Salespeople have been given a bad name. It is depicted in The Music Man, the musical decrying the manipulating tactics of a salesman selling horns in a town where no one needed them.  It’s portrayed in old movies like Used Cars, where unsuspecting folks are tricked into buying wrecks. And it is in our minds when the phone rings and the caller has trouble pronouncing our names.

We have an entire generation that shuns sales and salespeople. They’ve even created a negative term to describe any approach to trying to convince another person to buy as “salesy.” It’s like the sales process itself is somehow bad or distasteful.

Maybe when we were kids, we overheard our parents complaining at the un-welcomed knock at the door, “Oh it’s that salesperson again. They‘re always trying to sell me something! They just won’t leave me alone!”

Fast-forward 20 years and those kids are now adults trying to start their own business. But they bring with them a prejudice that will actually hurt their business and cost them plenty!

We’re not going to sit here and say, “Nothing happens until the sale is made.” We’re not even going to say, “Everybody’s paycheck is a result of sales.”  True as these statements may be, were going to focus on another reason to treat salespeople right.

The salesperson doesn’t just knock on the door of your business. They knock on the doors of your competitors’ businesses. While you are stuck in your office, warehouse, or production facility working to grow your business, they are outside, moving around, constantly surveying the market and keeping tabs on your competition. In other words, they know tons that you need to know!

If you keep them waiting for an hour because you think they are trying to get over on you, or worse, you want to send them a message about how you feel about salespeople altogether, you’re missing a giant opportunity to get the information you need to improve your odds of success.

When you hustle them in and out, cut them off, or treat them like second-class citizens, they’re not going to share what they know. In fact, they’ll want to make the visit as short as possible so they can share what they know  with your enlightened competitors.

Why would a poorly treated salesperson let you in on an overstock situation that his boss was suffering that could benefit you with lower prices, free warehousing, and extended terms for the goods you need? They will save that offer for your competitors.

When we started Barefoot Wines, we really didn’t know what we were doing. We depended on the salespeople who knocked on our door to give us the insights they had about the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the strategies of our competitors. We didn’t keep them waiting. We didn’t treat them with disrespect. On the contrary, we invited them in like family members we hadn’t seen in a long time. We introduced them around the office. We took them to lunch.

It was a small investment for what we got in return. They walked us through complicated logistics, cash flow, and inventory and compliance challenges. They told us what our competition was up to. They turned us on to the best possible ways we could acquire the products we needed at the lowest possible costs. They were a Godsend!

They told us that we were their favorite sales call. They said they looked forward to seeing us succeed and they lived up to those words with Intel and discounts we could have never achieved otherwise.

So, the next time you hear that salesperson knocking on your door, that just might be the sound of opportunity knocking. It was for us, and with the right attitude, it can be for you!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact