How We Select Salesmen
By Frederick B. Patterson
President, The National Cash Register Company, Dayton, Ohio.
Salesmanship is one of the most important factors of a successful business. It is so vital to an industrial concern that restriction of time and money in its development is false economy.
What salesmanship meant to The National Cash Register Company has been demonstrated continuously for nearly forty years. In that period it has made possible the growth of our business from a little one-room factory employing thirteen men, to an organization employing 10,000 men and women in all parts of the world.
The owners of The National Cash Register Company always have felt that our product is one of the necessities of every successful business, and they have never ceased in their endeavor to make this apparent. To do so, a campaign of education was started almost with the incipiency of the Company, and it is still vigorously conducted.
Before a salesman can be efficient, he must know all about that which he is trying to sell. This truism, which is applicable to every line of business, has never been lost sight of by The National Cash Register Company. We do everything possible to train our salesmen to a point of perfection. The natural salesman, of course, is not so hard to teach; but experience has shown, with few exceptions, that bright, determined young men may learn to sell if they will apply certain basic principles to their work.
Before an applicant for a position as salesman is accepted in our organization, he is judged upon nine qualifications.
Young men make the most satisfactory material to be trained as salesmen in this business. As a rule, the
selection of men beyond the age of 35 years has not been successful. Such men usually have set ideas and are not receptive in learning our selling methods. Further, they are often not inclined toward door-to-door canvassing work.
Selling cash registers is not a boy’s job, and the beginner should not be too young. A merchant cannot be expected to place much dependence upon a boy’s recommendation in the matter of his store system. It is absolutely necessary that the prospective salesman shall have had some experience in dealing with business men. Some men mature at an earlier age than others, but if below the age of 24 years, he will ordinarily be too inexperienced to understand business men. As a rule, men below this age do not possess the seriousness of manner nor the self-reliance which come only as a result of business experience.
Soliciting business places a salesman in a position to gain an understanding of human nature. A salesman having such experience, for example, knows that when a man says “not interested,” he does not always mean it. Very often he says this, or something similar, to draw out the salesman and find out what he knows. The inexperienced man is too quick to take “no” for the answer.
The prospective salesman must be physically fit. If he has a serious physical defect or is considerably
under or overweight, he will not have proper physique to handle our machines. If he is suffering from some organic disease, such a heart or lung trouble, he will not possess the required energy.
A man with impaired health is a slow thinker, he is easily turned down by the merchant and easily discouraged. The vigor of good health is the greatest single factor in the success of an National Cash Register salesman. It is the dynamo which supplies the motive power for the brain.
Since much depends upon the appearance of a salesman in approaching merchants, this qualification
should have particular attention. He should be healthy, active, wide-awake, and prosperous in appearance. A sallow, muddy complexion, with dull eyes, indicates a poor condition of health. Such a type should not be considered.
It is not necessary that the man be handsome to look at, as this type does not always make the best salesman. Neither is it necessary that he wear expensive clothes, but his clothes should be in good repair and he should be properly groomed.
First impressions are of utmost importance, and the prospective salesman should be carefully observed
when he first applies for a position. His first call will indicate whether or not he has confidence in himself. It will give a good idea of what sort of an impression he would make in a first call upon a merchant. If he is very nervous and ill at ease, he will probably be much the same when endeavoring to present our proposition to a merchant.
To command attention and hold interest, he should be earnest, dignified, enthusiastic, and forceful. He must have an honest and frank look and must appeal to the person interviewing him. These qualities will help create the confidence which is necessary in presenting to the merchant a high-grade proposition such as ours.
Owning to the character of our business and the type of merchant we are selling, it is necessary that our
salesmen have better than average intelligence. It does not require college graduates to sell cash registers, but at least a high school education is desirable. Most important of all is that the salesman be a quick thinker and a good observer. He should have the ability to analyze a situation and act, with tact, on his own judgment. He should use good English and be able to express his thoughts in a plain, convincing manner.
Education only starts in schools. Find out what the prospective salesman is doing to further educate himself. Question him as to what books and magazines he reads; find out the kind of people with whom he associates. To learn how observant he is, ask him about things he has seen. Men who have amounted to much have fed their brains through observation, good reading, and association with people of intelligence. A man who is not open-minded, who is not increasing his knowledge by reading, listening and observing, will amount to little as a producer.
It is essential that the prospective salesman shall have had some experience in soliciting business
Previous specialty selling is a good qualification. As a rule, men who have sold staple goods at wholesale, and who are sometimes called “order takers,” do not make the best material for us.
It is an asset if the prospective salesman has worked behind the counter and knows something of the problems of retail selling and the troubles of merchants. For example, a man has sold goods in a retail clothing and men’s furnishing store knows what creative selling is, and such an experience is a valuable asset in this business.
It is a good indication if a man has done some canvassing or soliciting while going to school. This shows that he like to meet people and is a good “mixer.’
The selling of cash registers is a real man’s job, and as a rule, the applicant who is “just seeking a position,” or who has an outside income, is not good material. An applicant who is holding a position is preferable to a man out of employment. The fact that he is working is an indication of this industry and stability. If a man has definite responsibilities, there is an incentive to put in the kind of work necessary to get results in the National Cash Register business. For example, married men or men with the responsibility of supporting some one else are usually better material for our business than men without some such responsibility.
The applicant must be able to furnish a fidelity bond. No man should be employed who cannot give such bond.
The most important qualification of all is that the prospective salesman be a worker. He may have all
the other necessary qualifications, but if he is not inclined toward hard work, he is not the type of man required.
We are not looking for brilliant men, as this type usually depends entirely upon personality to get business. Another type to be avoided is the “silver-spoon” man, by which is meant one who has been furnished a personally conducted trip since infancy and has never had to soil his own hands in getting an education and making a living. The man who is willing to work with hands and brain and whose past record shows such work, is the kind of a man we want in our organization.
Unless a man is well supplied with that quality known as Courage, there is no need for his services in a
selling capacity with this company. The man who gives up easily, who is willing to take “no” for an answer, who becomes discouraged, is not the man for us. The business records of such men usually show many changes.
What we want is men who can stand the rebuff; men who will keep on in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles; men who can take a turn-down and come back smiling. Persistent men who will stick to the guns and fight just a little longer are the type which succeed in any business.
With the above principles in mind our company many years ago instituted a school for its salesmen. These schools have been conducted almost continuously. We have found that they have been productive of the greatest results. We are thoroughly convinced that they are indispensable in the proper education of our selling force. We do not believe that they always make 100 per cent salesman, but we know that they enable us to educate a large number of men at one time to render good service for merchants and other business men all over the world.
In these schools we endeavor to pick out the usual aches and pains of a store; such as forgetting to charge goods sold on credit, mistakes in charge, etc. In fact, we have tried to get a list of all the everyday troubles of a merchant and acquaint our salesmen or prospective salesmen with them. This has enabled our selling force to meet prospective purchasers on common ground.
We have found that better results come from teaching through the eye, and this plan has been followed in our sales schools for more than a quarter of a century. When you talk to a man, what you say usually goes in one ear and out the other. This is because it is hard to retain what you hear. A man remembers what he sees. The nerve from the eye is 22 times as strong as the nerve from the ear to the brain; consequently the eye sends its message to the brain 22 times as fast as does the ear. In face, about 87 per cent of our knowledge is received through our eyes.
One of the first articles we purchased when the business was started was a blackboard. It was used in the factory and soon adopted in the sales schools. Each salesman was given a pad of paper which he was requested to carry with him for the purpose of visualizing his arguments. That became a fundamental thing in the method of teaching.
A convention is just a form of school. What have our conventions done? In the first place, they make for what may be termed a community spirit in business. These conventions are a continuation school, whereby the men learn continuously more about the business, and are brought together in a community spirit, which enables them to exchange ideas to the profit of all. The poor salesman stands up and tells his troubles and the strong salesman tells him how to remedy them. Nothing produces better team play.
Just recently the executives of our company have concluded convention trips covering the United States and Canada. In this campaign, teaching was carried to the salesmen, rather than to have them come to the home office for instruction. We did not believe it good policy to take them out of their territories for too long a period.
A concrete example of the effectiveness of our sales schools and conventions is the record made by our American selling force during the last business depression. During the period immediately following the war it was easy to get business; but when sales began to drop off and industries were closing on every hand, we saw that if we were to successfully meet this unusual situation, we must adopt unusual plans. As a result, we determined to institute probably the most intensive selling campaign in the history of our organization. We continued to hold schools and conventions but we carried them to the salesmen in the field, and the results were most gratifying.
While some others spread pessimism we preached optimism, and endeavored to keep the spirit of our selling force up to a high pitch of enthusiasm. The effects of that intensive sales policy were felt throughout the country. In our own business it kept the factory smokestack smoking continuously. It was a supreme test of the ability and endurance of American business men, and that we were able to overcome the discouraging conditions, we believe was due principally to the centralization of our efforts upon the selling force.