This is a simple story of a simply remarkable man.
This is a post dedicated to the life of one of the greatest salesman ever, a man who despite having a condition of celebral palasy, learned to beat the odds of life using just 2 of his mother's words – patience and persistence.
Many people over the years noticed a man, walking through their neighborhoods, in Portland, Oregon. A man carrying a briefcase, wearing a tie with his shirt cuffs, knee and his shoes shined and his gaze fixed on the houses ahead of it. They never knew who he was or what he did. In the horrible long dark winters, people saw him in these terrible rainy days, crossing busy roads and no one never knew who he was. Because the sight of a door-to-door salesman is growing rare in age, people were reluctant to open their doors to strangers. He was simply selling household products door to door for a Watkins company. His name, Mr. Bill Porter.
Mr. Porter had cerebral palsy. His mother Irene told him that a doctor's instrument like forceps, had damaged a section of his brain at birth, and the condition affected his walk, his hands, his speech, all the natural tools of work he chose.
He was born in 1932, when cerebral palsy was barely understood as a child. He was teased sometimes unmercifully. His father died when he was still young and when others sought to discourage him, as he grew old enough to work his one unwavering source of encouragement was his mother Irene.
Her inspiration kept him going, when voice after voice told him, there was no work he could handle. He went to the employment agency day after day, but nobody would hire him. When Bill was growing up, people told there was no future for him, and the state declared he was unemployable, and he should collect disability payments. His mother believed in this kid. "I could do what I should. If his ambition was to sell products door-to-door, so be it."
"Give me your worst"
One of the places where he applied for work was the Watkins company which sold household products ranging from detergents to spices. Bill had already been rejected by the Fuller Brush Company and Watkins didn't want to hire him at first either, but he finally convinced them to give him the worst territory they had. Portland the one place that nobody else wanted was chosen. They had nothing to lose by it and it began a string of connections that involved hundreds of lives and changed a few of them.
Before he ever attempts his first sale in a day, Bill Porter had a system that began when he left his house at 7:45 AM to wait for the bus to downtown Portland. He couldn't drive and because he had limited use of one hand, he could not tie his shoes or button his collar, shirt, cuffs. But he managed in ways that arise both from his sheer determination never to miss a day of work and a network of acquaintances, who contributed to his efforts. Over the miles, he went to people, who might remain anonymous to others, yet take a moment to be themselves with Bill. At 8:05 he usually gets off the bus in downtown Portland and walks to the 5th Avenue Suites Hotel. Carefully buttonning Bill's shirt cuffs, for him would be few bell-hoppers, who would take care of his collar and clip-on his tie and it was such a role reversal. A young man buttoning a man who's old enough to be his father. Sure there was something very tender about it, something so pure and innocent about both of them.
His next stop was a block from the hotel, a shoe parlor. This is where the glint in his shoes comes from. His shoes finally are tied for him by Jeff MacAlpine, and then his painstaking daily work begins. He takes another bus to the brow and starts hooking it up and down hill up and down steps. Walking is difficult to know the physical act of what he does really speaks to the internal. Bill just doesn't give up and says "there's no obstacle you can't overcome"
He walks 7 miles and more each day, with a chronic back ailment to stand and listen to people say yes or no, to his overtures door by door. But this man who faced so much discouragement early in his life, never complains and has never been put off by the rejections in his 35 years of selling.
One person Bill Porter let in on some of his secrets of selling is Shelly Brady, who started working for Bill when she was in high school. Because he needed someone who can drive to deliver the products, that his customers order, he says "I will knock on a door and he'll tell me no, and they'll tell me to never ever ever come back" He doesn't hear that! He doesn't hear the word NO. He never gives up, and they are some of his best customers.
The world has no hold on you. Whatever has a hold on you comes from your mind. – Bill Porter
Bill didn't carry a display case but he did carry pictures of his products, "He doesn't leave without me buying something too much, he's got it figured out, he just keeps showing me things, until I find just the right thing, I can't see his customers fill out their own order forms for him, before he's off again" And, "He's always able to sell products. If you had your case here and we're going to show me your product line, where would you start with me?"
Mother knows best
Through all the years of work, he'd continued to live with his mother, until she fell ill in the late 1980s and underwent a personality change because of Alzheimer's disease. In its first stages, she went through a complete turnabout, and this woman who had inspired his career, would beg Bill not to leave the home to work. It was one of the hardest times in his life, and she didn't speak to him after coming back home. Good bill tended his mother faithfully, at the end of each day, until she died, under nursing care in 1989.
Tom Holman, a reporter found Bill Porter finally and he agreed to meet with him in November 1995. Hallman's story about this salesman, was published in the Portland Oregonian. Many, then had saw this man and noticed his drag, but never known became a name and a face! This man was inspirational, and they received hundreds and hundreds of letters back and his phone calls.
Not just letters, saying nice story but poignant letter from people, who remembered him when they were children, who had teased him on the bus or who had hidden, when he came to their door. One man called and he said, he was one of the young boys when he was young who made fun of Bill Porter. He was in tears, and he offered to buy 250 dollars worth of Watkins products and give it to some needy families and let Bill get the commission.
Bill's reaction to the letters that came in was to say his mother would have been proud, he faces each day just as he did before the people may change but the system. He works from this first mile long as a man who sometimes gently relies on others.
He was most of all a source of strength because, what he believed, he could do, he did and all the voices in his life that told him "No", were silenced by the whisper of his sheer will. He hardly ever took vacations, and sticked stubbornly to the order. He was often noticed in passing, from the windows of homes and cars, a neatly dressed man moving on, like he was one of the last of his kind.
"He was a man really unspoiled by the time."
In a year Bill Porter, lost and regained his ability to walk, but never stopped selling! He was struck by a car, as he crossed the street in front of his home and spent months recovering from his injuries. He felt comfortable walking only short distances, so he turned to the telephone to conduct the business that for so many years and so many miles he had taken door-to-door.
But in some ways, he had a constituency, that goes far beyond the clients whose homes he used to visit. He established a trait, rain or shine will walk his seven or more miles a day, often painfully for around $300 a week never complaining. What the world needed was not what Bill Porter is selling but, Bill Porter himself. He could have become a bitter man but he has a secret key forged by his steel will and a spirit that can't be broken.
Here's few life lessons of this great salesman,
– His persistence lasted for 24 years, day-in, and day-out, 365 days an year. – Bill's customers noted his dilegence, walking 15 kilometers everyday. – His unending efforts tell one word - PATIENCE. – Persevere and persevere. Persevere till the end. – Follow your passion. – It doesn’t matter how you got here, only where you are going. – Persistence pays off. – Don’t take no for an answer – Know your limits and reach beyond them – Be a team player. – If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. – Live your values – Establish a trait. – There are no obstacles.
The world needs more inspirational Bill Porters, and that's true! Good luck selling. If you liked this post, do subscribe, and share our work!