The interview: The life of a salesman 40 years on
Danny Reid from Godmanchester has been selling door-to-door for 40 years. I don t sell to people, he says. They buy things from me. ANGELA SINGER met a man who has the secrets of a successful salesman. DANNY Reid is a natural comic. I ll talk to anyb
Danny Reid from Godmanchester has been selling door-to-door for 40 years. "I don't sell to people," he says. "They buy things from me. ANGELA SINGER met a man who has the secrets of a successful salesman.
DANNY Reid is a natural comic. "I'll talk to anybody," he says. "I saw a woman I knew in the chemist in Godmanchester this week with her little grandson. He didn't know me but I said "Oh are you not at school?
"She said he had hurt his foot and she had to take him to the doctor. I said I think you'll want to get back to school.
"When I came out of the shop, there was his bike next to mine - so what did I do? I got on his bike. I said 'excuse me, you're in the way, I have to go. He said you're on my bike. I said no I'm not - that's your one, there."
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After 40 years as a door-to-door salesman, one of the customers he remembers best never actually bought anything from him.
"This was about six months after I first started selling brushes and cleaning materials with Kleen-e-ze in 1964. I knocked on the door and a woman opened it and she saw my case of products and asked what this little brush was for and that thing was for. After about 10 minutes she said she wouldn't have anything, so I said I would see her in a couple of months.
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"I always call on people about once every eight weeks and I called on her for about two years and each time she would ask about all the products, one after another but she would never buy anything.
"I wasn't annoyed but I was mystified. Why did she want to know all about each brush. She would say are there any new lines and I would say, as a matter of fact we have got such and such.
"Eventually, one day, I shut the case and I said, you know I've been coming round here for a couple of years. Can you satisfy my curiosity? You've always been pleasant. You have given me your time but you've never bought anything. I'm puzzled.
"She said: 'I just love to hear you talk about your products - I don't buy things from the door...' She had just liked to hear me talking about all the lines."
However, that woman was unusual. Danny was an astonishing salesman. He was on commission-only. There was no salary, but he could earn £35 a week in the mid 1960s when the average wage was around £10.
After three years in the job, walking the streets, knocking on doors, talking about his wares, he was the top Kleen-e-ze salesman for the whole of Britain.
In 1968, he sold £6,203 worth of goods - mostly at less than 50 pence a time. Popular ranges included the Citrus Spray air freshner at seven shillings and nine pence (40p) and tins of polish at six shillings and three pence (31p). One of the most expensive items was a bristle brush and comb set at £2. His turnover in today's money would be £72,900. His prize for winning the Company Leader title in 1968 was £30, a carving set and two stainless steel fruit bowls.
Danny was company leader again in 1970 by which time, he was a manager as well as a salesman having "set on" two other distributors.
He would always make his money. Did he ever go home without selling anything? "No I couldn't have that. I would just stop out longer."
When he first took over his East Peterborough patch for the Kleen-e-ze Brush Company, he visited every house, driving around in his Hillman Minx.
He told the company magazine, Searchlight, after receiving his trophy in 1969:
"Each year, I start by saying the same thing: Think big and have a high outlook. You have to be optimistic in this job. Ask any successful man in any walk of life and he will tell you that once having tasted success and enjoyed the high earnings, it urges you to do more and more."
He admitted there had been some mornings when he had earned only a few shillings.
"Ask anyone and you will soon realise that the leaders get their share of disappointments but they have the faith to carry on and reap the rewards. To experience bad patches is good for you. It builds character and makes you appreciate the good days."
Danny was born a Londoner but came to Stukeley Meadows as an evacuee during the Second World War and stayed in Huntingdonshire.
"We were bombed out in Hammersmith. We came here in the clothes we stood up in."
He arrived, aged five, with his brother Derek, aged two, mum Josephine and dad Patrick.
When he left Brookfield Secondary Modern School in Huntingdon at 15, he worked as a clerk in a meat depot.
"Meat was still rationed and it was our job to allocate it to the butchers." He did his two years' national service from 1955 to 1957 and married his wife Hazel, from Godmanchester, in August 1955. They had met at school, aged 13.
Aged 29, he was working in a rubber factory, Victaulic in St Peter's Road, Huntingdon, when he wanted a change.
"I was happy enough in the factory but I felt there was something missing. Every day seemed to be the same. I used to breed collies and I think selling the puppies had given me the urge to sell and meet people. Suddenly I woke up and realised I was nearly 30 and getting nowhere."
Kleen-e-ze was founded by an Englishman, Harry Crook who saw the door-to-door idea when he lived in America but came back to England because his wife was homesick.
Danny sold their products for around 15 years and then, 25 years ago, changed to selling clothes which he buys from London. His current patch includes Huntingdon, Brampton, Ellington, the Offords, Buckden and Hartford.
Danny is now a great grandfather. For 15 years he was a manager for Hartford Colts football teams and he swims three times a week.
"I don't consider myself as a businessman," he says, "because for me, it's like calling on friends. No one knows I'm coming. There are kids running around and the breakfast things still on the table. It's a normal home. People are in their own castle.
"There are some really nice people out there and I would like to thank my customers because, without them, I wouldn't still be doing the job. I really do appreciate their hospitality.