Selling himself

Laid off salesman Joe Brooks, of Holland, loves being a salesman. "I love people. I love meeting people and I really like solving problems."

But it wasn't always that way. When he first started, all he could think of was sleazy car salesmen. On the way to his first sales call, "I was scared to death. I pulled over and got sick."

Joseph Brooks

Luckily, Brooks somehow managed to make it to the customer and he confessed what happen. And luckily, the customer, a chief executive, felt some emotional connection to Brooks, because he told him, `Next time that happens, call me. If I'm in a meeting, I'll pull out and talk to you.'"

That was years ago. Brooks took some sales classes and soon came to his philosophy. "First I sell myself, then the company, then the product. I just have a way with customers. They tend to like me pretty quickly, because I don't let people down."

For 20 years, between 1980 and 2000, he ran his own company, Brooks Power Systems Inc. in Bensalem and the contacts he made through sales there continue to help him today. The product that his company made turned into a commodity and eventually the business just didn't pay. Instead, he found a job selling a related product.

From 2008 until he was laid off in January 2010, Brooks had been selling office furniture -- but that became a tough sell in a recession. Business were retracting, not expanding and no one felt a pressing need to upgrade. 

These days, Brooks is selling himself. "When I don't have a job, getting a job becomes a fulltime job. I get up at 6. I get a shower. I get my coffee and I go into my office and look for work." 

Meanwhile, he is also trying to start a sales broker business. Right now, for example, he is trying to peddle a product that helps to mask sound in an office environment, particularly in hospitals and doctors' offices. The product muffles conversation and helps health organizations comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules regarding privacy. 

"It's one thing to knock on doors and say, `Do you want to buy office furniture?' during a recession, but if you can say `HIPAA' you stand a chance," he said.

Unemployment has taken its toll. His wife is also unemployed and their relationship is strained. His housing is in jeopardy, his family has no health insurance, and his three grown sons, 19, 21 and 25, all have their own problems. It hurts Brooks that he can't help them more.   

He wants a chance, he said. "I'm probably going to be even more effective," he said, "because I'm going to have to prove that a year and a half of unemployment hasn't affected me." 

Update: As of December, 2011, Brooks is working as a salesman, earning considerably less, but hoping to turn that situation around over time.

  • Joseph G. Brooks
  • Hometown: Holland
  • Profession: Salesman
  • Experience: Prefers to sell quality products, even at a higher price. Expert in selling office furniture, signage and computer technical furniture. Owned Brooks Power Systems in Bensalem for 20 years.
  • Education: Course work at Bucks County Community College
  • E-mail address:
  • Joseph Brook's resume


Read past profiles in the Looking for Work series. The series continues here on Mondays.

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The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or