In October 1909, the 7-year-old International Harvester Co. began publishing a monthly employee paper titled The Harvester World. While ostensibly meant for all employees, the first issues at least seemed to be aimed primarily at Harvester’s salesmen. Full of tips on how to break down reluctant buyers, each month there was a letter from some salesman telling how he had closed a deal. Here are two of those accounts, one from the October 1909 issue and one from December of the same year.
A salesman named, Oral Bleau wrote this one.
I put one over on a competitor last winter, and in the course of events I made two sales grow where only one idea was planted, and I did it in one day at one psychological moment.
Two doctors came to Omaha looking for an auto. They went straight to the competitor, and they had the buying light in their eyes. I followed them in and stood around as an interested spectator while the competitor’s boys showed them over the machine and proved to them that there was no other auto so suitable for the wear and tear of a country doctor’s practice. And they proved it well, too. It was a cold, snowy day, with weather straight from Medicine Hat in Canada, but one of the salesmen said “Doctor, we’ll take you for a spin this afternoon and show you what the car can do.”
The doctors agreed, and I lit out and got my own car. In the meantime, Medicine Hat got busy, and by the time of the appointment it was storming worse than ever, so bad that the competitor never showed up.
I saw my opening – introduced myself and said, “Gentlemen, I have a car that enjoys these icy roads and does its best work in impassable spots. Take a ride with me?”
“Why not?” they said and we started.
After seven miles of ice and drifts we stopped and got out. The engine was working perfectly. It had held up under as hard a test as they could ever give it in their practice, and they grew enthusiastic and asked questions.
I made out that such rides on such roads were mere recreation for both me and the machine.
They only wanted one machine when they started, but after that seven miles of snow and ice and the impatient “chug,” “chug” of the engine beneath them, it was just too strong a sales argument for them to resist, and they each gave me an order on the spot.
By the way, they’re still on the competitor’s mailing list.
This letter, written by Pat P. Nichols, not only describes the life of a farm machinery salesman in those days, where he often ate meals and stayed overnight with his customers, but also that the wife is sometimes the way to get at the old man.
The hand that “rocks the cradle” once helped me get an order.
I was sent into a territory where the canvasser or the block man had made a single sale. Both were so discouraged that when they saw a farmer, they’d hide in a fence corner, or, if the farmer had a dog, climb a tree.
I came in with the idea of encouraging them, and possibly I acted kind of chesty about it, for they straightaway steered me onto the hardest proposition in the county, a man who believed all salesmen were liars.
I didn’t know this and went after him that afternoon. He received me all right, that is he told his dog to lie down, and I began.
I followed that man from house to barn, to the hog pen, the mailbox and the cow pen, and then to supper, and all the way it was like talking to a moving fence post.
Then at supper I saw things – Mr. Hard-Nut had a boss.
I saw in a flash that the hand that rocked the cradle also cradled the rocks. When she wanted anything from the kitchen all she said was “Let there be movement.” And there was movement. He was docile, all right.
I got busy at once on the new task and helped the boys with the chores, fixed the fire, did a “sum” for the little girl, and when the time came to put the children to bed I gave the baby a good night kiss.
This made her fairly beam at me, and when I rolled up my sleeves and offered to dry the dishes, the sale was made.
She did not let me do it but sent me in to smoke with John. When she returned to the sitting room all she said was, “John, you’ve needed that binder for two years; you had better order it now.”
John hunted up a pen and signed on the dotted line – and he seemed glad to do it.
– Sam Moore
Drawing that accompanied the first story. (October 1909, The Harvester World)