McCord Family Crest
I really haven’t been too into researching my family tree, but recently I decided to do a bit of research and made some interesting discoveries about both my father’s and my mother’s families.
I always believed my father’s family came from Ireland—part of the potato famine exodus. Wrong. We came almost directly from Scotland with a very brief, less than one generation, stopover in Belfast. I discovered that in 1689 my great-grandfather 9 generations ago, who was the chieftain of a clan on the Isle Skye, was killed at the Battle of Killiecrankie Pass in Scotland while fighting for Charles II even though he and the clan were strict Scot Presbyterians. Who could have guessed that?
I discovered that my great-grandfather 7 generations ago was an original founder of Derry Township Pennsylvania (Hershey, PA today—Mmm, chocolate!). Lancaster County Pennsylvania? Really? Would never have thought that.
The family eventually moved to Tennessee and then onto southern Illinois for several generations. Ah, McCord wanderlust from Scotland to Ireland to Pennsylvania to Tennessee to Illinois—now that’s a family trait I recognize since we then migrated to Ohio to Kansas back to Ohio for a bit and then on to Texas.
I discovered we have a family coat of arms (and from the looks of it, it appears my ancestors who designed it were as artistically challenged as are the current generation of McCord’s). We have a family motto: “One Way, One Heart” (certainly the implied unity of the family didn’t transfer down to the 20th and 21st centuries). We even have a tartan design of our own—you could be wearing my family’s plaid right this minute.
On my mother’s side I discovered the Dunn’s were really from England–like they were supposed to be. But again to my surprise, I discovered that my great-grandfather 8 generations ago, Hugh Dunn, was one of the four founders of Piscataway, New Jersey in 1666. Later one was the mayor of Lockland, Ohio during part of the Civil War.
Wow, original founders of Derry Township, PA on one side and Piscataway, New Jersey on the other. Real honest to goodness American pioneers. We must have lost that spirit since it doesn’t look like any of us has helped found another town in the last 350 years.
I found direct ancestors who had been killed by Indians when their settlement was raided, at least two who had fought in the Revolutionary War, another had been killed in the French and Indian War, and others who had been farmers, foremen for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, wagon makers, lawyers, and weavers.
I felt like Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk when while at work one day he opened the just delivered phonebook and there on page 73 he found his name. With great pride he proclaimed, “I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity – your name in print – that makes people. I’m in print!!” I felt like I had ancestors; that I came from someplace—finally, I’m somebody now.
All of this warm and fuzzy discovery got me to thinking about all the salespeople that I’d met over the years that felt that they weren’t really anybody—that there wasn’t anything that grounded them in an honorable and noble profession. These were men and women who simply woke up one morning and found themselves in the unfortunate position of selling for a living while wishing they had a “real” job, one that demanded respect and honor like Marketing and HR and Finance—positions that business schools recognize and educators write real thick textbooks that cost lots of money and are as boring as hell about but that give the jobs a sense of dignity and a respected place within the business hierarchy.
The more I thought about this assumed lack of a family history, the more I realized that we sellers have an incredible history filled with some of the greatest minds and most important people that ever walked the land.
I suspect that there’s been a good share of scoundrels in both the McCord and Dunn families over the centuries. And we all know there’s been more than a fair share of them selling all kinds of stuff over the last thousands of years. I’m sure the first flimflam man appeared about the same time the first real transaction between humans took place. For all I know the first transaction would have made a modern day scammer proud.
But we sellers do come from a long, long line of great sales men and women. We can’t review thousands of years of sales history, but let me point out just a couple of my favorite sellers:
Moses: Moses may have invented the concept of identifying prospect pain points and then helping to resolve that pain—very effectively bringing to Pharaoh’s attention the intensity of the pain that Pharaoh didn’t realize he and his country were feeling prior to Moses pointing it out through a series of attention getting demonstrations. Although it took a bit of time, Moses was quite successful in getting Pharaoh to buy the idea that if he let the Israelites go the pain would stop. Shortly after Pharaoh’s wise decision, Moses had to successfully deal with Pharaoh’s unfortunate case of buyer’s remorse.
Winston Churchill: The world today might be a very different place if Winston Churchill hadn’t sold his countrymen—and the rest of the free world—on the idea that they could defeat Nazi Germany. Shortly after Chamberlin’s massively disastrous trip to meet Hitler, Germany attacked Poland with the consequent chain reaction that turned into World War II. In relatively short order Britain was on the verge of falling to the Germans, having been pushed by them back to the home island–and they weren’t doing much better in Africa. Despite what appeared to be certain defeat, Churchill’s defiance and determination helped inspire the british people to hold on against overwhelming odds. He sold his countrymen on the idea that they could win when few thought it even remotely possible that they could survive for much longer—and by doing so changed the course of history (with a bit of help from a few other countries).
Lamar Hunt: What, you don’t think of Lamar Hunt as a salesperson? Well, he was such an accomplished salesperson that he changed the whole nature of professional sports—almost singlehandedly. He didn’t set out to change it all. All he wanted was an NFL franchise for Dallas. But the NFL wouldn’t give him one. So what did he do? He sold a few other men on a new organization he envisioned—the American Football League which began play in 1960. Hunt wasn’t willing to take ‘no’ for an answer. Instead of just accepting no, he decided to find a way to turn no into yes. And he certainly did—and eventually made the guys who had said no wish they’d said yes because he ended up costing them a fortune (and then later making them an even bigger fortune). Hunt not only sold the franchises, he convinced the owners of those franchises that they could compete with the NFL—which they did by quickly drafting and signing Billy Cannon, the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner. Within short order they had signed half of the top college crop of 1959 to play for them instead of the NFL. Then they had the audacity to steal NFL stars too. Then wonder of wonders they signed a TV contract to televise games which guaranteed the league’s success. Finally, after years of costing the NFL a ton of money, robbing them of great talent, and simply outplaying them in salesmanship and marketing, Hunt turned his new league into a merger with the NFL, creating unimagined fortunes for the owners and the players. If you’re a fan of professional football as it is today (actually any professional sport), you owe it to Lamar Hunt’s ability to sell dreams. On the other hand, if you hate the way professional sports are managed and played today–you may not a big Lamar Hunt fan.
Mary Kay Ash: Mary Kay was a lady that didn’t know how to quit—and she helped give tens of thousands of other women a sense of freedom and honor when they represented the Mary Kay Cosmetics line at parties and one-on-one with their friends and neighbors. Mary Kay had a unique view of business. Although her company was incredibly successful and profitable, she always measured the company’s performance based on her own P&L formula—People and Love. Millions of women grew to love Mary Kay because of the freedom and dignity she helped them achieve, the great products she sold, and the emphasis she placed on people rather than on profits. Not surprisingly, by working so hard to help others succeed, her own success was far beyond anything she could have dreamt. Mary Kay was a humble lady from humble beginnings who changed the lives of millions. And she was one of us.
Paul Harvey: It is said that Paul Harvey was the most listened to voice in radio history—and one of the most trusted. Harvey was also one of the most successful at selling—if he sold your product on his show, you were virtually guaranteed record sales. I’ve known of Paul Harvey since I can remember—even as a little kid I remember hearing him on the radio in the car—who could forget his voice? Everything he sold he made sound so doggone good that you wanted to buy it even if you didn’t need it or didn’t even know what to do with it after you bought it. When he read the news you didn’t question if it really happened the way he said it did—you knew it did or if it didn’t, it damn well should have. I have a Bose radio because of him. I know I bought other things because of Harvey, I just don’t remember what they were—but they were good because after all Paul Harvey endorsed them and said they were good. He was just a voice on the radio, but one that could make your company overnight if he believed in it.
George Washington: Washington was, of course, a surveyor, planter, statesman, General, President, and brewer. But his most important job was that of salesman. If he hadn’t been as great a salesman as he was, there probably wouldn’t be a United States of America today. He sold his men on sticking around and fulfilling their obligations during the Revolutionary War. Sure, he lost lots of men who just walked off and went back home. He had to institute some pretty tough penalties for any caught deserting. But it was his ability to sell his men on staying and fighting, for sacrificing for a dream of freedom and independence that really won the freedom of America. And we all know it was a tough sale—and not just because of no money, no food, no shoes. Yes, he had to overcome the effects of the great physical sacrifice his men had to endure, but he also had to overcome the incredible mental and emotional impact losing almost every engagement his army entered had on both him and his men. The Continental Army didn’t win many battles—it just won some key ones. No shoes, no money, no food, not many winning battles—and he still sold his men on sticking around and fighting. I’m proud to be a salesman with him as an example.
In fact, I’m proud to be a salesman who can look on these great sellers—and many, many more like them—as examples and mentors. Just like my McCord and Dunn lineage, I have a professional family tree that anchors me in time and space that fills me with pride and a sense of honor. I don’t need some stuffy university to tell me that selling is important (although at long last many schools now have sales and sales management as a recognized course of study leading to a degree) or a slick business magazine dedicating a section to sales just as it does to other business disciplines (don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen anytime soon).
I can look back at my sales family tree and recognize the massive changes in society and history that my sales ancestors have brought about. And I can strive to carry on that tradition.
Don’t ever think that sales is the red-headed stepchild of business even if many supposed experts, gurus and educators choose to stroke their egos by acting as though it is. It isn’t. As a matter of fact, it is the foundation of business—and society–that all the other disciplines owe their existence to. Always remember that you can very comfortably and successfully live without those business schools, professors, gurus, and business magazines–but they could’t exist for a minute without you.