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Under The Big Top

P.T. Barnum was more than master of the show; he may very well have been the greatest salesman on earth.

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This story appears in the December 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Quick: Name your favorite sales guru. Zig Ziglar? Tom Hopkins? How about P.T. Barnum? Well, Barnum wouldn't be my first choice either, but Houston consultant Joe Vitale says he should be on the top of any serious businessperson's list. "He was a master showman, for sure," says Vitale, who teaches a sales and marketing course based on the 19th century entrepreneur's business philosophy. "But he was also a really great salesman."

Vitale, author of There's a Customer Born Every Minute (Amacom), says that once you get past the image of Barnum as a well-dressed carny, you'll likely find a salesperson who was far ahead of his time. "Barnum had great respect for the customer," says Vitale. "Long before it was popular, he believed it was a key to being successful."

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