Did You Know?
by Ken Carr
The Birth of Modern Salesmanship ----Part 3.
We finished Part 2 with Mr. Patterson having established a sales manual, a sales quota system, a guaranteed sales territory, a recognition program through CPC, and a direct mail sales campaign to prospective customers.
Mr. Patterson continued to improve his direct mail campaign through trial and error, throwing out what didn’t work and including more of what did. He soon turned his attention to a relative new concept, print advertising. Print advertising of that day often read more like a text book and was notable for its stuffiness. Naturally, Mr. Patterson approached the subject from a different perspective and in doing so vastly improved the effectiveness of print advertising. Copy was brief and to the point. Ads were printed in plain type styles and were broken with ample blank spaces between the letters making the ads easier to read. Adding pictures proved to be the single most valuable innovation that Mr. Patterson made. In conjunction with direct mail and print advertising, following up on his belief that “business is news,” he developed the concept of the industrial publicity release. Mr. Patterson hired publicists to generate article after article on NCR products and activities. The NCR brand name was spread over the world.
In the end, prospects who had never heard of a cash register, let alone NCR, were beginning to develop an interest and were starting to believe that this new machine might just be a benefit to their business. Unfortunately, the sales force wasn’t always in a position to take advantage of Mr. Patterson’s efforts to educate the customer. In many cases the company copywriters and in some cases even the customers themselves knew more about NCR products than did the salesmen.
In true John H. Patterson style he decided to learn firsthand what was happening. He visited 50 sales offices studying his sales force in action and asking questions. What he found appalled him. Upon returning to Dayton, he proclaimed to his staff, “Half of our salesmen are so ignorant of our products that they will actually prevent the customer from buying, even if he wanted a cash register. More education was necessary.
The Sales Manual was updated to include many of the thoughts and ideas that salesmen had offered to Mr. Patterson on his trip. The new manual, with the goal of establishing a consistent sales presentation, discussed topics such as the introduction, first interviews, critical sales situations, and closing arguments. Soon to follow was a second manual, The Book of Arguments, which was a collection of answers to every kind of question that might be asked by potential customers. Mr. Patterson required that all salesmen learn the Sales Manual word for word. Many of them balked, particularly the older ones. When he discovered this resistance, he implemented a test to be given to all salesmen by sales mangers around the country. Those salesmen who failed the test or refused to memorize the Sales Manual were fired. What was the fallout of this action? Given a consistent sales presentation that covered the important features and benefits of the company products, a great many of the remaining salesmen enjoyed improved sales activity. However, even with all the selling tools given them, many salesmen still balked at learning salesmanship or balked at using the tools given them. Remember the common prevailing thought of that day was that salesmen were born not made and they perfected their craft by doing not by reading sales literature.
This problem came to a head for Mr. Patterson when he visited the NCR display while attending the Wolds Fair in Chicago. After observing his young salesmen making presentations to fair goers and much to his astonishment, he realized the salesmen barely knew what they were talking about. He promptly gathered them together in a nearby hotel for a training session. This class was nothing more than a review of the material in the Sales Manual and the answers in the Book of Arguments, both of which they should have already known and if they did, the material was not being used in their presentations at the Fair. Mr. Patterson was pleased with the results of his impromptu sessions and was delighted with subsequent presentations at the fair. It must have been this experience which impressed on him that just providing training material was not going to insure that it would be read or if read would be understood and if understood would it be known how to apply it correctly. So was planted the seed of his most important contribution to the Birth of Modern Salesmanship that being the Sales Training School.
In Part 4, we’ll take a look at the training school and other Patterson thoughts and ideas on the question of salesmanship.