal, he would deliver or pay whatever was agreed at the time, come what may. This trust between traders is paramount when dealing face-to-face and very often on the move during a day’s trading in the hurly-burly of the market place.
These natural trading qualities led to him becoming an extremely trusted trader who could make deals on the move with ease, and everyone knew at the end of the day all transactions which had been done would be smoothly successful.
In the early days of selling the cheese, made from the milk produced on his little farm, this ability to sell on the move was vital. There were very few local buyers for their cheese, owing to the lack of population around the farm and the only options to sell at a good price were few and far between.
Local wholesalers were one of the biggest buyers but inevitably they had to charge more than they paid and this led to quite a poor return for the cheesemaker and trying to sell nearer to the final customer was a little more profitable.
This led Tom to the local markets and the traders of all things who were selling daily to anyone who would buy. Tom would load the little pickup truck and set off to sell to anyone who was willing to pay his asking price. Being a seller of cheese or butter was not a prerequisite for Tom’s target buyer, only many visitors to their stand or pitch were necessary. On one of our visits to our biggest local market which was Salisbury, Tom identified a large stand selling all types of green-grocery but no dairy produce. The number of visitors to this exceptionally large market stall was easily the most in the whole of Salisbury market. Tom approached the owner of the stall and suggested that he may like to sell cheese and butter. The trader was quite unsure about whether this was wise as he had never sold anything like that before, ‘what could he do with anything which didn’t sell?’, he rightly asked. Tom said ‘don’t worry about that just pitch the cheese and butter at the front of the stall, call it as the market traders do, let’s just see what sells!’
Well, call it he did …lovely cheese and butter fresh up from Somerset this morning, made on the farm this morning (a slight exaggeration as the cheese had probably be made several months earlier). But the point was made. By the end of the day Tom’s pickup was empty and his pocket full of cash. He had pulled off the unlikely, asking someone who had never sold cheese and butter before to just try it! Mr Bennett and his green-grocery stall in Salisbury became our largest customer for years to come.
Now that is super salesmanship, and the difference between success and failure for Tom’s little business.