The Man Who Helped Edison Sell

EntangledNerves
3 min readJun 23, 2023

The term ‘clickbait’ is common, nowadays, when describing any content that has a description that works as the perfect hook. The first time I came across this book titled Think And Grow Rich in a bookstore, my first reaction went “Huh! What a clickbait”. The result — I never even bothered to read any reviews or watch any Youtube book reviews of this one.

Years later, upon my friend’s suggestion, I purchased my copy of Think And Grow Rich and give it a quick read. And, guess what? From that first page onwards, I was instantly hooked!

There is no doubt why the examples shared in this thoroughly researched book remain a timeless inspiration. One such is the story of Edwin C. Barnes. The young man, who had no inventions to his name, no references, and worst of all not much money in his pocket, was hellbent to form a business alliance with none other than the famous physicist Thomas Alva Edison. Sounds funny, right?

With very little money, he decided to travel to E. Orange, New Jersey in a freight train — to meet the inventor at Edison’s Laboratory. Barnes just walked into the lab and announced that he was there to become a ‘Business Partner’ of Thomas Edison. Although Barnes sounded funny and not anything near to ‘attractive’ — personality-wise, Edison sensed something beyond these traits in him — that was Barnes’ strong desire and resolve to become what he was there for. The man did not clear the initial interview but that did not stop him from working on his dream.

Barnes eventually got a job in Edison’s office. He was given odd tasks in the laboratory, offered a minimum wage, and no opportunity whatsoever to show his selling ability to Edison. A few years had passed but Barnes continued to work at Edison’s lab with a desire that only kept growing stronger with time.

Photo by devn on Unsplash

Opportunity, you never know, knocks from which corner. Edison had just invented this device called Edison Dictating Machine (later known as Ediphone), and he wanted his sales guys to do a great job at selling this invention across America. Odd enough, his salesmen had little hope of selling it. Barnes saw the perfect opportunity here and pitched to Edison that he would help sell these machines to which the inventor nodded a ‘go ahead’.

Credit: Image taken from El Dorado school blog

With nothing to lose but holding that burning desire to establish himself as Edison’s business partner, Barnes set out to do his newly assigned task. He simply exceeded Edison’s expectations with the sales figures!

Such was the impression on the inventor that he signed a nationwide marketing and distribution contract with Barnes. This was not just a contract but a relationship that lasted for more than three decades. It helped Edison earn greater profits and royalties and as a result, Barnes made millions with the sales.

We often hear stories of Tech geniuses through movies, Youtube videos, blog articles, and other forms of literature. But what about those bright, enthusiastic minds that helped sell these inventions in the market?

Facebook, in its earlier days, was just another funny idea that Mark Zuckerberg never thought of monetizing. It was Eduardo Saverin followed by Sean Parker who pushed Zuckerberg to package his website “The Facebook” into a multi-billion dollar business, and the rest is history!

But unlike Saverin, Parker, or Steve Jobs who at least had some background related to the technology or design of the product that would help them pitch better to investors, Barnes was totally clueless as to what he would do and how in order to become the business partner. Still, despite all odds, with no easy means to network back in the day, the man made it with selling skills.

Barnes’ dream of forming a successful business partnership with America’s most famed scientist had come true. Thus, I wouldn’t hesitate to conclude — Barnes is to tech sales what Edison is to tech invention.

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#Sales #tech #persuasion

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