Self-Improvement and Interesting Knowledge

Life is too short to spend valuable time trying to make a favorable impression.
The drummer* who will call upon a merchant and introduce himself to his business with as little formality as possible, and will take his departure as soon as the business is finished is the one who leaves the best impression. There are many familiarities resorted to by the unsophisticated drummer which he no doubt believes in, and possibly values highly as “stock in trade, ” but if dispensed with would do credit to himself and the profession.

A few of these familiarities may be very properly mentioned, viz:

  • The habit of shaking his customer by the hand with the ardor of a “long–lost brother, ” and repeating several times in a minute that he is glad to see him
  • The habit of advising his customer how he should conduct his business to be successful
  • Of going behind his customers counters and opening boxes, barrels and drawers to ascertain the condition of the stock and the amount on hand
  • Of telling stories to customers without being encouraged are requested to do so
  • Of spending too much time with a prospective customer in the endeavor to get acquainted
  • Of loafing too much at the stores of the above after having become acquainted
  • Of talking politics, or any subject on which there is likely to be a radical difference of opinion
  • Of calling customers by their given names
  • Of attempting to sell goods on the strength of a friendship or a long acquaintance
  • Of offering to treat a customer at a time when common sense would teach anyone that it was only done as a bribe
  • Of using flattery with a customer regardless of his disposition to receive or reject it.

My personal experience while drumming for my own house, I always made it a point to proceed to business at the very earliest possible moment after getting the attention of the buyer. I lost no time in hurrying him through my goods, and did no superfluous talking while doing so.

I always had a good story in mind ready to relate just before leaving, which would entertain and amuse him in case he showed an inclination to become more acquainted once our business was over; and made it a point under all circumstances to take my departure at the very time when I felt he was most interested in me. By so doing I invariably found him apparently pleased to see me on my return trip; and often tried to induce me to stay longer.

I spent many hours at the hotel waiting for trains when I could have enjoyed myself much better had I accepted the invitation to “stay longer.”

It was a point with me to treat every clerk with courtesy, but not with familiarity. By so doing no proprietor would ever have occasion to think me guilty of bribing them to act in my behalf.

Were I ever so fortunate as to make the acquaintance of a young lady while on my trips I used the precaution not to telegraph the fact to the ‘daily news-gatherers’ or to relate the incident to every drummer I met.

[notice class=”attention”]*Drummer= a traveling salesman of the 19th century. They were called drummers because of their enterprising, energetic, and supposedly sometimes annoying tendency to “beat the drum” of whatever they were selling.[/notice]

Uncle J.P. here is giving you sound advice on salesmanship. It must be remembered that he lived during hard times; a time when a salesman needed to travel for many months around the country and where competition was incredibly fierce on a man-to-man basis. During his time there were such things as; canvassers, drummers, and knockers. These were traveling salespeople that would engage local and far-flung stores and communities to try and sell their goods. During the height of the Depression the competition was incredibly fierce and every man was fighting to literally have enough to eat.

Uncle J.P. therefore knows what he was talking about because he lived during a time where good salesmanship meant eating and having a roof over your head as opposed to living on the streets like many Americans were doing during that time.

He tells us that the best way to approach any vendor is to try to conduct business in a quick and efficient manner instead of trying to develop the so-called “friendly approach”. He gives a list of things that a salesperson should not do when trying to sell his wares; and these are based on the idea that some salespeople tend to try very hard to establish some kind of unsolicited friendship with the person that they are trying to sell to.

Uncle J.P. advises you to be professional first and foremost and never to try and solicit a person’s private acquaintance. His advice is that you should become likable by being professional first and sociable second. He advises that you should have a good story to tell just in case the time presents itself but to always leave on a high note. You should always leave them at the height of the good feeling, after having given them good service or told them an interesting story. In this way you create the desire within the vendor to want to see you again and not feel like they are somehow obliged to you in any way.

He goes on to advise you that you should never become overly friendly with any one of the clerks that works for an organization that you are selling to because this might create some kind of compromise where the vendor thinks that you are trying to use the clerk as a way to get into his shop. He goes so far as to tell you that any ‘social’ meetings that you have outside of work should stay private because these meetings can easily turn into bad gossip that can hurt your relations with your vendors in the community.


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