Place of Personal Salesmanship in the Field of Marketing

In the distribution of any product or service there are two coordinate and complementary sets of considerations ; those of advertising which aims to influence sales in the mass; and those of personal salesmanship which seeks to influence the individual. Back of these is another more fundamental than either, having to do with Marketing, a term denoting the whole plan of distribution and inclusive of every phase of it.
It includes the selection of marketing channels, trade marking, packaging, pricing, discounts, credits and the many other considerations which must be gone into and decided upon before the first salesman can be employed or the first piece of advertising copy written.
Personal salesmanship takes its place and has its setting in this broader field of marketing. It carries the message of the product and the marketing campaign to the middlemen along the channel of distribution, or to the final consumer, or both. Ordinarily it is the activity which brings in the cash and makes finally effective the aims and objects of the marketing campaign as a whole.
While at one time very much of an individualist, and selling in his own way and on his own plan, the salesman today finds himself becoming more and more an integral part of a broad marketing plan that involves the necessity of handling and understanding advertising, discounts, credit policies, dealer helps and the numerous other marketing considerations which now play a large part in making the product itself attractive to the customer.
Because a large part of the salesman’s work deals with the uncertainties of human nature, he will always remain something of an individualist. He finds himself today compelled to assume the proportions of a broad-gauged business man if he would continue to be an effective salesman.
It is with a statement of the principles and practices of personal salesmanship—with ways and means of developing and increasing personal selling ability —that this Text is concerned. Throughout we keep constantly in mind this requirement of business knowledge running along with selling effectiveness.
Definition of a sale
Legally, a sale is a transaction in which one person persuades another to purchase something at an agreed price. From a business point of view, the sale should result in a profit to the seller. As a legitimate phase of commerce, it should convey an advantage or a profit to the buyer.
As a practical matter, the salesman should keep the last two parts of this definition constantly in mind. He will want to gauge the effectiveness of his selling in terms of profit to his house. And recognition of benefit to the buyer kept constantly before him will prevent an apologetic attitude, not uncommon to salesmen, which, if allowed to develop, tends to lower sales morale.
As a practical matter also, it must be recognized that this mutual advantage may not always materialize. The price of sugar may go up or down and result in a loss either to the buyer or the seller. The price of a security, sincerely recommended, may go off, either temporarily or permanently, sometimes from causes quite aside from its intrinsic value.
Trends in a neighborhood, changes in the plans of a municipality, or some existing condition, unknown to buyer or seller at the time of sale, may cause real estate to deteriorate in value. But these are ordinary risks to which all business is subjected. The salesman who has acted in good faith is not called upon to assume a personal responsibility for these occasional happenings.
The science of salesmanship
A science may be defined as organized knowledge, a body of facts or truths, gleaned from a study of experience, systematically arranged, stating and showing the operation of general laws. Sciences—or at least our ability to state the definite laws underlying and governing given subjects—vary in degrees of exactness.
Mathematics is a truly exact science. The science of medicine, despite the marvelous advances which have been made in it and the enormous existing body of knowledge pertaining to it, is to a considerable degree inexact.
It is possible to make a study of the sales process and the experience and methods of successful salesmen. Insofar as we are able to determine the underlying successful methods there is a science of salesmanship. Because of the many immeasurable human elements involved, it will always remain, to some degree, an inexact science.
The art of salesmanship
Art is a science applied. It involves actual doing. It is the practical application of knowledge or natural ability. One might have a broad knowledge of the science of medicine and possess, or develop, but indifferent ability in applying it. It may be said, speaking generally, that knowledge of a science is gained by study; proficiency in an art by practice.
Here is the real truth behind the often made statement: “Experience is the best teacher.” To a large extent, that is so. But to the thinking man the advantage of knowledge gleaned from the experience of others, in making his personal experiences mean more to him than they otherwise could, will be apparent.
The recently graduated medical student definitely needs his hospital experience to make him a real physician. Without his particular knowledge as a background, however, his hospital training could mean little or nothing to him. The trained engineer fresh from his technical school is probably not so good a builder of bridges as is the foreman who has worked at bridge building since boyhood.
Give the engineer trained in engineering principles a few years of practical experience, however, and he will be by far the better bridge builder because he has at his disposal not only his own experience but that of the entire engineering profession reduced to definite laws.
In like manner, knowledge of selling principles alone is not sufficient. Actual practice in their application is necessary. But knowledge of principles will enable one to get his selling ability into action more quickly and make of him a better salesman than he otherwise could hope to be. The art of salesmanship may be defined as the ability to apply fundamental selling principles to the circumstances of the individual selling situation.
The term salesmanship as used in this text includes both knowledge of fundamental selling principles and the ability to apply them in the actual making of sales. It comprehends both the science and the art.
Principles of salesmanship
Principles are the fundamentals, laws or truths underlying a given science. They remain more or less fixed or immutable though the methods used in applying them will vary with each individual case. Centrifugal force is a fundamental principle of physics operating alike in a cream separator, a laundry drying machine, or in the act of swinging about one’s head, without spilling, a pail containing water. It will be observed, however, that the method by which the principle is applied is different in each case.
The term sales principle as used in this Text denotes the underlying reason for any mode of action which enables the salesman successfully to bring about any development in a sale. It assumes that there is a fundamental controlling law for bringing about, if other conditions be favorable, each important development in the sales process; and that such laws can be more or less definitely ascertained.
The distinction between a sales principle and the method used in its application in given circumstances is one that the salesman should have clearly in mind.
Sales methods
A method is a way of doing something—specifically, in selling, those things which a salesman does or says to apply a principle of salesmanship—to bring about certain reactions on the part of the prospective buyer. Principles, as has been indicated, are fixed. Methods will vary with each individual sale and with each individual salesman.
The skilful salesman will often have many different methods, varying with the situations in which he finds himself, for applying a given sales principle. Positive suggestion is a fundamental principle of salesmanship as well as of psychology—or rather it would be better to state that it is a principle of salesmanship because it is a principle of psychology. The principle itself is a fixed thing. The methods through which this single principle can be applied are legion.
While it is not possible to enumerate all possible methods in the same sense that it is possible to state definitely all known principles, it is possible to give the salesman many sales methods which are unusually effective and to inspire him to devise many more which will be particularly effective for him. The thing of largest practical importance is that the salesman be enabled to check his methods and assure himself that they are in accord with correct principle.
Selling ability is not inherent
A business man had been arguing that “Salesmanship cannot be taught. It must be born in a man.” As he talked, he had been watching one of his men in the front part of his store demonstrate a mechanical device. When the customer had gone, he stepped quickly forward. “Bill,” said he, “I noticed that you did all the demonstrating and all the talking.
Why didn’t you let your prospect handle the machine—operate it? By doing that you would have held his interest and created in him a desire to own the machine. Instead of that, he walked out on you.”
He had laid down a definite principle of salesmanship. He had endeavored to do that which he had just finished stating could not be done—teach salesmanship. This illustrates how little thought a man is giving to the subject when he says that salesmen are born and not made.
It is undoubtedly true that some men are “born” salesmen in the sense that they have selling instinct more highly developed than most men. It is also true that many such men succeed in selling work without any special training other than that afforded by their personal experience.
It is also true, however, that probably a majority of men have latent in them real selling ability which requires nothing but sound instruction and training to bring it out and get it into action. There are “born” salesmen in the same sense that there are “born” musicians or “born” artists.
It cannot be gainsaid, however, that musical or artistic ability must be developed by training. Almost any man of ordinary intelligence, provided there is not present in him some obvious drawback of temperament or physical ability, can be developed into a sales producer satisfactory both to himself and to his house.
Can salesmanship be taught?
Not so long ago, it was not at all unusual for a sales executive to decry the necessity for any extended formal training for recruits to the selling organization. A man of more or less apparent selling ability was hired, given a day or so around the plant or office, handed a sample case and started for his territory with a few parting instructions—to sink or swim.
Only one out of ten breasted the tide. This method has long been recognized as inefficient and wasteful of the company’s money, of territory, and of good sales material. The leading organizations of the country have long since demonstrated conclusively that adequate sales training, both before the salesman actually enters upon his selling work and after he is in the territory, greatly reduces the percentage of salesmanship mortality, makes satisfactory producers out of mediocre men who would otherwise inevitably fail, and gets good men into profitable production sooner than would otherwise be possible.
Furthermore, competition becomes constantly keener and the salesman must be more thoroughly prepared for the job than formerly. It is no longer enough that he be a genial mixer and a persuasive talker. He must have business instruction and business training. Business executives are giving more serious attention than ever today to the development of good salesmanship through adequate instruction and training.

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