by Tex Rhino
Okay, let’s get the obligatory stuff out of the way. Charles Henderson is an American born citizen who has lived in Europe and several parts of the U.S. He loves animals, has not fished in decades, and lives in New York and Wisconsin with his wife of [mumble] years and whatever animals they happen to have around them at any given time. He likes where he lives and his wife a lot. He also likes photography (knows Photoshop, which impresses me), plays lots of different instruments and likes music of several types, builds his own computers, and loves to take long walks on the beach.
[Note from Henderson: “Hogwash! I do not like long walks on the beach. Tex is just pulling your leg — ribbing me, actually. He knows how unlikely it is that anyone who grew up in the windy, dusty, sand-blown semi-arid Oklahoma Panhandle really likes sand of any kind.”]
I have known this guy longer than I care to admit. I am probably his oldest friend because I have known him longer than our other friend. We were kids in Oklahoma till he abandoned us and moved with his parents to Colorado his senior year in high school.
The band director and the coach (what a pair they were!) in our little Oklahoma home town both wanted him to stay. They even worked out a deal for him to live with one of them his final high school year, but the lure of the city was too much for him and he moved to Denver with his folks.
He was always up to something and did some noteworthy things while he was growing up, but I will begin with when he was in Colorado. When I caught up with him again, sometime during our senior year of high school, he was a professional dance instructor at Dale Dance Studio in downtown Denver, had one of the most successful rock ‘n’ roll bands playing professionally in the Denver area (he played sax and guitar), was a prize winning boxer, was an all-conference football player and was solo clarinetist in the school band. Mind you, all this was during his senior year in high school.
He was a good athlete, (I don’t know anything about his dancing), and he could really play those horns. Even though he was mostly a jazz and rock musician, he was almost as much fun to listen to as the head fiddler at a hoedown. Actually he did play once with a famous western band (Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys) in Dumas, Texas, and he played sax on a Lee Pickett recording.
Charles has had some notable successes but he has also had his share of failures. His most inglorious failures occurred just out of high school when he simultaneously flunked out of college and failed as a salesman. Trying to be a full time student, salesman and athlete while playing with his band seven nights a week did not work out (surprise!).
Not knowing what to do next, he did what most young men did in the era of the draft: he went into the Army.
After the Army, being a glutton for punishment, he went back into sales. Selling, or trying to sell, pre-need cemetery plots for a group of cemeteries on the East coast. Door to door. I mean, Jeez! Here is a guy who is young, inexperienced, still wet behind the ears, and who has already failed once as a salesman. And now he takes on what I have to believe must be one of the hardest things in the world to sell, graves for people who are not dead.
Need I say he was failing again? But wait! Just when he was about to give up he had this weird dream. Evidently it was a real corker. You can read about it, and how it affected his life in his book All In Selling. “To make a long story more boring,” to borrow a phrase he likes to use, he went on to surprise a lot of people with his sales, made a whole barn full of money, broke some records, and so on.
Charles has always said he got his first lessons in selling from old man Perry who was a professional gambler in our hometown. We were both afraid of Perry but he took a liking to Charles and taught him how to shine shoes and, more importantly, how to persuade cowboys and farmers to buy his shoeshines. He was quite successful at that so from sometime around the age of 10 Charles always had money. That’s saying something for a kid from a poor family from the wrong side of the tracks.
Anyway, back to his post-Army days. There he was, living in the eastern U.S. where he felt like a hayseed in a thrashing machine. But he was making all kinds of money selling those cemetery plots. Eventually, though, he moved back to Colorado where he gave up cemeteries and took to selling encyclopedias. Door to door again. Grolier’s Book of Knowledge.
He quickly became a regional manager and set individual and organizational records.
After about six years of hawking books his other friend convinced him to switch over to waterless cookware sales. Once again he set national sales records that I would be surprised if anyone can ever match. It seemed like every few weeks he would break another one of his own sales records. I have watched him in action and he made it look easy. I don’t think he was even trying! People just wanted to take stuff away from him!
He sold so much it was literally hard to believe that any one person could write that much business. His sales were reported in the manufacturer’s national newsletter each week and they frequently had to trot out copies of his sales just to prove that the numbers were legitimate.
Now here is a story about Charles that I just have to pass on and it is downright eerie. I have never known what to think about it but, well, here is the story. See what you think.
We were guests at a private fishing club not far from Leadville, Colorado. Fly fishing was what we were there for, but the first day it was raining off and on so we just took our casting rods over to the pond to try to catch something for supper. It was a fairly small pond, about the size of three or four tennis courts, that the club kept stocked with trout. There were several other people there fishing. I asked how the fishing was and they said no one was catching anything.
Charles and I found a vacant space on the bank of the pond and began to fish. We were positioned about 10 feet apart. Both of us were using salmon eggs from the same jar as bait.
We had been at it less than five minutes when Charles caught a fish. Then a few minutes later he caught another. Still no one else, including me, had caught anything.
Within a span of about 15 minutes Charles had caught three fish and the rest of us were wondering how he was doing it. All eyes were on him and he began to feel uncomfortable, seeing as how he was the only one catching anything, and him just a guest and not a member or anything. So he suggested that we trade places. We did and he kept catching fish. Only now he was catching them from where I had been unable to catch anything. I, fishing where he had been, continued to catch nothing. As did everyone else.
After a while Charles suggested we trade rods. We did, and he began catching fish with the rod I had been using! Still, no one else was even getting a nibble and the rod that had been so hot for him had gone cold in my hands.
The other fisherpeople were getting restive. They began to look like they might like to lynch Charles so we took his fish and headed back to the cabin. The whole episode took less than an hour.
I have never seen anything like that, before or since, and I have never been able to explain it.
Experiences with Charles have often been like that. When I asked him what he thought was going on with that fishing thing he just said, “I guess I had my sell on.”
Eventually, after a number of immensely lucrative years, Charles retired from selling to do something he had been thinking and talking about since we were kids. He wanted to go back to college, get a doctorate and be a scientist and a college professor. “Maybe a psychologist or something,” he was always saying.
And so he did. He did that whole multi-year college thing and he now has degrees in psychology and communication (University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of Denver.) This time around he didn’t flunk out. In fact he had an almost perfect 4.0 grade point average. I know this because he ranted and raved the one time he got a B in one of his graduate courses.
Once he was in a professional and academic role he really dove into the scientific research thing and for several years conducted a whole bunch of really rigorous research projects. He is professional-grade capable in psychology, neuroscience, and communication, so his research has always been well rounded and right on the nose.
The topics of his research, for the most part, focused heavily on the sales methods that he originated, the ones that had made him such a successful salesman.
One thing that had always bothered Charles was that, in all his years of selling, and despite all of his success, he had never been able to satisfactorily train anyone else to use his methods. Oh, sure, many of the salespeople he trained did well, using conventional sales techniques, but none of them ever came close to matching his performance. It was for that reason that one of his abiding objectives was to gain more understanding into what he had actually been doing. He wanted to make his methods understandable and applicable by others.
Did he achieve that goal? Absolutely! From the amazing successes reported by hundreds of volunteers, research subjects, and sales groups, there can be no doubt about it.
Not too long ago he told me he was writing a book. I didn’t know if he was ribbing me or not, but he said when he got it to where I could understand it, it would be ready. So he took all that highfalutin scientific stuff, dumbed it down so even I could understand it, and put it all in his book, All In Selling.
I read it. I laughed, I cried. Best of all, I understood it. It is great, different from anything else I have ever seen. Get it.
You can contact Charles or get more information about his work at www.allinselling.com