Strangely enough, Holmes managed to sell $18,000 worth of furniture in his first week! What is even stranger is that he did not even have to try very hard. So why did he end up tripling his quota while his fellow salesmen struggled so much? Was it beginner's luck? Nope. Holmes had the natural instincts and traits of a superb salesman.
"I bond very quickly with people. I am an outgoing guy who has a natural affinity and bond with people, and I'm not afraid to help people make decisions," he said. "Most salespeople can lead you right up to the close and then not close you. I'm like, 'Would you like that today or tomorrow?'"
Although Holmes never had any formal sales schooling or college experience, he took advantage of the examples and coaching provided by the veteran class of salesmen he worked with. The manager of the furniture store (he went by John J.) gave him some great training that he implements during his sales training seminars to this day. "Every word that he said to me was never lost," said Holmes.
Once he had grasped the basics of sales, Holmes decided to move to New York City, where he dominated the sales numbers at all of his jobs. Holmes began working in a personnel agency; he then worked in real estate, advertising sales, and, finally, for billionaire Charles Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, the diversified investment corporation chaired by investor Warren Buffett.
Holmes always wondered why huge companies did not exclusively hire "top producers" like himself. He learned why once he began hiring for his divisions under Munger. "They're really rare," he said.
Four years later, he was heading and running nine divisions of Munger's companies, having doubled the sales in each one within approximately 12 to 18 months.
Holmes' strategic system designed to strengthen the weaknesses of salesmen was a proven, working formula. This led him to consider sharing his advice and system with other large companies. And since he wanted to embrace the opportunity to work for himself, he did.
To date, Holmes has successfully coached and trained more than 60 Fortune 500 companies as well as many others, including Wells Fargo, Apple Computer, Estee Lauder, and Merrill Lynch. It's not always easy, though.
"Large companies don't move fast. There's an enormous bureaucracy," he said. Because there are so many levels and people who must approve ideas, it typically can take one to four years to implement new sales strategies. For Holmes, it has been more fulfilling to work with entrepreneurs who can apply ideas more quickly and easily, and although he has a wide variety of important clients, he tends to stick with those types.
So what does Holmes teach these companies? What is the magic formula for a sales victory? Persistence is one of the keys. According to Holmes, 52% of all salespeople give up on a sale after a potential client says "no" once. By the fourth "no," 95% of all salespeople have completely given up. Holmes advises salespeople to "never" give up on a dream client.
Holmes has even begun to test his persistence in Hollywood. He has always had a lifelong dream of making it in the entertainment industry. With an eye for commercial success and a knack for storytelling, he has jumped into scriptwriting and producing. In fact, as an executive producer, he just wrapped up filming for In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, starring Leelee Sobieski, Ray Liotta, and Matthew Lillard.
As a salesman, Holmes believes that no matter how far along you are in your career, you always need to be learning. Throughout his career, he has studied all of the sales and personal growth books and training methods; growth is the leading factor for a great salesman. Holmes warns not to trust any salesmen who say they are "self-taught."
"Top producers always want to learn," he said. "You don't have to invent the wheel. There are masters of selling who have great information and insights that have made them the masters. Discipline is also really, really important."