“How I Got My Biggest Order”
WHEN the average man buys a single typewriter he feels as though he has made a big purchase, and the average typewriter salesman must find one such every day he is on the job if he expects to retain the respect of the head office. There are hundreds of men selling typewriters whose average is better than a machine a day, but when a man, single-handed, against the most fierce competition, bags an order for 475 machines all at one time, capturing a sale representing in money $42,750, he has accomplished something that makes his competitors take cognizance of his existence.
Thus runs an article in Business and the Book-Keeper, and continues: Recently a big corporation advertised for bids on 100 writing machines. Roughly, they wanted visible writers, back space key, twocolor ribbon, tabulator and adaptable to billing as well as correspondence. These specifications included almost any make of machine on the market. The result was that there were nearly as many sam-
ples submitted as the requirements called for and with each a bid, some complicated, with many provisos and allowances, and other straight, and without any side issues.
One typewriter company did not submit a sample. The salesman in whose territory the business originated was given a memorandum of the request for bids. He had solicited the firm many times with little success. Out of their entire equipment he had been able to place but three or four machines, and had been beaten so frequently in competition that he felt that it was useless to adopt old methods. New methods do not exist, so he decided on a compromise.
The buyer was authorized to buy after making a thorough test of all machines, and submitting a report for approval to the committee in charge The machines were sent to the mechanical department, tested for strength of type bar hangers, rigidity of type bars, quality of steel and perfection of bearings, wearing qualities and general durability. The inspection
and tests were purely mechanical and simply tested material. This salesman knew that material in all typewriters is about the same and that the material in his machine was as good as any, and he felt that to pick a machine on this test was not only unfair to the bidders, but was no criterion for the buyer.
In his interview with the buyer he found out who headed the committee, and went straight to him. To get an interview was a hard matter, but he managed it. He demonstrated his machine to this man, but refused to submit a sample to the buyer, explaining that typewriters are bought, not as so much iron and steel, but for what they will do for the owner and user. As scrap a typewriter is worth about 90c, and the man heading the committee knew a good deal about scrap.
The upshot of the demonstration was that the salesman was asked to show the machine to several members of the committee all at the same time. This he gladly did, and made such a perfect demonstration of its good points, that he won considerable favor for his typewriter. Still he refused to submit a sample to the buyer. During the demonstration he showed the advantages of standardization of equipment and explained why a writing machine bore the same relation to the office that a milling machine did to the factory, and being factory men, they all saw it.
Finally the day arrived when the order was to be placed. The tests had been made and a report rendered. It went before the committee and a decision was reached as to the machine that had showed up the best and which was recommended by the buyer and the mechanical department. The salesman was on hand at the time the report was being made, and asked permission to address the committee. The request was granted. He repeated his statement regarding the use of a writing machine and called attention to the difference in its value as scrap and as a finished machine. His demonstration was perfect. He had practised it for weeks. He then asked that they call in their own mechanical expert and have him examine the machine before them. This they did, and when his examination and report was complete, it stood about where all the rest did, no better, no worse.
The chairman called attention, at this juncture, to the fact that a decision was about reached, when the salesman asked that the man representing the machine that had received the highest number of points be called in to give a demonstration before the committee. This was done and the two machines were placed on the table side by side. The committee asked questions of the new man about both machines, and at the most advantageous moment, the salesman for the first machine asked his opponent some questions and before he knew it, had him demonstrating his machine.
At the conclusion of the demonstration, the first salesman asked permission to say a few words, and he spoke of the advantages of standardizing the entire plant, and suggested, that, no matter which machine they bought, they seriously consider standardization. The argument drove home and both men were asked to present a proposition with this in view. Both hurried out of the room to figure what they could do in the matter of exchange and trade-in. The committee was to be in session the remainder of the morning, and before noon both men were ready with their propositions.
When the committee was ready each man presented his proposition alone. The man who had stayed out of the competitive deal was called last. He had made no figure on the 100 order, and was thereiore ready and fresh with his proposition. He had no old proposition to figure against, and it took him but a few minutes to present his argument. When he started after the order he expected to land somehow, and so had had 100 machines shipped to the branch office, ready to set up. As part of his proposition he agreed to make delivery that afternoon of the first 100, and the balance within a week.
He made no excess allowances, never lost his head, followed the one line of logic, and did not permit himself to slip up. He had succeeded in demonstrating his machine to good advantage, and then had cleverly manoeuvered around so that his opponent had also demonstrated his machine, and the force of his argument backed by the fact that the opposing salesman could not find any real fault with the machine, convinced the committee of the genuineness of his proposition.
When he returned to the office that noon for lunch he had an order in his pocket for 475 brand new typewriters, at a total price of $42,750.
Thirty-two carloaos of premium china ware, representing a net of $64,000 is probably the largest order of its kind ever taken in this country. The man who took this order is the star salesman of a wellknown crockery concern. He was out west selling premium china in oar lots when his house wired him to go to an eastern city and attempt to land one of the papers there. Some interest had been manifested in that section in premiums as circulation builders, and the sales manager thought that the time was ripe to close in and land one of them. The instructions sent by telegraph were no more definite than indicated here, and the salesman had to find his own prospect and then close. When he arrived in the city he called on one paper after another and at last found two that showed some interest in the subject, but he also learned that four men had been in the territory within two weeks, all trying to land and every one had gone home without an order. Of the two papers he found interested, he picked the larger, and went after the high man.
When he entered the office and started to tell his story, his auditor laughed him to scorn, but he stuck and was heard out. The turn-down was cold and short. The idea of that newspaper buying china from a premium house was too preposterous to be considered for a moment. They were too big in the first place, and then they had connections so important that they could deal direct with the pottery. The salesman was not dismayed, and left an opening so that he could come back.
When he sat down after the first day’s interview and figured up his expense account, he had travelled almost 3,000 miles and it had taken him three days and as many nights to make the journey. That meant money to the house and he had to get an order. He planned his compaign before he went to bed.
Next morning he went to a nearby city where there were two good papers, both of which competed in a way with the big town journal. He landed one of them for a small order, and then struck another town. In this way he sold his premium plan in several towns right around the
big city, and then went back and told the man who had turned him down what he had done. In the meantime he had been receiving advices from his home office right along as to big deals being closed elsewhere.
As soon as the china arrived at the smaller towns and began to be distributed, the big city paper heard of it. All of the time this industrious salesman was selling other papers in the same locality, and every day a bunch of cancellations reached the desk of the circulation manager of the big fellow. Again and again the salesman called, and finally one day he was offered an order for 300 sets of the 42-piece premium set. This he refused and went away. Again he called and was offered an order for 500, then 1,000, but he refused them all. He had set out for a big order and he proposed to get it.
After being on the job for over two weeks, he walked into the office of the big newspaper and learned that the man he had interviewed was out with an advertiser and would in all probability stay down at the office that night. After dinner, the salesman prepared for his final assault. He looked over his samples and found them intact, grasped his case and started for the newspaper office. He found his man all alone, for it was a little after eight o’clock.
Cancellations had been coming in thick and fast and something had to be done. The salesman knew what was causing the cancellations and this was the strongest argument he could present as to the pulling powers of his premiums. He sat down and began to explain his plan. The big man repeated that he would go direct to the potteries when he wanted china, but the salesman knew that there was no chance of getting that particular set and he had already created the demand for it and it would be hard to switch the women to anything else. The plan itself was a good one, and the big man listened. The argument lasted until midnight. At a quarter after twelve the big man said he was hungry, and the salesman accompanied him to an all-night restaurant.
The argument continued and all questions had been settled except the order. The price, delivery, scheme and everything had been decided, but the order remained to be taken. The quantity was
a matter of how many subscribers they expected to put on, and the possibilities were computed by the results obtained by the papers in the territory. Over the restaurant table they figured how many sets would be needed, and when the salesman saw that he had arrived at the closingpoint, he had no paper, no typewriter or other means of making a contract. He knew that the time to close was when the prospective buyer was ready to sign. Apparently he was up against it. He had fought for almost three weeks, and now had argued steadily for more than four hours.
Calling the waiter he asked for several copies of the bill of fare, and on the back of these he wrote the contract in long hand, signed it and passed it to the big man, who read ' the contents carefully, signed his name to the order and passed it back. When he figured up the total amount involved it was a little over $64,000, and called for a train load of premium china—a train of 32 full cars—and delivery was to be made within three months, 10 cars to be shipped immediately. There was no reduction in the price, no concession of any kind made: the order read just the same as though it had been for $64 worth instead of $64,000 worth. Tact, salesmanship and persistence were what won. The salesman went there to get an order and a big one. He planned his campaign as a general would plan a battle, and when the right time arrived for the last assault on the breastworks, he closed in, trained all of his artillery on the opposing force, secured an unconditional surrender, mailed it to his office and sought other fields to conquer.
Office furniture is sold by the car load to the dealer and by the piece to the consumer as a rule, and an order for $12,000 worth at retail is unusual. Such an order was recently placed by a big manufacturing concern as a result of the cleverness of a salesman.
Bids had been asked for, and somehow or other the man about whom this story is written hadn’t heard of it. One dav he happened to pass a new building, which attracted his attention. He thought it appeared to be an office building, and making some inquiries found that he was right. The walls were up and the heavy work for the partitions was being put in
and he had a very good general idea of what it would look like when done. An office building being erected suggested an order to him, and he hunted out the man who would be interested.
To his chagrin, he found that bids had been a^ked for and filed, and that the order was about to be placed. Undaunted, however, he asked for a chance to get in his estimate and requested that closing be held off a week. Some strong talk on his part gained him the time. He took the specifications and as he was about to depart asked for a blue print of the building and also specifications as to finish. These he wanted in order to write his bid as to stains and colors. A glance around the office showed him what furniture was in use, and he made a quick mental note of what was on the floor.
Once out of the office, he sought out an architect and, giving him the blue print, asked him to plan out the arrangement of the pieces of furniture called for in the bids. When this was done, the salesman placed in the plan all the other necessary pieces of furniture to complete the equipment. He then had the architect draw up elevations and color suggestions, with various finishes suggested for the different rooms. When the work was completed the architect had spent a whole week on the job, and had made drawings of sections and pieces of furniture, and had worked out an entire system of color scheme that was extremely attractive. The salesman had figured out the costs of furniture to fit the picture. He planned for all to match the woodwork, and as the order was big enough to go to the mill anyhow. he planned to make woodwork and furniture of the same material.
The bids asked for called for certain pieces of furniture and his price on the specified requirement was a little less than $2,000. but he wasn’t after the $2,000 order. He did not believe that he could get it in any case, for he knew some men bidding on the job who would underbid him.
When he, submitted his proposition he agreed to supply the interior woodwork, decorations, furniture and all complete, so that the builder could finish the building to the point of putting in the interior finish. and then his firm would start with the rough walls and deliver a completed office building from top to bottom. The
scheme was comprehensive in the extreme, and struck the fancy of the president. He called the young man in.
“What are you going to do with this old furniture?” he asked.
“You are going to advertise it in the Sunday papers,” replied the salesman. “ i ou will want to use it until the day you are ready to move, and I propose to have everything ready, all new furniture, filing cabinets and chairs, and when you move there will be no confusion. I propose to come down here after you close on the day the office building is ready, and with the assistance of a crew of movers, transfer all papers, desk for desk, into the new offices, and next morning you will walk into the new office, with all of your papers on the new desks, just as you left them the night before on the old. The next day we’ll get rid of the old furniture by public sale.”
The president scrutinized the young man for a few moments, and then said, “When will you do this?”
“Ten days after the contractor finishes the walls, giving us time to put on the interior finish and set our furniture in place,” he replied.
Ten minutes later he walked out of the office with a contract for $12,000, and the asked-for bids were never opened.
With the encroachments of various devices for doing away with detail in offices, business transactions are daily becoming more and more matters of machinery. Shorthand is seeing its own elimination by the general adoption of the dictating machines. For years girls have fought their use largely through the influence of commercial schools, which in many instances do not want to see this means of handling correspondence get a foothold.
One of the largest wholesale houses in the country has replaced shorthand with the dictating machines entirely, and the order for the initial installation amounted to $8,860, which took with it 110 instruments and several shaving machines.
A circular letter telling of the advanages of such a device had reached the desk of the head man. He had ttfrned it over to his buyer, who had reported back that the girls wouldn’t use the machine. This did not satisfy him, and he answered the letter himself. A salesman called, and gave a demonstration of the machine. The head man could see its advantages and
had never before known what it cost him to write a letter. When he found that the average letter was costing eight cents he began to look around. He had careful tab kept on a dozen stenographers from various parts of the institution and he found that eight cents was the minimum per letter, and then suggested that the salesman deliver a few machines to be used in various parts of the house as a trial, show the girls their use, and then if it worked, the establishment would be fully equipped.
The salesman knew better than to take this kind of an order. He had been fighting stenographers’ prejudices too long for that. He argued that as the man had seen the advantages of the machine and had demonstrated to his own satisfaction that it would talk and save him money, the logical thing to do was to put in the equipment.
“If you adopt this the girls will use it,” he argued. “If you put it up to them, they won’t use it. I can’t spend time trying to break down the prejudices of the individual operators in this store.”
A trial seemed to the head man to be the only test, so the salesman went out and secured an operator and placed her in his office and asked him to dictate his mail. The girl handled it from the first letter with no trouble.
“You have seen what it will do with a girl who favors its use. Now suppose you send out through your store and ask several girls whether they are prejudiced against the machine or not. When you find one that is not, call her in,” suggested the salesman.
The plan w§is adopted and several girls said they wouldn’t use the machine, but at last one was found who had no preference. She was tried out and made it go. This didn’t fully satisfy the head man, so he tried again, and after finding three or four girls without prejudice and seeing them operate, he decided to adopt the device. Then he ran up against the prejudices of dictators, but he had demonstrated that he could dictate to the machine, therefore believed others could do the same.
He was now ready to sign an order and offered to place a machine in each of 25 departments, but the salesman stuck out for a complete equipment, arguing the advantage of standardization, and when
he finished, he had the head man’s signature to an order for 110 talking machines, which was the largest single order ever placed. He won by demonstration, recognition of the prejudices against his device and persistence in going after what he knew his customer needed.
Some time ago a certain big insurance company wanted to commemorate an anniversary by giving every agent throughout the world a suitable souvenir of the occasion. Letters were sent to every specialty advertising concern in the country, and samples enough were received to fill a good-sized room. They were all arranged on tables, numbered and indexed, and the president was to go through them and make his selection.
A young man representing an eastern house called to get facts regarding the awarding of the contract. He was handed a printed letter telling what was wanted. He saw the vast array of samples and knew that the chances against a choice were too great to be taken in such a miscellaneous collection as that before him.
Next day he returned and sent in his card to the president. He was admitted and when he began to state his business, the president referred him to the buyer.
“But you don’t want any stock article,” argued the young man. “You want something exclusive, something all your own, unlike anything else ever put out, and that is what I want to get up for you.”
The president agreed, and then the young man countered. “I would suggest a solid gold pencil with the name of the agent stamped on the side, put up in a neat package with an engraved letter to go with it, containing an engraved receipt. I will agree to get this up for you, take care of the mailing and checking of receipts and guarantee delivery on every package. I will be back in a day or two with samples.”
He backed out of the place, without giving the president time to think, and set to work to execute his scheme. It took a little while to make up the sample as he wanted it. He made up the gold pencil
with the president’s name on it, placed it in the package he had planned, had the letter and card engraved just as it would appear when it went out, and made the whole affair as costly as possible and as elegant as could be produced. Then he sat down to figure the price. In the quantity desired, it would cost $62,500. This included postage and every other item.
For a week he practised saying $62,500. Every night as he went to bed he repeated it. When he got up in the morning and all day long he said it. He stood before the glass for hours saying “$62,500, Mr. Blank.” Finally, he believed that he could say $62,500 without catching his breath and as naturally as though he was saying $6.25. Then he went to sr > his man.
The package and the plan were exceptionally good. The president was pleased. The salesman described the difficulty that would be experienced if they tried to handle the matter in their office. He showed the possibility of misdirected packages and the consequent loss, the time consumed and the impracticability of attempting to handle it with his force. His people were all busy with their regular work and if they tried to handle this scheme they could not hope to get it out in any kind of systematic order, and something had to suffer. So well did he paint the picture that the president was impressed and said that that was what he wanted, agreed to supply the list of names by a stated time, and then asked the price.
“Only $62,500,” repeated the salesman, “and I want to get started on it to-morrow.”
While he was saying this he was writing the order. Mechanically he passed the order blank over to the president, who held the gold pencil in his hand looking at it. He turned about, signed his name, and then glanced at the pencil point, as if to see what effect it had had on it. The salesman hurried out, and as soon as he was gone the president sent for the buyer and told him to return the samples in the inspection rooms to their owmers.