Two quotes, one by the late actor Marlon Brando and another by author Robert B. Parker, recently spurred me to think about luck — in both life and in selling.

“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky, that’s all.” Brando recited this famous line in the classic film “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

My wife then called my attention to a quote in Parker’s book Potshot — “Luck is the residue of design.”

Maybe it’s luck that these quoteables came to me just as I needed a subject for an article.

So, how about we review some thoughts regarding luck versus ability, preparation, politics, — or, as Brando’s line suggests — positive thinking.

We all have said “that lucky dog,” or at least thought it when someone came away with the big order, the great job, the big check, or the jackpot at the casino.

I believe luck is when your name gets drawn from a hat, or when four bells come up on a slot machine. Otherwise, it takes more than luck.

As Brando suggested, positive thinking certainly is part of luck and is important, but I suggest positive thinking takes other factors.

Former President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

In sales, hard work could mean getting going early and working late, making more calls than a competitor, and making more demonstrations than others do.

Hard work could mean spending “off selling” hours planning each day, recapping your results and writing creative proposals as a follow up to your calls. It could also mean preparing for each call and making sure that your demo is ready to perform.

My late and great partner Oscar Koeppel always said, “never practice in public what you can’t do well in private.”

Take the time to run the demo floor machine before you go on the demonstration. Don’t blame the repair department if the machine doesn’t work.

What we’re talking about here is hard work and smart work. The aforementioned quote by Jefferson probably should instead read “the harder and smarter I work, the luckier I get.”

Smart work is knowing your accounts. Are you really talking to the decision maker? What are their needs? What are the hurdles that you may encounter? What products are you selling that could lead and should lead to other products that complement those you are selling? In other words, strive for smart account analysis.

Smart means taking advantage of your resources — your sales manager, your vendor reps. Learn from them. They all want you to grow your business. Let them help. Smart means taking time to read your sales literature and learning from it. Taking time to read sales and motivational material, by great writers such as Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins to name just two of the many great authors in this field.

Check Web site resources such as and — two sites directed at the professional salesperson.

Smart means learning from these resources and developing what you learn into your own style and then practicing these ideas. Doctors and lawyers practice, so why shouldn’t sales people practice? Doctors and lawyers are practicing on us, therefore we should practice before meeting with customers.

First, practice with your sales manager or your fellow sales reps or vendor reps and then go out and practice on your customers and prospects. The more calls you make, the more practice you get. Learn from these trial runs and remember that practice makes perfect.

So practice and prepare your mind. When an opportunity comes to you, you just might get lucky.

To share your selling ideas, fax: (414) 228-1134, contact Mr. Dixon at (877) 379-3566 or e-mail