WHILE salesmanship is only one word, it has so many ramifications, so many avenues leading from it, that it is very difficult for us to realize fully all that it is and means. There is more demand for it to-day than for anything else on the market. When you sum it all up, if I were asked to define salesmanship in one sentence, I should say this: It is nothing more nor less than making the other fellow feel as you do about what you have to sell.
That is about all there is to it. There are different ways of getting to that and many ways of leading up to it, but that is what it means. To sell anything is merely to convince the other man, or, rather, to change his mind so that it agrees with your mind.
The whole question of selling goods can be treated under the three heads of Employment, Training and Supervision.
The question of employment of men is one that has troubled sales managers for all time past, and will trouble us for all time in the future, because we have our ideas and our ideals smashed so often and our judgment goes wrong so often on men that we employ. It has been my experience that the older I get the less I think I know about sizing up a man. However, we shouldn't allow these failures to blind us entirely to the fact that there are certain rules for the employment of men. There are certain things to go by and you can to some extent pass judgment on the man without taking too much of a chance. I am not going into a long detailed discussion as to how these men should be employed.
In the first place, there are a good many ways of getting men. To advertise is one way—advertising in newspapers for men. My experience has been that in that kind of advertising care must be exercised in sizing up men because of the different classes of men who answer. It has also been my experience that some of the best men I ever saw in my life were secured through advertising. A great deal depends upon how you advertise. All I hope to do in the short time I am going to speak is to give you a few definite points from my own experience.
I do not believe in advertising under a fictitious name under any circumstances. I believe that if you want men for your business, whether or not you get the right men to apply depends wholly on the way you write the advertisement. If you advertise for twenty-five salesmen, asking them to apply to A. B. C., care Herald Office, and all that sort of thing, you won’t get good men to answer that class of advertising. If you need fifteen or twenty men, I should advise you to advertise for two; good men don’t seek employment where men are wanted in droves. I should say, also, that an advertisement should state somewhat specifically the duties of the position and should give some idea of the compensation. In inserting advertisements I always aim to select a space not in the “want” column. Try to get your ad. into the reading column. It will cost a little more money, but you will attract a class of people you want to attract, something out of the ordinary.
In employing men I am not in favor of an application blank that wants the history of a man from the day of his birth to the hour of his application, as some do. That would scare off any good man before he got half started. We want reasonable information about men, but it is not necessary to have all the information that is asked for on some application blanks.
In regard to sizing men up, an employer who can select say seventy-five per cent., or even fifty per cent., and I might go lower—any man who can select that percentage of successful salesmen is the most valuable man to any house or corporation and his value cannot be judged in dollars and cents. I never saw a man who could select that percentage and do it successfully, and do it continuously because it is impossible to look at a man and find out whether or not he can sell your goods.
I never employed a man in my life on the first interview. I believe in asking a man to come back for a second or third interview, because as a general rule he has to call on the trade two or three times and, in a specialty line, a great many hundreds of times. If he does not make the right impression on you the first time, the chances are he wouldn’t on the trade. The same is true of the second and third calls.
For that reason I do not believe in the hasty selection of men. Where we used to employ hundreds of salesmen we did it through a series of three men. Three men always went through a town and the applicant or applicants were sized up by the three men. Each made notes. If we saw right off that the man wouldn’t do at all, he was given an application blank and that was the end of it.
Another pretty good rule to follow, although not always absolutely right, is never to employ an unsuccessful man. If a man has not been successful in some other business, unless there is some other good reason for his failure, he isn’t likely to succeed in yours. I never broke an egg at one end and found it bad and at the other end found it good. I think that applies to some extent to men. I do not know what businesses you are engaged in—they are varied—but what I am going to say applies to one business as well as another.
I have had experience in training specialty salesmen and I am speaking from that standpoint, but I have found that human nature is pretty much alike the world over. Salesmanship, or selling goods, is pretty much the same because you are dealing with men’s minds.
There is one thing to bear in mind—I want to impress it upon you: when you sell a man a bill of goods, whether it be automobiles, typewriters or dry goods, that sale does not take place in your order book. That sale does not take place in the check book or the cash drawer. That sale, first of all, takes place in the man’s mind. That is where it takes place. You have to convince the buyer’s mind. You have to change his mind.
When you go in to sell a man a bill of goods, if he thinks he does not want it, he tells you that he doesn’t want it and tells you in a pretty loud voice. As you get down closer and closer to that order his voice becomes softer. After all, bear in mind, whether big or small, the whole subject is dealing with the man’s mind. Human nature is alike, whether it be in Germany, France. England or America. The general methods of procedure that will sell goods in New York will sell goods in Chicago. You may have to change the tactics somewhat for different places, but the same general method will do it. What will convince a man’s mind in New York will convince it in Chicago.
Another way to secure men is to get them through men you already have, to have those men recommend to you men of their acquaintance who are successful and would make good men for you. Of course, that also requires some careful investigation, because the element of friendship may enter into it more largely than you care to have it enter.
There is another way we used once or twice to get men. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell this, but it is absolutely fair. If you want to interview only men who are employed and don’t care to have unemployed men call, suppose you advertise for a safe or a typewriter or something else. You will have only those salesmen call on you who are employed and you can size them UP and see what impression they make on you. Perhaps you can get one or two good men that way. Of course, that is not a method you can use every week, but it is true that you can get good men that way. There you have a man, perfectly natural, trying to sell you something, appearing to you exactly as he is and not as he would have you think he is.
There is an old maxim or adage that says, “Salesmen are born, not made.” I should change that in this day and generation to say, “Salesman are made as well as born,” because salesmanship is nothing but good common sense. That is all it is. If you show me a man with good common sense, coupled with a great many other things that he must have with that sense, although that is the basis of all of it (the chances are if he has that he has the others), he is likely to succeed if you train him properly. Of course, it depends largely upon the question of whether the man is used to meeting people and all that sort of thing. Men who will do in one line of business will not do in another. In passing from the question of how to get men I should say there are many ways, but the main thing is to try to have as many good applicants appearing before you as you can, as the process of elimination is easier if that is true.
Now, we pass for a minute to the question of compensation. Compensation is, after all based upon results. Whether it be a salary and commission or a straight commission basis, it must of necessity be based upon results. I believe that in some businesses it is all right to employ men on salary and commission, but my experience as specialty sales manager has been that, all things considered, the commission basis is the most satisfactory. If a man is on a salary basis, he is not to be paid that salary unless he earns it, and if it was a salary and commission basis, the same would be true. It isn’t possible, perhaps, for all of you to put your men on commission, but after all it is the commission basis that gives the salesman his just proportion of the profits he is making and puts him, so to speak, in business for himself, it is entirely up to him as to whether he earns a thousand a year, or two thousand, or three thousand, or perhaps more money.
With a beginner, who hasn’t the confidence that he should have, it might be best for him to accept a salary basis, or a salary and commission basis : and perhaps a man who has passed the meridian of life may feel safer with a guaranteed income coming in : but the young man of brains, of initiative, the man who wants to make all the dollars he can, who has only as capital his ability and his knowledge of the business, the man who wants to capitalize himself and get all out of himself that is in him, that man wants a commission basis, because after all none of us who are in business for ourselves would care to build up that business to a certain point and then have the government take the whole thing, give you a stipulated amount per year on your business, but take all profits over that amount.
It is this same thing that I am in favor of—individual effort—that has pushed America to the front in all walks of life. It is the creative instinct in the men of this country that has made your country what it is to-day. That is why I am personally against government ownership of anything that individuals can manage.
I sold goods on the road and I had this little scheme. Of course, this is personal, it may not apply to you, but I will tell you how I made myself work. I was working on a commission basis. I had slips printed showing the days of the month from 1st to 31st. I figured my expenses for the month and I made up my mind that I had to make expenses by the twelfth of the month, and every dollar to the twelfth of the month went for expenses. After the twelfth it kept me going to make money and when I got down to the thirty-first day of the month I held on to that fellow like grim death, because I knew if I made the sale on or before the thirty-first I could write it on the “profit” column and, if I let it go to the next day, it had to go to the expenses of next month.
That system will keep you “going some,” because you want to close your business by months, not by years. The next day’s sale did not cut any figure, only so much money thrown into the hopper for general expenses.
As to the qualities of a successful salesman : I believe the qualities of a successful salesman are ten, principally, and they are:
Knowledge of the business,
A man may not have all ten of these qualities, but in proportion as he has them he will succeed.
Now, when I say that he should have health, I do not mean that you want to go to the extreme of interfering with a man’s private life and tell him what he should eat or drink or anything of that kind, but I believe that in the selection of men the question of health should enter largely, because in my own experience a healthy mind is better nourished in a healthy body than otherwise. The man who has health of body is surer to have a healthy mind than the one who hasn’t bodily health. On the question of health of a salesman enter those things he shouldn’t do. There is hardly a salesman in the country to-day but isn’t doing one or two things that are injuring him. The greatest thing that bothers us all is our habits. I refer particularly to the subject of drinking and smoking too much.
A salesman’s mind must be on the qui vive all the time. Just like a race-horse, he should be ready to go when the bell sounds. Now, a man will drink or smoke too much. I sneak particularly of drinking in the daytime. You see, and so do I, very much less of that than there was ten years ago, and thank God for it, because as businessmen we have no right to do that thing in the middle of the busiest day which will in any way interfere with our business ability for the last half of the day’s work. And a salesman who will refrain from drinking until after six o’clock is bound to have more dollars in the bank at the end of the year. I speak from experience, like the man who says, “It pays to be honest, because I know both ways.” Nothing makes a man quite so lazy, quite so unfit for business, as a drink or two along about two or three o’clock. Merely as a general caution to men on the question of health I think it is a good idea for you as sales managers to pay some attention to that.
On the question of honesty—I do not speak of honesty in a base sense —I think a man is nothing short of a fool in this time of our existence who is anything else but an honest man. A man who is not honest nowadays from the strict standpoint of honesty as generally accepted has no chance at all. I do not mean the kind of honesty that you learn from Spencerian copy writing-books either. I mean the kind of honesty that goes right down to the depths of a man and makes him honest by nature, not by compulsion. But there is more to this honesty question. The question of honesty enters into a man’s work. He can give you an honest day’s work or not. It is up to you largely by reports, etc., to see that you get it.
Let me give you this one thought on the subject of honesty, it may never have occurred to you. After all there is nobody in the whole world that knows a man is honest but himself. Your wife thinks you are honest. Mine thinks I am. It is a good thing to keep them thinking that way, too; but they couldn’t prove it to save their souls. The only response to that question is for the man to look at himself in the mirror and say, “Am I an honest man?” Because honesty goes down to what a man thinks, as well as to what he says and does. I put a great deal of stress on honesty, because I tell you I think the good Lord knew what he was doing when he made some men dishonest : if they were honest, coupled with their natural ability, you and I wouldn’t have much of a chance.
By ability I refer to the mental equipment of a man. When you stop to think of it, men don’t differ very much in their general make-up. Every man, as a rule, has two legs, two arms, two ears, a nose, a pair of eyes and a mouth, and, considering their height, they weigh about the same. What is the difference? Nothing but the difference in their brains. That is all there is of difference between men, their brains. Ability can be developed, and is developed largely by what a man reads, by the company he keeps, and by his willingness to learn. Every man’s compensation should be made up of two parts until he gets to fifty years of age. He should say to himself when he accepts employment anywhere, first, what can I earn? That is his daily bread. And, for the second question, he should put a letter “l” in front of “earn” and say, “what can I l-earn?” A great deal can be done to develop ability, but it represents the difference in men. How often, too, you see men who have ability—it is a pity, but I have seen hundreds of them—but not the other things. One of these things alone is like a man crippled. You sales managers, as I have said, can do a great deal to develop your men.
Initiative is that quality that makes a man do something before he is told to do it. My experience shows me that there are three kinds of men in the world: the man who does something when you tell him once; the man who does something when you tell him four or five times; and the man you don’t have to tell to do it. Initiative is represented by the man you don’t have to tell. Initiative in a salesman is skill in a surgeon. After a surgeon has you on the table cut open, he can’t say, “I must go and see this book and see if I am proceeding right on this fellow.” No, after he cuts in he has to finish, whether it is your finish or his finish. That is initiative. I could say a great deal on that, for it is one of my hobbies. I would rather see a man with initiative, even if he did lack some of these other qualities, for, if he has initiative, he is going to do something. Dewey cut that cable over in Manila—that was initiative; he knew what he wanted to do and he did it. And you ought to give a salesman enough latitude to use his good common sense in an emergency case, even if he does do something wrong once in a while.
Now, on the question of knowledge of the business: I have always noticed, and you have, that the lawyer who reads the the most law books and keeps up to date on law, is, as a rule, the best lawyer. I know the statement that “Salesmanship is a profession” is worn threadbare, but it is true, nevertheless. A man ought to have all the knowledge of his business that he can possess, keeping in mind the old saying that “knowledge is power.” In talking life insurance I am always impressed by the man who says, “How old are you’” and when I say so many years old he says, “What you want is so and so,” without stopping to look it up in a book. You are always impressed by a man who knows his business. And it is up to you sales managers to see that your men get the information about the business that they ought to have.
Tact is something it is pretty hard to give a man. He has to get that himself. Tact is ability to deal with different temperaments, different dispositions, and get through it all. Some people mistake tact for “jolly.” A man who can “jolly” you into something isn’t always tactful; he is merely expedient. Tie has done the most expedient thing at the time perhaps, but he probably hasn’t been honest with you. So don’t mistake the thing. Tact is that rare thing that tells a man how to deal with his fellow-man who isn’t jumping 70 before he sees a pillow to light on down below. It is pretty hard to describe it any further than that.
The next thing is sincerity. As for sincerity, a man is consciously or unconsciously affected by everything you say, and don’t think he isn’t. Sincerity is one of the greatest attributes man or woman can have. It makes friends and holds them. Sincerity is that quality in a man by which you can tell from the way he says something to you that that thought did not come from the mouth outward, but from down deeper. A man to whom you wish to sell goods must necessarily be impressed by the way in which you speak, because the way in which you say a thing is about as important as the thing you say.
Now, selling a man goods, as I told you a while ago, is appealing to his mind, absolutely appealing to his mind. You can’t sell him until you change his mind. He may say, “I don’t want that,” and you reply, “Yes, you do,” and you can’t sell that order until his mind is changed.
You are throwing thoughts at a man; that is what you are doing. You are throwing thoughts from your mind into his mind, and just in proportion as he catches them will they appeal to him or not.
Thoughts are tangible. They are intangible in a way but still tangible. What I mean is that you can’t throw insincerity at a man and have him catch sincerity. If I throw this cup—I am going to—at Mr. Saxe, he is likely to catch a cup, if he catches anything. At least, he won’t catch a glass. He will catch just what I throw at him.
It is the same way with sincerity and insincerity. Salesmen may fool themselves, but it is that one quality in a man that makes an impression that he cannot help and of which he isn’t conscious.
Now, to illustrate that: down at the New York Automobile Show last week a man wandered into our booth, Mr. John B. Herreshoff. Mr. Herreshoff is the designer of the yachts that have successfully defended the America cup. He is blind. A salesman took him to Mr. Page, our New York dealer. He is a genius, an engineer, and he felt all around the automobile. Finally, I was introduced to him and talked with him. He said, “Mr. Chalmers, you know I can’t see; consequently, my sense of hearing is enhanced that much. I have to judge men by their voices. Now, I am going to buy that car because Mr. Page has an honest voice. I know that he is honest.”
I admire a sincere man, and so do you. I hate the jollier. It is your friend who criticises you and your enemy who flatters you. Your friend is sincere, wants you to improve, and tells you when you are wrong, and the man who tells you that you are the best fellow on earth when you are doing wrong isn’t your friend, because he is encouraging you to continue to do things that aren’t right. Therefore, accept criticism that way, because it is your friend.
As regards industry, I think the man who coined that sentence, “always on the job,” did a good day’s work, because industry is a great thing. Keep busy! Keep doing your work right!
Openmindedness is the willingness to accept suggestions. The man who knows it all is standing on a banana peel placed there by a foolkiller who is waiting just around the corner. Openmindedness is the willingness to accept suggestions, to be able to improve. The day is not long past when salesmen used to resent suggestions. Most salesmen accept them nowadays. When employing a man I would be pretty anxious to find out whether he was willing to accept suggestions.
Now, about asking a man questions: if you want to test a man, get him to argue a little bit. I used to say, “What makes you think you can sell these goods? I don’t think you can. Your experience in the past hasn’t been such as to make me think you can. Now, tell me why. I tell you what you do. Go away to-day” (of course, you must do this nicely) “and I would like to have you come back to-morrow and give me three reasons why you think you can sell these goods.” And when the man comes back size up his reasons and see if they are good ones.
As to enthusiasm: a man might have honesty, health, ability, initiative, knowledge of the business, tact, sincerity, industry and openmindedness; yet, without enthusiasm he would not be a success. Enthusiasm is the white heat that fuses all these qualities into one effective mass.
A little illustration: take a piece of blue glass and a sapphire. You might polish that glass until it is as smooth and hard as the sapphire, but when you look down into them you see thousands of little lights shining up at you out of the sapphire that you can’t get out of that piece of blue glass. Those fires just seem to speak out at you as you look at that sapphire. What those little lights are in that sapphire, enthusiasm is in the man. Some men are almost irresistible—you know that: it is because enthusiasm radiates from their expression, beams from their eyes and is evident in their actions.
A man might be made to order with proper proportions of all these other nine things I have mentioned, and yet, if he lack enthusiasm, he is only a statue.
Enthusiasm is that thing which makes a man boil over for his business, for his family, or for anything he has an interest in, for anything his heart is in. So I say, enthusiasm is one of the greatest things a man can have.
Don’t misunderstand me to mean froth or gush, because I dislike that as much as you do; I mean intensity of feeling and action, the thing that makes you like that man, and the thing that makes you call him a “live one,” because you can very readily see the thousand lights all through him.
I have named ten things here. If I were a sales manager, I would take those ten things and I would size up a man. I would say, I know he is honest, he has good health, he is industrious, and I would see where he came short. Did you notice—perhaps you didn’t—that nine out of ten of the things I mentioned deal with the man himself and only one-tenth with his business, which proves conclusively—and I have proved it to my mind hundreds of times—that salesmanship is nine-tenths man and one-tenth territory, or nine-tenths man and one-tenth business, or whatever you wish to call it. I have put some men in territories where other men have fallen down and have had them get business. Where men can understand what you say, if you speak the same language that they do, and have all these things that I am talking about—you know your business, are sincere in it, love it, and are in it not only for money but for pleasure too, the prospect will not get away from you. He may postpone his order, but eventually he won’t get away. So that I say it is nine-tenths man and one-tenth territory or business.
On the question of training of men, I think the day is already gone —I do not say it is about gone, for I believe it is gone—when any firm will hire a man in the morning, give him his samples in the afternoon and have him leave town that night, because the one thing most needed, and which is coming more and more into effective use to-day in this country, is training of salesmen. Some of you may be connected with retail establishments. The greatest need of retail establishments today is a training school. I do not refer to an elaborate affair; anything is a school where ten, twenty, perhaps fifty, are gathered together to learn something. I wouldn’t operate any store without such a school. I have it in my own business. I wouldn’t have any business where I didn’t hold a school regularly for the different people for the purpose of teaching them and having them teach me and teach each other the best ways of doing business.
This question of training is a very important one. You might have all the ability in the world hired, but if you didn’t train your men you wouldn’t get the best results. The training you should give a salesman in your line ought to put him about six months ahead of what he could pick up on the road if he had not received your training.
I have found this out, that it costs you as much for the traveling expenses of a poor man as it does for a good man. The hotels charge as much per day for a man of mediocre ability, railroads as much railroad fare, Uncle Sam as much to carry his mail; so, after all, since the expenses are the same, what are a few extra dollars in compensation or in training to make the difference between a good man and a bad one, when a good man will do twice or three times the business a poor one will.
I would never send a man out until he had sold two people. One thing is that he has to sell me. But that isn’t the most important: he has got to sell himself before I will put him on. He has to be sold on the proposition he is going out to sell to other people before I would give him a dollar of expense money.
On the question of expense money I have a suggestion for you men who hire men on commission and advance them money. After I hire a man on commission I say, “How much money do you want to borrow?” He will probably say, “I don’t want to borrow any money,” and I reply, “O, yes you do. You are going into business for yourself. You want me to advance you money. And I am charging this to your account. How much do you want to borrow?” He is borrowing and it is a good way to put this thing up to him. It makes him think.
Another good motto for all salesmen to have is this, “Never leave business to look for business.” Most of you, no doubt, have been in the woods. You want to sit down and you find a nice spot. Then you look over yonder, and there is a greener looking spot. You start over there to sit down, but when you get there you find it is no different from the place you left. So, don’t leave business to look for business. Business where you are is as good as business where you are going. That is a good motto for your salesmen to have.
The question of supervision is the third big thing a sales manager has before him. The best man in the world will not do effective work without supervision. Sometimes we get angry and lose patience with a man who goes wrong, but often we are just as much to blame for the man going wrong as he was, for human nature is such that you can’t condemn a man without weighing pretty well the conditions under which he fell. I believe that if a man is honest, keep him honest. Check him up. That is where supervision comes in. Make him report properly, whether daily or weekly; make him tell you the towns he went to and how much he spent— not the last nickel or dime, but in a general way; and you will have a better man.
The real ability in a sales manager is shown by his handling of men. That is something I could talk about till midnight and not tell you perhaps any more than that. It is ability to handle each one personally. Make it a point to get acquainted with what each man is doing. When you meet him remember what he has done and mention it. He will be greatly pleased. Make it a point to speak kindly to your men at all times, only criticizing when necessary, and always bear this in mind: don’t write sharp letters. I have always found that warm words dictated became cold type when received. The man wasn’t there to hear the enunciation or the inflection of your voice, and he doesn’t know what you mean when he gets the cold type. Many a man has been knocked out for several days and useless to you because you have been hasty and written the wrong kind of a letter. A letter should criticize, should point out the mistake, but should not take away enthusiasm. You should not so dampen a man that he damns you for the balance of the week. You may think it a little far-fetched for me to mention this, but I have known some smart men who wrote too sharp letters.
Now, in connection with the question of checking up is that of writing encouraging letters. Most of you have carried sample trunks. You know there are days when you come into a hotel when you could lift it from its foundations, and there are other days when you don’t care if it falls on you. So you should bear in mind that your men are human. Bear in mind that you owe something to your men, as men, in addition to your duty to your corporation, and by doing this you will get better work.
As regards close covering of territory: I believe that a man, as a rule—at least those I hired—can only cover so much territory because of physical impossibility to do more. A man has only two legs and can only get over so much ground and see so many people, and it is an injustice to ask a man to cover more territory than he can cover. The amount he can cover varies with the different kinds of business, but I wouldn’t allow a man to cover too much territory with typewriters, scales, adding machines, and that sort of thing, because I think it is not good for the man and you do yourself harm.
It has also been my experience, whether it is in selling dry goods or specialties, that sometimes men will work for honor when they won’t work so hard for money, and I have found that prizes held up to men for best records for a month, two months, three months, a year, bring good results. I would encourage that. Another thing I would encourage is the printing of comparative records of sales of your men to stimulate them, to keep them going. I would have district managers on salary and commission, or commission, for the same reason as salesmen, for they have the same interest in producing more business.
Somebody asked me, “Do you go much on testimonials when hiring men?” My experience has been that the man who has the most testimonials needs the most. The man who goes around to everybody he ever worked for, from hauling in the coal to taking care of the horse, and obtains recommendations and carries them with him, never had much weight with me. The investigation I made into his past was by getting acquainted with the people who know him. One of the best things you can do is to write the local bank where the man lives and ask the banker what kind of a fellow he is. You will probably get a good answer.
Another point: don’t try to drive tacks with a sledge hammer. I am talking to sales managers, and your worthy president said to me that one of the hardest things he has to do is to keep from doing a lot of detail work. That is what I call driving tacks with a sledge hammer. Don’t drive tacks with a sledge hammer when you can get somebody else to do it with a tack hammer.
I have a rule—it is no secret— which keeps me on the ten most important things I have to do. I have a pad on my desk, a folder with a black cover to it. On one page I have before me the ten most important things I have to do. I put them down as they occur to me and as I do them I mark them off. Every morning the stenographer puts a fresh sheet on my desk. If ten are not enough, I have more. Some of you perhaps would have a hundred. Other important things I put on another page, but I keep before me the ten most important and try to keep myself on the most important work.
The hardest thing a manager or sales manager, or a general manager has to do—and that is the difference between a good manager and a bad one—is to have ability to differentiate between a little thing and a big thing. Don’t attend to a little thing when by so doing a big thing suffers. I have introduced this into all departments of our business. I make every department head keep on his desk a memorandum of what he has to do. If I want to check him up, I look at his clip and see what he has to do. Suppose I ask each one of you to tell me now the ten most important things you have to do. You would scratch your heads. Now, if you don’t know, how can you be sure you are always working on the most important things?
I can illustrate that with a homely story. Suppose a farmer had a man working for him and had eighty acres of cornfield, and he would say, “John, go drive the pigs out of that cornfield.” The man might be driving for a week. But if he said, “There are ten pigs in the cornfield; drive them out.” When John got the ten out he wouldn’t any longer be chasing pigs that did not exist.
The same thing applies to a man’s work. We think we are sales managers, but some of us haven’t organized ourselves yet. The hardest thing to do is to organize yourself to make yourself do systematically that which you are trying to get others to do. Teach yourself. It isn’t as easy to do as it is for me to say it to you.
By the way, one way to get rid of details is to drop some of them. Details are like a couple of heavy weights. If you get somebody to cut the band, they will drop. If there isn’t a man under you who can catch them, they will fall on him, because he had his hands down instead of up to catch them. Of course, you won’t get relief until you get men under you who are capable of relieving you. But I say to you, “Cut those bands,” and may be some fellow underneath will catch the weights. If he doesn’t he will be jarred a little.
I was over in Scotland one time and I said to a Scotchman in Edinboro, “I notice that young Scotchmen are getting the best jobs in the banks in England and on the continent. They are in places of responsibility. Do you know why that is?” “Oh,” he said, “young man, that is easy. That is mental arithmetic.” I said, “What do you mean by that?” And he said, “Mental arithmetic in a boy becomes judgment in a man.” It is the ability to weigh in your mind two opposing factions or things and be able to come to an intelligent conclusion as to which you had better do. Mental arithmetic in a boy is judgment in a man. To be successful you must be able to weigh in your mind the things that come before you and make your decision on the side that goes down. Here are five reasons why you ought to do this thing. See how many reasons there are on the other side why you ought not to do it. You will be more likely to come to an intelligent conclusion.
Another thing, learn to make decisions quickly. Some of us wouldn't be able to get very far if we didn’t have to make decisions quickly. Learn to size up things and make decisions as quickly as you can. There are times when judgment is better to-morrow, but if you are in touch with the business you can make your decision as well now as later. If you find you are on the wrong road, change your mind. There are only two classes that don’t change their minds—only two —fools and dead men. None of us wants to belong to either class. Don’t be afraid to change your mind when you are wrong, but do try to make your decisions quickly.
Again, we are prone to put off the hard things that are on our desks. “Here is a letter I ought to answer. I will put that off for a while. I have three or four other things I can do.” You put it off. To-morrow you will say, “That darned thing is there yet.” And that is the way it goes. Now, I will tell you what to do. I am not preaching anything I don’t practice. You can ask anybody working for me. I have made myself do this. I handle these hard things first. I know I can handle that easy stuff any time, so I handle the hard things first. It may take longer, but they will be handled. Whenever mail can be answered the same day it is received, if I am there it is answered that day, not the next day. I believe men get into the habit of putting these things off. It is said that if you let a letter go long enough unanswered it answers itself, but you are not able to decide what the answer will be. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to answer the letter.
Another thing, I believe in teaching through the eye as well as the ear. If I am talking to you as I am now, some of you get some of the things I say one way and others another, but, if I had a blackboard and put these things down, all eyes are focused on what I have written and you are all getting the same impression. I have in my office a blackboard which I use regularly when we have meetings there. There is a great deal in teaching through the eye. Men get what you mean much quicker through the eye than through the ear. So I say that to write a thing down is better.
I have listed on this blackboard the following duties :
First, to employ good men to assist us. That is the whole thing. We could stand up here till tomorrow and talk about organization and salesmanship, and, after all, it comes to the question of men. Get good men to assist us.
Second, to organize our factory and agencies, to hold meetings often, to anticipate the demands in our line, to co-operate with each other in all things, to do unto others as we wish to be done by ourselves.
The next thing is, tell the truth. We keep that before us. Most of us are prone to exaggerate and it is a good thing to keep this before your people—tell the truth. I recently started a little publication myself for the benefit of our own agents, and the heading of it is “Tell the Truth.” What I mean by that is, if you are in a decent line—and we all are—truth ought to be able to sell our goods, because if there isn’t truth back of your line of goods you in all probability won’t stay in business very long anyhow.
I also have on that blackboard and keep always before me, five things to increase : First, sales. Second, increase cash on hand. You might increase your sales and have a lot of notes on hand, but you want to do business profitably and want some cash. Third, increase profits. Fourth, increase the efficiency of our force. Fifth, increase the quality of our product. And five things to decrease: Debt, because where you do business only on nine per cent., you are liable to have some debts. Decrease unnecessary expense. Decrease the number of complaints made. Decrease the amount of time wasted. And decrease the cost of production.
I am here to tell you some things that have been of practical use to me. I have found that these things are. You will find that if you can keep on increasing those five things and decreasing five, the chances are you will succeed and make some money.
I believe that often we sales managers allow our tempers to get the best of us. We allow ourselves to get unduly worried and allow things to affect our judgment when we are in that condition. In the last few years I have been trying to keep an even disposition. Don’t fly off the handle. Train yourself. Try to do things calmly. Try to make yourself see the other side of the situation. Now, when I see a man come in to me who looks like he had been drinking the night before—perhaps he is a foreman or department head, and I see he is sore about something, I don’t talk to him that morning. I say, “Come in this afternoon. I am busy now. I don’t want to talk with you. You are not doing the talking. It is those two extra drinks of whisky you had last night that are talking. Come back later.”
I only mention that to illustrate the point that we sometimes allow our feelings against such persons to interfere with our business. There is only one way to overcome it—be conscious of the fact that you are doing it all the time and try to eradicate it. Try to cultivate the faculty of viewing things calmly. I think you will get as much relief as I have. Most of our concerns pay us for having good livers, but some of us have bad ones. I haven’t quite succeeded in controlling my temper. Once in a while I fly off. I wouldn’t give much for a man who didn’t once in a while, but at the same time I believe that when handling other men we should bear that in mind.
Another rule I try to follow is, always try to look at things from the man’s standpoint. And when you have to discharge a man, telling the truth is the hardest thing in the world. Most of us say, “We have to lay you off,” or “We have to do this and that,” when it isn’t the truth. Tell the man the truth when you have to discharge him. Tell him he hasn’t done his work right. Those few moments of pain or displeasure for you will make for you of that man, as a rule, a lifelong friend, because you have been honest and suffered yourself to tell the truth. It may not always be the best thing, but I think it comes pretty near. Try to treat him as you want to be treated. I don’t want to get mushy at all. I don’t mean to be soft-headed nor hard-hearted. I think a combination between the two makes a pretty good man.
Mind tells you what you could do. Heart tells you what you ought to do. We can’t get away from the heart influence. It is human nature. Without this heart influence in this country I wouldn’t want to stay here, and neither would you. Try to do things as you would like to have them done if you were in the man’s place. I say to a man, “What would you do if you were in my place?” you will find that a pretty good position to put him in. “What would you do under these same circumstances?” I think you will find if you do that you won’t have as much trouble in getting things done the way you want them or in getting a man out that you don’t want.
In conclusion, I want to say that I believe there is great room in this country for an organization such as you have started in Chicago. My hope and wish is that this movement may spread until it becomes a truly national sales managers’ movement. I have signed a blank for membership in your association, if you will take me, because I would like to identify myself with it. I hope it will grow. It is good to exchange ideas to the end that we may all handle the human mind in the best possible manner and get the best possible results for ourselves, our companies and the salesmen we employ. That is the highest aim we should seek to accomplish.