Qualities that Make for Success in the Great Game of Salesmanship
Dr. ORISON SWETT MARDEN
The importunée o] salesmanship cannot be overestimated. The business of selling has become the bigger part of business as a whole. Salesmanship to-day is a science, an exacting science which includes in its scope the study of motive, of psychological appeal, of the human character in all its ramifications. Dr. Marden in the accompanying article gives a clear insight into some of the fundamentals of this wide study.—Editor.
THE whole business world to-day is hunting for the man who can sell things; there is a sign up at every manufacturing establishment, every producing establishment for the man who can market products. There is nobody in greater demand than the efficient salesman.
There are two types of men. One waits for things to happen so that he can take advantage of them; the other makes things happen by the very force of his mind and character. There are two kinds of salesmen. One waits until his order is put in his hand, or waits for the order to come to him; the other goes and gets it.
Why is it that one man will so easily change our whole mental attitude and make us do voluntarily the very thing that we had no idea of doing an hour before, and thought we never could do, when another might have talked to us until Doomsday about the same thing, and never changed our mind a particle?
Why is it that one man will convince us that we want to buy an article which we were sure a few minutes or a few hours before that we not only did not need or desire, but under no circumstances would buy?
Salesmanship brings into play a great many mental qualities. Sincerity, genuineness, transparency, for example, carry great weight with us all. We must first believe in a man’s integrity, even though he may deceive us, before he can persuade us to do what we thought we would not do. Of the many elements which enter into scientific salesmanship, the chief one is that of persuasion. A sale is a mental process, and depends entirely upon the quality and the intensity of the mental suggestion and the confidence communicated to the would-be purchaser’s mind. A good salesman is always cultivating winning qualities, the power to please, to interest, to persuade.
How little we realize what a large part persuasion plays in our life. The clergyman, the teacher, the lawyer, the business man, the salesman, the parent, each is trying to persuade, to influence, to win over others to his way of thinking, to his principles, to accept his ideas. Character is largely made up of suggestion ; life is largely based upon it. Salesmanship is pretty nearly all suggestion.
A salesman often finds a would-be customer’s mind absolutely opposed to his. He does not want the merchandise and is determined not to buy it, but, he is so afraid of being persuaded to buy that he braces himself against all possibility of persuasion, of being influenced to buy, as he thinks. A little later he cheerfully buys the article, pays for it, and thjnks he really wants it. His entire mentality has been changed by the art of persuasion, by the art of winning over, of convincing, which was all done by successive logical steps, each of which had to be taken in order, or failure would have resulted.
The first step was to get the man’s attention,—otherwise the salesman could have done nothing with him. It is a great art to get the attention of a man who is determined not to look at your goods, who had made up his mind not to be persuaded, and is braced against you. But a good salesman does not try to persuade a man until he has him thoroughly interested. This would be fatal.
Then he tries to arouse his desire to possess the article and, when this is done, tries to convince him that he should have it. And when he arouses a determination to procure it, the sale is over. The signing of the name,
the delivering of the goods, are mere incidents. Expertness is no longer required after the determination is made. Scientific salesmanship is not only a profession, but one of the most difficult to acquire and practice. There are plenty of salesmen who can conduct the process of a sale clear up to the point of closing the deal quite as well as infinitely better salesmen, but here they stop. They cannot gather up their threads of persuasive argument and reasoning to make a successful close, and when they become panicky they communicate their fear to the coveted customer, and the game is up.
The Tactics of Choate
Many a medioere lawyer can almost persuade a jury, but not quite. It was said of Rufus Choate, one of the greatest jury persuaders who ever practised at the bar, that in the final summing up of a case, he would pass from one juryman to another just as soon as he felt confident that he had persuaded him, and so through the entire twelve men. And then, he would go back to see if he could detect doubt in any of the faces. If so, he would continue his art of persuasion, which was marvelous. He said that many a lawyer failed by “over-convincing” the jury after he had once won them; over-persuasion raised doubts in their minds.
The same thing is true of poor salesmen. They will often keep talking, after the would-be customer has decided to purchase, until they weary and disgust him and thus undo what they have tried so hard to accomplish.
Many poor salesmen depend too much upon mere words, arguments, when the mental attitude and the manner are often more potent than the language. It is the strong, positive, vigorous, determined mentality that is needed here, and often this little difference between almost closing the order and getting the order marks the distance between the salesman who gets a small salary and plods along in mediocrity, and the big salesman with the big salary; just as a little difference in skill and expertness, and precision of judgment and fine discrimination makes the distance between the great surgeon and the little surgeon. There is a subtle something which radiates from one’s personality, which convinces or raises a doubt. A good salesman must have a lot of courage. Timidity is fatal. Oftentimes when a salesman has absolutely convinced a prospective buyer of the superior worth of his goods, his fear lest he lose the sale is communicated to the would-be customer and raises a doubt in his mind, and the sale is off.
If an intrepid hunter in the jungle should encounter wild beasts and show the slightest faltering, cowardice, or timidity in his eye or manner, he would
be torn to pieces. It is his steadiness of mentality, his fixity of purpose and vigor of will-power, his courage and determination that will protect him.
The moment a salesman shows any signs of weakness, doubt, or uncertainty, he is done for, unless the would-be purchaser happens to want the particular article. But to reverse completely a man’s mental processes when he is convinced that he does not want the article and has made up his mind that he will not buy it, requires very positive and determined treatment.
Two traveling salesmen go out from the same house over similar territory with the same line of goods. One of them usually brings back four or five times as many orders as the other, and gets four or five times the salary. He starts out with the expectation and the determination to sell.
The other man gets a smaller salary, just enough to enable him to hold on to his job. He is always making excuses for sending in such small orders. He does not know how to annihilate difficulties, to overcome obstacles. Little things look big to him. He lacks the stamina to cope with antagonism, is the victim of his moods and becomes easily discouraged.
There are certain personalities which are mutually antagonistic. They are enemies at first meeting; they mutually exclude each other, and may not know why. Some people repel us in spite of everything we can do, even when we feel kindly towards them. There is something in the personality of each which repels through no fault of either, and it is difficult for the most expert salesman to make a sale under these trying conditions, because he is conscious of the other’s antagonism, all the time feels that he is disliked, that there is something about him that repels the wouldbe customer, and the effort to overcome this is not often successful.
A tactless salesman, who rubs people the wrong way, who antagonizes them, will never get very far in salesmanship.
Coping With Antagonism
One of the most difficult things in the world is to findi salesmen capable of coping with antagonism. Such men are not easily argued down—they can put up a pretty good fight. They strike the hard, common-sense argument of an “old-timer” in a prospective customer, and take all the wind out of his sails, and then he is done for.
A salesman who is made of the right stuff thrives upon opposition. He braces up under rebuffs, rises to the occasion in proportion to the difficulties to overcome.
A successful business man tells me that every victory he has gained in a long career has been the result of hard fighting, so that now he is actually
afraid of an easily-won success. He feels that there must be something wrong when anything worth while can be obtained without a struggle. Fighting his way to triumph, overcoming obstacles, gives this man pleasure. Difficulties are a tonic to him. He likes to do hard things because it tests his strength, his ability. He does not like to do easy things, because it does not give him the exhilaration, the joy, that is felt after a victorious struggle.
Some natures never come to themselves, never discover their real strength until they7 meet with opposition or failure. Their reserve of power lies so deep within them that any ordinary stimulus does not arouse it. But when they are ridiculed, “sat down upon,” or when they are abused and insulted, a new force seems to be borne in them, and they do things which before would have seemed impossible.
Whenever a motive is great enough, an emergency large enough, a responsibility heavy enough, to call out the hidden reserve in our nature, latent energies spring forth which astonish us.
Successful salesmanship requires the highest order of native ability, it requires a fine training, a liberal education, a keen insight into human nature; it requires a man of great resourcefulness, a prodigious inventiveness and originality—in fact, a great salesmen must combine a large number of the highest intellectual qualities in order to become a giant in his line.
There are ten thousand pigmy salesman to one Napoleon salesman. If you have a great ability for the marketing of any of the great products of the world, you will not long be out of a job dr remain in obscurity, for, wherever you go, no matter how hard the times, you will see an advertisement for just such a man.
Commercial Value of Personality
I knew a young man who would not impress people as having any marked ability, and yet this young man got fifteen thousand dollars salary, and did business enough to warrant it. He had a perfect genius for making friends. People seemed to be drawn to him as naturally as iron filings are attracted to a magnet. Everywhere he went he was the centre of a circle, whether on a train, in a store, or in a hotel corridor. Everybody wanted to get near him. He seemed to radiate a hearty good cheer and good-will towards everybody. There was nothing mean or narrow about him. He was generous to a fault. He was always ready to jump up and grip you by the hand and shake it as if he was really delighted to see you—and he was. There was nothing put on. He loved everybody and wanted to help them. He was in some ways not a good business
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man, but bis customers always anticipated his visits, and would say, “Isn’t it about time for Charlie to be around? It does one good to see that fellow. He is all sunshine.” Everybody knew him on his Western route, which he traveled for many years. The hotel clerks all liked him and they tried to give him the best room possible whenever he came, often saving one for him for days. He was always given the best seat in the dining-room and the best waiter, and when the orders were called off in the kitchen, the waiter would say, “Give me an AÍ steak for Charlie, for he is such a good fellow.” Wherever he went the door flew open to him. He did not have to push as hard as others to get in, for everybody knew that when he came it meant a good laugh and pleasant memories.
A strong determination and tenacious resistance will sometime enable a man to become a fair salesman, even when he lacks a pleasing personality or persuasive manner. He conquers from sheer force of continual pounding, until he wears his would-be customer out. But a pleasing personality, charm of manner, a sunny disposition, an optimistic outlook upon life, genuineness, an honesty of purpose, and simplicity when accompanied by a positive mentality and robust determination, are the qualities which win out in a big way.
Nathan Strauss, when asked what has contributed to his remarkable career, said, “I always looked out for the man
at the other end of the bargain.” He said that if be got a bad bargain himself he could stand it, even if his losses were heavy, but he could never afford j to have the man who dealt with him get a bad bargain.
There is no one thing that has so i much to do with a business man 's success as the absolute confidence of the public. Confidence has everything to do with patronage. We like to patronize the firm which has a good reputation, and many prefer to pay more for articles in a reliable store that guarantees their quality, than to buy similar articles at a much lower price in an unreliable store. People are afraid to go into unreliable places. They have a feeling that they will be swindled somewhere; that the lower price only covers up poor quality.
You may bring customers to your store once by shrewd schemes and advertising, but you cannot hold them by this means alone. Unless you satisfy them, give them good value for their money, you cannot induce them to come again. But the satisfied customer is a perpetual advertisement. He not only comes again himself, but be sends his friends, and they furnish a perpetual mouth-to-mouth advertisement which gives stability and permanence to a business.
The man who thinks he is going to make a fortune without considering the man at the other end of the bargain is very short-sighted. In the long run the customer’s best good is the seller’s best good also; and, other things equal, the man succeeds best who satisfies his cus-
tomers best, who gains their confidence, so that they will not only come back, but always bring others with them. In tlie same way, the ideal salesman must impress his customers with his honesty, sincerity and frankness. He must be shrewd and sagacious without being deceptive.
A little while ago 1 heard a salesman say to a friend, ‘‘I don’t care whether a man sells my goods or not, I sell him every dollar’s worth I can just the same. If he is overstocking the store, that is his business. I push my sales just as far as I can.”
Now, when this young salesman’s customers find that out, as they will, they will distrust him. They will be on their guard, and lie will lose bis influence over them, and their patronage.
Remember, Mr. Brilliant Salesman,
that stuffed orders are dangerous. Stuffed orders are boomerangs. When, by hypnotic over-persuasion, you work off goods upon a customer which he does not need,
you are likely to hear from him again.
The profits of a single sale have often lost such a salesman the profits of a life customer. There is nothing so disastrous as a disappointed customer, Many people are beguiled into buying what they do not want, because they do
not know the laws of salesmanship, or how to protect themselves from the expertness or hypnotism of an unprin| cjpled salesman.
Many salesmen use bulldozing methods. They actually hypnotize people into buying what they do not need, and many | weak characters, especially in country places, are kept poor by constantly being over-persuaded into buying things which they cannot afford. Especially is 1 this true of colored people in the South, ; whose simple, untrained minds are the easy victims of the smooth, oily promoter.
I have known of negro families ir the South where there was not a whole plate, or scarcely a knife and fork n; the house, to buy plush autograph albums, books which they could not read or understand, pictures, picture frames, organs, pianos, when they were so poor that every member of the family was ragged and apparently only halfnourished.
These solicitors and agents who travel through the country live upon the gullibility of people who are not mentally | equipped to protect themselves against the expert persuaders', who make a business of overcoming weak minds. If they can only get a victim’s confidence, the trick is done. There is no great demand for the man who can deliver the goods regardless of methods employed, and there is a great temptation for men to practise real dishonesty in their mental methods, and to use unfair moans in winning confidence, only to abuse it.
A conscientious salesman is familiar with the tricks of the trade which the unscrupulous practise, but which he will not resort to. His reputation, his clean ' record, his straightforward methods, his reputation for reliability mean infinitely i more to him than to get an order by driving a sharp bargain, deceiving, tak¡ ing advantage of, or hypnotizing bis customer.
The exceptional salesman thinks too much of his good name, too much of what his customers think of him, their implicit faith, in him, their belief that they can absolutely depend upon what he tells them—that it will not be the ¡ near-truth, but the exact truth — and ! these things mean infinitely more to him than the taking of an order. His reputation for straightforwardness, for reliaj bility, his reputation as a man, are his ' chief capital. He is doing business without money capital. His ability and j his character are his capital, and he cannot afford to throw this away or to , vitiate it.
A constant struggle, a ceaseless battle to bring success from inhospitable surroundings, is the price of all great achievements.