Forcing the Buyer’s Attention

Many Successful Schemes Adopted by Salesmen to Attract the Attention of Buyers, Which Have Resulted in Making Sales in Apparently Hopeless Cases.

DONALD L. KINNEY February 1 1910

Forcing the Buyer’s Attention

Many Successful Schemes Adopted by Salesmen to Attract the Attention of Buyers, Which Have Resulted in Making Sales in Apparently Hopeless Cases.

DONALD L. KINNEY February 1 1910

Forcing the Buyer’s Attention

Many Successful Schemes Adopted by Salesmen to Attract the Attention of Buyers, Which Have Resulted in Making Sales in Apparently Hopeless Cases.


Reproduced from System

Turn your eyes from this page to the smoke-painted horizon, and one building, reaching skyward, grips your attention. Drop your gaze to the placarded billboard on the street below, and one poster signals its message. Recall your morning's mail, and the first paragraph of the letter that sold you the office chair still tingles your senses. Similarly, the clever salesman tops his fellowrs. With a word, a gesture, a suggestion, he forces the buyer’s attention on his proposition and rounds the first lap toward a sale.

The buyer is always on the defensive. With indifference, excuses and anger, he guards his cash drawer from attack. This is especially true of the small retailer who is canvassed daily by a score of solicitors. Working behind the counter with his clerks, he reluctantly gives the salesman an opportunity to even open his selling talk. The keen salesman, however, jolts his indifference, dissolves his excuses, undermines his anger, and secures attention.

The salesman who fought apathy by

dressing up the janitor and introducing him to an unresponsive prospect as “my sales manager,” was certainly unethical, but he showed that he realized the attention-drawing quality of a third person in making a sale. This salesman knew that he would never come away with the prospect's money until he had caught his positive attention. The presence of the dummy sales manager secured that, and the salesman clinched a sale while the flattered buyer focused his attention on an article that a “high-priced” sales manager told him he needed.

The introduction of a third person into a sale in this manner is a common practice among salesmen in their efforts to secure attention. But the third person, unlike the masked window washer of this story, is usually all that the salesman claims for him.

One sales manager makes it a point to so time 'his visits to salesmen that he drops in on them when they are about ready to close up a big deal. While he does not assume any of the salesman’s rights, his presence inspires Aie prospect with a flattering attention that could be secured in no other way.

A sales manager for an office appliance recognizes the “third person” as a principle of salesmanship, and actually spends most of his time lending moral support to the efforts of his salesmen. Among small prospects the subtle flattery of the sales manager’s presence is one of the most potent forces toward a successful sale. With the more important prospects, the sales manager may take entire charge of closing up the contract. This sales manager never lets an opportunity pass to help his salesman break the ice. He has found that it pays with orders, perhaps otherwise not secured.

A young scales salesman, calling on a city grocer, had been ordered out of the store. The next morning, supported by his sales manager, he advanced to the second attack. They were scarcely over the threshold when

the aproned grocer saw them. Anger, simmering from the day before, boiled over.

“I thought I told you to keep out of here,” he shouted at the salesman. “I don’t want any of your scales, and I told you so. Now you get out of that door. T—”

“We didn't come here to be insulted,” the sales manager cut in at the proprietor. “I came here to buy groceries. Get out your pencil and take this order,” he continued, as he drew a ten-dollar bill from his pocket.

“But I didn’t know—” protested the shop-keeper, eyeing the money.

“Shut right up,” snapped the sales manager, “and take this order.”

When the order was on paper, the grocer was still mumbling his apologies. The sales manager had twisted his anger into attention and was now ready to broach the sale.

“Mr. Wilkes,” he said, “I came in here to talk to you like a gentleman, and you know how you treated me. There is just one way that you can apologize to me, and I’m going to give you the chance. My office is at 69 Winthrop Street. Come over there and I’ll show you how one gentleman should treat another. I don’t care whether you buy a scale or not; I just want to give you an example of business courtesy.”

“I’ll come,” said the unhappy merchant.

“When ?’

“This afternoon.”

“What time?”

“Two o’clock.”

“All right, see that you keep your appointment. I’ll be waiting for you.”

The grocer was prompt, and within an hour the sales manager, withhis suavest manner, had sold him two machines.

The sales manager afterward admitted that some men would have kicked him and his money into the street, but a slight knowledge of the grocer’s reputation precluded that possibility.

“I'm going to steal $100 from you," were the electrifying words flashed at a manufacturer by a salesman for an accounting device.

“What’s that?” exclaimed the executive who had a vinegar reputation for souring salesmen. “Make out a voucher to me for $10 and I'll show you how easy it is to carry eleven times that amount into the street."

The manager filled in the voucher, and the salesman, with the same pen, raised the check to one hundred and ten dollars, hurried the voucher to the voucher clerk for an O.K., received the money from the cashier and laid it on the astonished prospect’s desk before the ink had dried on the order.

The salesman had riveted the prospect’s attention from the moment he opened his door ; it was only a detail of salesmanship to show the manufacturer how impossible were such occurrences after the instalation of his accounting device.

Two schemes for securing attention, more familiar to salesmen, were those used by a typewriter agent. On one occasion he had just presented his card to the buyer of a large corporation. “We have made a year’s contract for our office appliances," the buyer said as he absent-mindedly tore the pasteboard into bits.

Instantly, the salesman slipped another card into the buyer’s hand and said, “You owe me two cents, Mr. Brown. Those cards cost a penny each.” The thoughtless buyer was disarmed, and the salesman secured an audience through the very act of dismissal. As the aggressor, the salesman plans every move. Thus he takes advantage of the defensive buyer.

Tactics bordering downright bullying sometimes secure attention where every other means will fail. For three years a china salesman had been trying to lure a small dealer to the sample room. On the sixth visit, the salesman’s salutation was studied.

“What would you do, Mr. Bartle, with a big business?"

With a snort of rage, the storekeeper pulled his feet from the top of his desk, crumpled a newspaper in 'his fist and shouted, “Big business? I’ve got a big business. Why, sir, this is the biggest—’’

But the salesman knifed pride with this: “You’ve got the rottenest store in town and I don’t wonder at it. You’ve cooped yourself up until you don’t know a Meakin pattern from a Grinley.”

By this time buyer and seller were shouting and disputing, face to face. When the word war was over, salesman and merchant understood each other for the first time. The salesman had forced attention by puncturing a shell of indifference which the dealer foi years had successfully presented to scrange salesmen.

In a similar way, a shoe salesman secured an audience, although he did not realize until afterwards that his own fit of anger was responsible for his success. In three years of travel, he had been unable to show his samples to a central shoe dealer.

Picking leaders that he felt would incite the dealer’s interest, he threw them into a tray, and started for the store.

As usual, the shoe man sat behind a high desk in the rear of his store, and as usual he repeated: “No, I won’t look at your samples to-day. You people haven’t got anything I want.”

As the injustice of the buyer’s attitude swept over the salesman, he lost control of himself and deserted every principle of salesmanship when he exclaimed, “How do you know what we have? You have refused to even look at my samples. But you will look at them." And with that 'he dumped tray and shoes on the top of the dealer’s desk.

Before the wrangle was over, a working shoe caught the dealer’s eye. His protestations died away and within an hour he had placed an order.

Strong personality always commands attention, but more than this is sometimes required. An insurance solicitor backed up his appearance so cleverly that in competition with a dozen rivals, he carried away an application at the first call.

As pompous and as faultlessly groomed as the bank president upon whom he was about to call, he followed the page to the glass door and a chair at the prospect’s desk. Grudging even a “good morning,” he stared for a full minute at the fifth button on the president’s checked waistcoat.

At the moment the president swung from his work, the insurance salesman matched eyes with his prospect and exclaimed, “Mr. Wright, do you realize that your $125,000 of insurance policies are worth only $50,000 in actual protection?”

That was a startling and attentionforcing question to the banker, but to the salesman the answer was simple. All he now had to do was to show the interested banker that his policies were so near expiration that their actual protection only amounted to the difference between the face value of the policies and what the banks had paid on them. The insurance salesman had lifted his strongest sales argument into the introduction of his sales talk for the sake of riveting the prospect’s attention at the first word.

But it isn’t always first attention that the salesman has the most difficulty in securing. He may be w'ell launched into his sales talk when the prospect’s eyes take the fatal shift. A book salesman fortifies himself for this with a paper bundle. Slipping into a chair at the prospect’s side he lays the package on the desk. As he warms to his selling talk he nervously shoves it from side to side. The prospect’s curiosity is finally so thoroughly aroused that he bursts out : “What have you got in that package?”

Instantly, the salesman snaps off the rubber band and says, “These, Mr. Brown, are our Aí bindings. The green leather is the most popular this

year, but, of course, I want you to choose for yourself.”

Another salesman, by harnessing some of his college psychology, secures attention through what he calls “ocular suggestion.” Every salesman comes in contact almost daily with the buyer who, because he is buying, feels, and sometimes expresses, a certain contempt for the seller. As this salesman instinctively feels this state of mind taking root in the buyer’s prejudices, he unconsciously pulls three or four gold pieces from his pocket, absent-mindedly running them through his fingers, as he shoots his sales talk at the awed buyer.

With this display, an invariable process of reasoning flashes through the buyer’s mind. “This fellow has money. He doesn’t need mine. He is as prosperous as I.” Thus the buyer’s feeling of superiority is instantly dispelled and the salesman’s talk again draws him to the proposition.

Money also magnetized the buyer’s attention in the scheme used by a cash register salesman. “Mr. Smith, it costs you sixty per cent, to buy your goods,” this salesman said as he pulled ten dimes from his pocket and threw six into the waste-basket. “And it costs you thirty per cent, to sell them,” he continued, as three more coins rattled to the bottom of the basket. “This little dime represents your profit—ten per cent.—on every dollar you spend. Every bit of carelessness and dishonesty among your clerks cuts into this ten per cent. Now I am going to show you how you will absolutely know that you are getting this tenth part of every dollar you spend.”

The ten dimes pictured a graphic representation of costs and profits. The salesman got the buyer’s attention in two minutes after his introduction and, like the insurance man, nailed the prospect’s attention by exposing his most clinching argument at the very start of his selling: talk.

A clothing salesman forced the attention of a buyer by appealing to his

bargain-hunting instinct. When the buyer arrived at the deserted hotel sample room, his eyes instantly swept to a pile of suits, thrown under a table.

Here a moment later, the salesman found him on his knees, rummaging the clothing. “What are these, outs?” the dealer asked as he bit a loose thread.

“By George, trust you to dig up a bargain,” exclaimed the salesman. “No, they are not ‘outs,’ but I received word from the house this morning, saying that they were sold out on this cloth, and wouldn’t know for a week if more could be secured this season. But if you want some of them I’ll take your order, to be filled if we get the goods.” The dealer smelled a bargain and bought instantly the goods the salesman knew were the best for his town. This salesman knew the proclivities of his prospect. By appealing to bargain instincts in a distinctive way, the salesman forced attention on the balance of his samples.

There are times when a salesman is forced to resort to downright circus methods in securing the buyer’s attention. A brush salesman learned of the opening of a new store and jumped a hundred miles with two grips of samples. In the larger, he had placed all his medium-priced brushes. In a small, black bag he had placed only his quality brushes. This bag he placed, unopened, in the centre of the sample room. The samples from the larger case were spread on the tables.

Beginning on the cheaper grades, he worked the new dealer down through the line until he was sure he had sold him absolutely to the limit from stock he had exposed, and yet the buyer was not properly supplied for a Christmas opening.

During the course of the sale, the salesman had noisily stumbled over the black bag in the middle of the room at least a half dozen times. And

finally, with the buyer just ready to leave, the salesman sprawled flat over the bag. The buyer’s curiosity broke its bounds. “What have you got in that bag?” he shouted. “The best brushes we manufacture,” gasped the salesman as he dusted off his clothes and opened up his choicest samples. “I put these in my personal grip and had nearly forgotten them.”

When the buyer left, the salesman had booked the biggest order in five years of travel.

A mill-trained silk salesman uses about the same methods when he steps into the dry goods store. “I want to have a little talk with you, Mr. Bailey,” he says. “I have been in the business from mill to grip all my life, and there is nothing I like to talk about better than “silks. But I don’t pretend to know it all. The most of my experience has been in the factory, I am learning something every day from the fellow who sells it over the counter.

“Let’s get together for a little talk. You can probably learn something from me, and I am sure you can give me pointers.”

Thus merchant and salesman immediately get together on a subject of mutual interest. The salesman tactfully leads around to a description of his mill, its facilities, its tests and checks, and lets him in on a few of the semi-secret tests with which only a mill man is, as a rule, familiar.

This salesman says that he has talked two hours beyond the lunch hour with merchants whom he could, perhaps, have interested in no other way.

And in gaining attention, that is the first requisite—getting on common ground. You can’t talk up to the buyer. You can’t talk down to him. Both must be on the same level. These salesmen knew this. Attention prefaces every sale. Usually, your proposition and personality secure it. If not you must force the buyer’s attention.