Charles N. Crewdson.

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[Illustration: "He is the steam - and a big part of the engine too -
that makes business move"]





Dedicated to Alex C. Ritchey, Salesman.
the Author's Friend.


I The square deal wins
II Clerks, cranks and touches
III Social arts as salesmen's assets
IV Tricks of the trade
V The helping hand
VI How to get on the road
VII First experiences in selling
VIII Tactics in selling - I
IX Tactics in selling - II
X Tactics in selling - III
XI Cutting prices
XII Canceled orders
XIII Concerning credit men
XIV Winning the customer's good will
XV Salesmen's don'ts
XVI Merchants the salesman meets
XVII Hiring and handling salesmen
XVIII Hearts behind the order book


He is the steam - and a big part of the engine too - that makes business

Larry let business drop entirely and danced a jig

"Whenever I let go the buggy handle the baby yelled"

"Tonight we dance, tomorrow we sell clothes again"
"I listened to episodes in the lives of all those seven children"

"I braced the old man - It wasn't exactly a freeze but there was a lot
of frost in the air"

"You ought to have seen his place"

"My stomach was beginning to gnaw, but I didn't dare go out"

"In big headlines I read 'Great Fire in Chicago'"

"Well, Woody," said he, "You seem to be taking things pretty easy"

"You'd better write that down with a pencil" said Harry

"Shure, that cigare is a birrd"

"He came in with his before breakfast grouch"
"I'm treed" said the drayman. "They're as heavy as lead"

"What explanation have you to make of this, sir?"

"He tried to jolly her along, but she was wise"

The author wishes to acknowledge his special debt of gratitude to the



Salesmanship is the business of the world; it is about all there is to
the world of business. Enter the door of a successful wholesale or
manufacturing house and you stand upon the threshold of an
establishment represented by first-class salesmen. They are the steam
- and a big part of the engine, too - that makes business move.

I saw in print, the other day, the statement that salesmanship is the
"fourth profession." It is not; it is the first. The salesman, when he
starts out to "get there," must turn more sharp corners, "duck"
through more alleys and face more cold, stiff winds than any kind of
worker I know. He must think quickly, yet use judgment; he must act
quickly and still have on hand a rich store of patience; he must work
hard, and often long. He must coax one minute and "stand pat" the
next. He must persuade - persuade the man he approaches that he needs
_his_ goods and make him buy them - yes, _make_ him. He is messenger
boy, train dispatcher, department buyer, credit man, actor, lawyer and
politician - all under one hat!

By "salesman" I do not mean the man who stands behind the counter and
lets the customer who comes to him and wants to buy a necktie slip
away because the spots on the silk are blue instead of green; nor do I
mean the man who wraps up a collar, size 16, and calls "cash;" I mean
the man who takes his grip or sample trunks and goes to hunt his
customer - the traveling salesman. Certainly there are salesmen
_behind_ the counter, and he has much in common with the man on
the road.

To the position of traveling salesman attach independence, dignity,
opportunity, substantial reward. Many of the tribe do not appreciate
this; those do so best who in time try the "professional life." When
they do they usually go back to the road happy to get there again. Yet
were they permanently to adopt a profession - say the law - they would
make better lawyers because they had been traveling men. Were many
professional men to try the road, they would go back to their first
occupation because forced to. The traveling man can tell you why! I
bought, a few days ago, a plaything for my small boy. What do you
suppose it was? A toy train. I wish him to get used to it - for when he
grows up I am going to put him on the road hustling trunks.

My boy will have a better chance for success at this than at anything
else. If he has the right sort of stuff in him he will soon lay the
foundation for a life success; if he hasn't I'll soon find it out. As
a traveling salesman he will succeed quickly or not at all. In the
latter event, I'll set him to studying a profession. When he goes on
the road he may save a great part of his salary, for the firm he will
represent will pay his living expenses while traveling for them. He
will also have many leisure hours, and even months, in which to study
for a profession if he chooses; or, if he will, he may spend his "out
of season" months in foreign travel or any phase of intellectual
culture - and he will have the money _of his own earning_ with which to
do it. Three to six or eight months is as much time as most traveling
men can profitably give to selling goods on the road; the rest is
theirs to use as they please.

Every man who goes on the road does not succeed - not by any means. The
road is no place for drones; there are a great many drops of the honey
of commerce waiting in the apple blossoms along the road, but it takes
the busy "worker" bee to get it. The capable salesman may achieve
great success, not only on the road, but in any kind of activity. "The
road" is a great training school. The chairman of the Transportation
Committee in the Chicago city council, only a few years ago was a
traveling man. He studied law daily and went into politics while he
yet drew the largest salary of any man in his house. Marshall Field
was once a traveling man; John W. Gates sold barbed wire before he
became a steel king. These three men are merely types of successful
traveling men.

Nineteen years ago, a boy of 15, I quit picking worms off of tobacco
plants and began to work in a wholesale house, in St. Louis, at $5 per
week - and I had an even start with nearly every man ever connected
with the firm. The president of the firm today, now also a bank
president and worth a million dollars, was formerly a traveling man;
the old vice-president of the house, who is now the head of another
firm in the same line, used to be a traveling man; the present vice-
president and the president's son-in-law was a traveling man when I
went with the firm; one of the directors, who went with the house
since I did, is a traveling man. Another who traveled for this firm is
today a vice-president of a large wholesale dry goods house; one more
saved enough to go recently into the wholesale business for himself.
Out of the lot six married daughters of wealthy parents, and thirty or
more, who keep on traveling, earn by six months or less of road work,
from $1200 to $6000 each year. One has done, during his period of
rest, what every one of his fellow salesmen had the chance to do - take
a degree from a great university, obtain a license (which he cannot
afford to use) to practice law, to learn to read, write and speak with
ease two foreign languages and get a smattering of three others, and
to travel over a large part of the world.

Of all the men in the office and stock departments of this firm only
two of them have got beyond $25 a week; and both of them have been
drudges. One has moved up from slave-bookkeeper to credit-man slave
and partner. The other has become a buyer. And even he as well as
being a stock man was a city salesman.

Just last night I met, on leaving the street car, an old school boy
friend who told me that he was soon going to try his hand on the road
selling bonds. He asked me if I could give him any pointers. I said:
"Work and be square - never come down on a price; make the price right
in the beginning." "Oh, I don't know about that," said he. I slapped
him on the breast and answered: "I do!"

I would give every traveling man, every business man, _every man_
this same advice. Say what you will, a square deal is the only thing
to give your customer. You can do a little scaly work and win out at
it for a while; but when you get in the stretch, unless you have
played fair, the short horses will beat you under the wire.

The best customer on my order book came to me because I once had a
chance to do a little crooked work, but didn't. I had a customer who
had been a loyal one for many years. He would not even look at another
salesman's goods - and you know that it is a whole lot of satisfaction
to get into a town and walk into a door where you know you are
"solid." The man on the road who doesn't appreciate and care for a
faithful customer is not much of a man, anyway.

My old customer, Logan, had a little trouble with his main clerk. The
clerk, Fred, got it into his head that the business belonged to him,
and he tried to run it. But Logan wouldn't stand for this sort of work
and "called him down." The clerk became "toppy" and Logan discharged

But, still, Fred had a fairly good standing in the town and interested
an old bachelor, a banker, who had a nephew that he wanted to start in
business. He furnished Fred and his nephew with $10,000 cash capital;
the three formed a partnership to open a new store and "buck" Logan.
Well, you know it is not a bad thing to "stand in" with the head clerk
when you wish to do business in an establishment. So I had always
treated Fred right and he liked me and had confidence in me. In fact,
it's a poor rule to fail to treat all well. I believe that the "boys"
on the road are the most tolerant, patient human beings on earth. To
succeed at their business they must be patient and after a while it
becomes a habit - and a good one, too.

You know how it goes! A merchant gets to handling a certain brand of
goods which is no better than many others in the same line. He gets it
into his head that he cannot do without that particular line. This is
what enables a man on the road to get an established trade. The clerks
in the store also get interested in some special brand because they
have customers who come in and ask for that particular thing a few
times. They do not stop to think that the man who comes in and asks
for a Leopard brand hat or a Knock-'em-out shoe does not have any
confidence in this special shoe or hat, but that he has confidence in
the establishment where he buys it.

So, when I was in Logan's town to sell him his usual bill, his clerk
hailed me from across the street and came over to where I stood. He
told me that he had quit his old job and that he was going to put in a
new stock. I, of course, had to tell him that I must stay with Logan,
but that out of appreciation of his past kindness to me I would do the
best I could to steer him right in my line of goods. I gave him a
personal letter to another firm that I had been with before and who, I
knew, would deal with him fairly.

Fred went in to market. When in the city he tried to buy some goods of
my firm. He intended to take these same goods and sell them for a
lower price than Logan had been getting, and thus cut hard into
Logan's trade. But the big manufacturers, you know, are awake to all
of those tricks and a first-class establishment will always protect
its customers. My house told Fred that before they could sell to him
they would have to get my sanction. They wired me about it, and I, of
course, had to be square with my faithful old friend, Logan; I placed
the matter before him. As I was near by, I wrote him, by special
delivery, and put the case before him. He, for self-protection, wired
my house that he would prefer that they would not sell his old clerk
who was now going to become his competitor. In fact, he said he would
not stand for it.

The very next season things came around so that Logan went out of
business, and then I knew that I was "up against it" in his town - my
old customer gone out of business; Fred not wanting, then, of course,
to buy of me. But I took my medicine and consoled myself with the
thought that a few grains of gold would pan out in the wash.

Up in a large town above Logan's I had a customer named Dave, who had
moved out from Colorado. He was well fixed, but he had not secured the
right location. Say what you will, location has a whole lot to do with
business. Of course, a poor man would not prosper in the busy streets
of Cairo, but the best sort of a hustler would starve to death doing
business on the Sahara. A big store in Dave's new town failed. He had
a chance to buy out the, stock at 75 cents on the dollar. He wished to
do so; but, although he was well-to-do, he didn't have the ready cash.

One night I called on Dave and he laid the case before me. He told me
how sorry he was not to get hold of this "snap." I put my wits
together quickly and I said to him: "Dave, I believe I can do you some

The next morning I went to see a banker, who was a brother-in-law of
Logan's and who had made enough money, merchandising and out of wheat,
down in Logan's old town, to move up to the city and go into the
banking business. The banker knew all about the way that I had treated
his brother-in-law, and I felt that because I had been square with
Logan he would have confidence in anything I would say to him. I laid
the case before the banker. I told him I knew Dave to be well fixed,
to have good credit, to be a good rustler and strictly straight.

In a little while I brought Dave to meet the banker. The banker
immediately, upon my recommendation, told him that he could have all
the money he needed-$16,000. The banker also wired to the people who
owned the stock - he was well acquainted with them - and told them he
would vouch for Dave.

The deal went through all right and Dave now buys every cent's worth,
that he uses in my line, from me. He is the best customer I have; I
got him by _being square_.

A great mistake which some salesmen make when they first start on the
road is to "load" their customers. The experienced man will not do
this, for he soon learns that he will "lose out" by it. A merchant
will not long continue to buy from a traveling man in whom he has no
confidence. He, in great measure, depends on the judgment of the
traveling man as to the styles and quantities he should buy. If the
salesman sells him too much of anything it is only a matter of time
when the merchant will buy from some other man. When a storekeeper
buys goods he invests money; and his heart is not very far from his

The time when the traveling man will ram all he can into an order is
when the merchant splits his business in the salesman's line, buying
the same kind of goods from two or more houses. Then the salesman
sells as much as he can, that he may crowd the other man out. But even
this is poor policy.

I once took on a new town. My predecessor had been getting only a
share of his customer's trade; two others had divided the account with
him. I made up my mind to have all of the account or none. The
merchant went to my sample room and gave me an order for a bill of
hats. He bought at random. When I asked him what sizes he wanted, he
said: "Oh, run 'em regular." "Very well," said I, "but will it not be
well to look through your stock and see just what sizes you need?
Maybe you have quite a number of certain sizes on hand and it will be
needless for you to get more of them. Let's go down to the store and
look through your stock."

We went to his store. The first item on the order he had given me was
one dozen black "Columbias." I found that he had five dozen already on
hand. "Look here," said I, "don't you think I would better scratch
that item off of the bill?" I drew my pencil through the "one dozen

"Now let us go through your whole stock and see if there are not other
items you have duplicated," I suggested. We worked together for four
hours - until after midnight. It was the biggest mess of a stock I ever
saw. When we got through I had cut down my order three-fourths.

"See," said I, showing the merchant my order-book and his stock list -
which every merchant should have when he goes to buy goods - "you have
enough of some kinds to last you three years. Others, because they
have gone out of style, are worth nothing. All you can get out of them
will be clear profit; throw them out and sell them for any price.

"Do you know what has been happening to you right along? Three men -
and the one from my firm is just as guilty as the rest - have been
loading you. Why, if I were a judge and they were brought before me,
I'd sentence them to jail."

"And I guess I ought to be made to go along with them," broke in my
friend, "for participating in the crime."

"That I will leave you to judge," said I, "but there is one thing for
sure: You will not see me back here again for a year; it would be a
crime for anyone to take an order from you during that time. And when
I do come I want all of your business, or none; you haven't enough for
three, or even for two. You can buy no more than you can sell to your
customers, unless you go broke some day. Your interest and my interest
are the same. In truth, I stand on the same side of the counter as you
do. It is to my interest to treat you right. My firm is merely the one
from which you and I together select your goods. Ought I not to see
that they give you the right things at the right prices? If I treat
you right, and my firm does not, you will follow me to another; if I
treat you wrong I'll lose both your confidence and my job."

That man today gives me all of his business; I got him by _being

By being over-conscientious, however, a salesman sometimes will not
let his customer buy enough. This is frequently to the disadvantage of
the merchant. To sell goods a merchant must have goods; to have them
he must buy them. The stingy man has no business in business. Many a
man becomes a merchant and, because he is either too close-fisted or
hasn't enough capital or credit with which to buy goods, is awakened,
some fine morning, by the tapping on his front door of the Sheriff's
hammer. A man may think that if he goes into business his friends will
buy "any old thing, just because it's me"; but he will find out that
when he goes to separate his friends from their coin he must give them
the kind of goods they want. The successful merchant is the man who
carries the stock.

One of my old friends, who was a leading hat salesman of St. Louis,
once told me the following experience:

"Several years ago I was out in western Texas on a team trip. It was a
flush year; cattle were high. I had been having a good time; you know
how it goes - the more one sells the more he wants to sell and can
sell. I heard of a big cattleman who was also running a cross-roads
grocery store. He wanted to put in dry goods, shoes and hats. His
store was only a few miles out of my way so I thought that I would
drive over and see him.

"How I kicked myself when I drove up to his shanty, hardly larger, it
seemed to me, than my straw-goods trunk! But, being there, I thought I
would pick up a small bill anyway. I make it a rule never to overlook
even a little order, for enough of them amount to as much as one big
one. When I went in the old gentleman was tickled to see me and told
me to open up - that he wanted a 'right smart' bill. I thought that
meant about $75.

"I had to leave my trunks outside - the store was so small - so I
brought in at first only a couple of stacks of samples, thinking that
they would be enough. I pulled out a cheap hat and handed it to him.

"'That's a good one for the money,' said I, 'a dollar apiece.' I used
to always show cheap goods first, but I have learned better.

"He looked at my sample in contempt and, pulling a fine Stetson hat
off his head, said: 'Haven't you got some hats like this one?'

"'Yes, but they will cost you $84 a dozen,' I answered, at the same
time handing him a fine beaver quality Stetson.

"'The more they cost the better they suit us cattlemen; we are not
paupers, suh! How many come in a box?'


"'Two?' said he. 'You must be talking about a pasteboard box; I mean a
wooden box, a case.'

"'Three dozen come in a case, Colonel.'

"'Well, give me a case.'

"I had never sold a case of these fine goods in my life, so I said to
him: 'That's lots more, Colonel, than I usually sell of that kind, and
I don't want to overload you; hadn't we better make it a dozen?'

"'Dozen? Lor', no. You must think that there's nobody in this country,
that they haven't any money, and that I haven't any money. Did you see
that big bunch of cattle as you came in? They're all mine - mine, suh;
and I don't owe the bank a cent on them, suh. No, suh, not a cent,
suh. I want a case of these hats, suh - not a little bundle that you
can carry under yo' arm.'

"I was afraid that I had made the old gentleman mad, and, knowing him
by reputation to be worth several thousand dollars, I thought it best
to let him have his way. I went through the two stacks with him and
then brought in the rest of my samples. He bought a case of a kind
right through - fine hats, medium hats and cheap hats for greasers; he
bought blacks, browns and light colors. I was ashamed to figure up the
bill before his face. But just as soon as I got out of sight I added
up the items and it amounted to $2l00 - the best bill I took on that

"I sent the order in, but I thought that I would not have to call
there again for a long time. The house shipped the bill, and the old
gentleman discounted it.

"Next trip I was intending to give that point the go-by. I really felt
that the old gentleman not only needed no more goods, but that he
would shoot me if I called on him. But when I reached the town next to
his, my customer there, who was a friend of the Colonel's, told me
that the old gentleman had sent him word that he wished to buy some
more goods and for me to be sure to come to see him.

"When I came driving up to the Colonel's store the back end of it
looked peculiar to me. He had got so many goods from me that he had
been obliged to take the wooden cases they were shipped in and make
out of these boxes an addition to his store. Lumber was scarce in that
country. The Colonel came out and shook hands with me before I was out
of my wagon. I was never greeted more warmly in my life.

"'Look heah,' he began, 'I owe you an apology, suh; and I want to make
it to you befo' you pass my threshol', suh. When you were heah befo' I
fear that I allowed my indignation to arise. I am sorry of it, suh,
sorry! Give me yo' hand and tell me that you will pahdon me. I can't
look you square in the face until you do.'

"'Why, Colonel, that's all right,' said I, 'I didn't want to abuse
your confidence, but I fear that I myself was impertinent in trying to
show you that I knew more about your business than you did. I want to
beg your pardon.'

"'No pahdon to grant, suh; and I want you to accept my apology. The
truth is the cowboys in this country have been deviling me to death,
nearly - ever since I started this sto' - to get them some good hats -
good ones, suh. They told me that they couldn't get a decent hat in
this whole country. I promised them that I would buy some of the best
I could find. When yo's came some of the boys saw the wagon bound for
my store, ten miles out of town. They fo'med a sort of a procession,
suh, and marched in with the team. Every one of these boys bought one
of those finest hats you sold me. They spread the news that I had a
big stock and a fine stock, all over this country; and, do you know,
people have come two hundred miles to buy hats of me? Some of my
friends laughed at me, they say, because I bought so many that I had
to use the cases they came in to make an addition to my sto'. But the
more they laughed, suh, the more necessary they made the addition. If
you can only get people to talking about you, you will thrive. Believe
me in this, suh: If they say something good about you, that is good;
if they say something bad about you, that is better - it spreads
faster. Those fool merchants did not know, suh, that they were helping
my business every time that they told about how many hats I had
bought, until one day a fellow, when they were laughing about me,
said: "Well, if that's the case I'll buy my hat from him; I like,
anyway, to patronize the man who carries a good stock." Now you just
come back and see how empty my addition is.'

"I went back into my addition and found that the Colonel's hats were

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 1 of 19)