Selling Things


by Orison Swett Marden and Joseph F. MacGrail

Selling Things



Cultivate all the arts and all the helps to mastership.

The world always listens to a man with a will in him.

Soon after Henry Ward Beecher went to Plymouth Church he received a letter from a Western parish, asking him to send them a new pastor. After describing the sort of man they wanted, the letter closed with the following injunction: “BE SURE TO SEND US A MAN WHO CAN SWIM. Our last pastor was drowned while fording the river, on a visit to his parishioners.”

Now, this is the sort of a man that is wanted everywhere, in every line of human activity, _the man who can swim_, the salesman who can swim, who can sell things, who can go out and get business, the man who can take a message to Garcia, who can bring back the order, the man who can “deliver the goods.”

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, and he is rarely if ever out of a job.

Only a short while ago two companies actually went to law about a salesman who transferred his connection from one to the other, his original employers holding that he had no right to do so, as he was under contract (at a $50,000 salary) to them.

In spite of the fact that thousands of employees are looking for positions, on every hand we see employers looking for somebody who can “deliver the goods”; a salesman who will not say that if conditions were right, if everything were favorable, if it were not for the panic, or some other stumbling block, he could sell the goods. Everywhere employers are looking for some one who can do things, no matter what the conditions may be.

There is no place in salesmanship for the man who waits for orders to come to him. He is simply an order taker, not a salesman. Live men, men with vigorous initiative and lots of pluck and grit, men who can go out and get business are wanted.

It should not be necessary to prove that training is needed for success in salesmanship or in any business. Yet, because men have been compelled for centuries “to learn by their mistakes,” to pick up here and there, by hard knocks, a little knowledge about their work, there has been a prejudice against trying to teach business by sane, scientific methods. Besides, in former times, the working man and the mere merchant were supposed to belong to a low class of society, apart from the noble and the learned, and little attention was given to their needs. A man, too, was believed to be born with a natural aptitude for salesmanship or business building, and this was supposed to be all-sufficient.

To-day there are many men and women attracted by the big profits in salesmanship, who would like to become salesmen and saleswomen, but they feel they have not this natural aptitude to insure permanent success.

It is true that, just as certain men and women are born with natural gifts for music and for art, so certain men and women have, in a high degree, the natural qualities which enable them to succeed in selling either their brain power or merchandise. But while it is true that some people have more natural capacity than others, it is not true to-day, and it was never true in the fine arts, in athletics, or in commercial pursuits, that the untrained man is the equal of the trained man.

Man is always improving Nature, or, if you prefer, he is always helping Nature. Central Park, New York, is more beautiful because the landscape gardener has been helping Nature; the farmer is the reaper of bigger and better crops because he is following the advice of the chemist, who tells him how to fertilize the soil; the Delaware River and Hell Gate have become more easily navigable, because the engineer has removed obstacles which Nature had placed in those waters; Colorado’s arid lands are irrigated, thanks to the skill of the civil engineer; the horticulturist aids Nature by grafting and pruning; the scientist comes to the help of human nature with antiseptic methods in surgery; and the inventor shows Nature how electricity can be put to numberless practical uses.

Let us not fool ourselves; we need to study, we need to be trained for every business in life. And in these days the training by which natural defects are overcome and natural aptitude is developed into effective ability can be obtained by every youth. No matter how great your natural ability in any direction, in order to get the best results, it must be reënforced by this special training.

The untrained man may get results here and there because he has natural ability and unconsciously uses the right methods. The trained man is getting results regularly because he is consistently using the right methods.

Business men no longer attribute a lost sale, where it should have been made, to “hard luck,” but to ignorance of the science of salesmanship.

The “born” salesman is not as much in vogue as formerly. Business is becoming a science, and almost any honest, dead-in-earnest, determined youth can become an expert in it, if he is willing to pay the price.

It is scientific salesmanship to-day, and not luck, that gets the order.