The salesman depends for his success primarily upon his talking ability. Obviously, what he offers for sale must have intrinsic merit, and he should possess a thorough knowledge of his wares. But in order to secure the best results from his efforts, he must know how to talk well.
All the general requirements for good conversation apply equally to the needs of the salesman. He should have a pleasant speaking voice and an agreeable manner, a vocabulary of useful and appropriate words, and the ability to put things clearly and convincingly.
It should be a golden rule of the salesman never to argue with the customer. He may explain and reason, and use all the persuasive phraseology at his command, but he must not permit himself for a single instant to engage in controversy. To argue is fatal to successful salesmanship.
There is nothing that can be substituted for a winning personality in the salesman. What constitutes such a personality? Chiefly a good voice, affability of manner, straightforward speech, manly bearing, the desire to serve and please, proper attire, and cleanliness of person. These qualifications come within the reach of anyone who aspires to success in salesmanship.
Every salesman has unexpected problems to solve. A sensitive or touchy customer may become unreasonably angry or offended. What is the salesman to do? He should here be particularly on his guard not to show the slightest resentment. Though he may be wholly guiltless, he cannot afford to contradict the customer, nor to challenge him to a vocal duel. If he talks at all, he should talk quietly and reasonably, and always with the object of bringing the customer around to a favorable point of view.
The successful salesman must have tact and discrimination. He must know when and how to check in himself the word or phrase which is trying to force its way out into expression, but which would in the end prove inadvisable. He must train himself to choose quickly the right and best course under difficult circumstances.
The salesman should give his undivided attention to the customer. If the salesman is speaking, he should speak clearly, directly, concisely, and understandingly; if he is listening, he should listen interestedly and thoroughly, with all his powers alive and receptive.
The salesman should know when to speak and when to be silent. Some customers wish to be told much, others prefer to think for themselves. He is a wise salesman who knows when to be mute. Loquacity has often killed what otherwise might have been a good sale.
There is a certain tone of voice which the salesman should aim to acquire. It is neither high nor low in pitch. It is agreeable to the listening ear, and is almost sufficient in itself to win the favorable attention of the prospective buyer. Every salesman should cultivate a musical and well-modulated voice as one of the chief assets in salesmanship.
The salesman should cultivate dignity of speech and manner. People generally dislike familiarity, joking, and horse-play. It is well to assume that the customer is serious-minded, that he means business and nothing else. Needless to say, the telling of long stories, or personal experiences, has no legitimate place in the business of salesmanship.
There is a proper time and place for short story-telling. Like everything else it is all right in its appropriate setting. Lincoln used it to advantage, but once said: |I believe I have the popular reputation of being a story-teller, but I do not deserve the name in its general sense; for it is not the story itself, but its purpose, or effect, that interests me. I often avoid a long and useless discussion by others, or a laborious explanation on my part, by a short story that illustrates my point of view.|
The salesman should resolve not to lose his poise and agreeableness under any circumstances. Irritability never attracts business. To say the right thing in the right place is desirable, but it is quite as important, though more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the moment of temptation.
It is not the legitimate business of the salesman to force upon a customer what is really not wanted, but many times the customer does not know what he wants nor what he might be able to use. Hence the competent salesman should know how to influence the customer towards a favorable decision, using all honorable and approved means to bring about such a result.
The customer's unfavorable answer is not to be accepted always as final. He may not clearly understand the merits or uses of the article offered. He may need the explanations and suggestions of the salesman in order to reach a right conclusion. Here it is that the salesman may fulfill one of his most important duties.
There is a wide difference between self-reliance and obtrusiveness. Every man should have a full degree of self-confidence. It is needed in every walk in life. But the salesman, more than most men, must have an exceptional degree of faith in himself and in what he has to sell.
This self-confidence, however, is a very different thing from boldness or obtrusiveness. Courtesy and considerateness are cardinal qualities of the well-equipped salesman, but boastfulness, glibness, egotism, loudness, and self-assertion, are as distasteful as they are undesirable.
The eloquence and persuasiveness of silence is nowhere better exemplified than in the art of salesmanship. One man says much, and sells little; another says little, and sells much. The reason for the superior success of one over the other is mainly due to the fact that he knows best how to present the merits of what he offers for sale, knows how to say it concisely and effectively, knows how to ingratiate himself, largely through his personality, into the good graces of the prospective buyer, and knows when to stop talking.
Modern salesmanship is based primarily upon common sense. A man with brains, though possibly lacking in other desirable qualifications, may easily outdistance the more experienced salesman. It is a valuable thing in any man to be able to think accurately, reason deeply, and size up a situation promptly.
The salesman should at all times be on his best talking behavior. It is not advisable for him to have two standards of speech, and to use an inferior one excepting for special occasions. He should cultivate as a regular daily habit discrimination in the use of voice, enunciation, expression, and language. This should be the constant aim not only of the salesman, but of every man ambitious to achieve success and distinction in the world.