SO YOU WANT TO BE A TRAVELING SALESMAN – a primer
Congratulations salesman! You have chosen a noble profession, The roots of traveling salesmanship can be traced back to ancient Greece. Ancient salesmen traveled a well worn path between Troy and Sparta selling a primitive form of Tupperware. Sample cases were rather large and heavy, as Tupperware was made mostly of stone. The Romans soon improved on the sales trade and traveling Roman salesmen used castrated slaves to carry their samples. Today’s modern salesman has little use for castratos as samples can be carried in a simple briefcase.
PART ONE- WHAT TO SELL?
Good salesmen are well aware of demographics, sales trends, and economic forecasts. For example, even the poorest salesman should be able to sell water in a desert. It would take a better salesman to sell water in an urban city. The best salesman would have sold water to Titanic survivors while the ship went down. In fact, Herbert F. Braithewaite did just that and in 1913 was inducted into the National Traveling Salesman Hall of Fame in Utica New York, posthumously. If you go “above and beyond” the call of duty you too may end up as Mr. Braithewaite.
Traveling salesmen have at their disposal a wide array of data upon which to base their sales decision. Often, the decision is based on one simple fact of sales- buy cheap and sell high. What can you buy cheaply and sell high? *
*The National Board of Traveling Salesman does not condone drug proliferation or prostitution.
Your product should be small and portable, to allow ease of travel, yet large enough to look impressive. It should have a high profit margin and allow for repeat sales. It should be a common item yet also be highly desirable. Some suggestions include encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, and marital aids.
PART TWO – TRAVELING
It has often been said that a good salesman is like a jazz musician- both have plenty of “sole.” This truism has been proven throughout the years. Expect to put many miles on your car and wear out many shoes as you travel the country. Yet you should also expect to see many sites of natural beauty and historic significance. Try to avoid these areas as these are generally low sales zones.
It is usually a good idea to plan your itinerary before hand to make best use of your route. A good route will take you through the most areas in the shortest span of time. For example, a good route through Brooklyn, New York will take you through Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend. A bad route through Brooklyn will take you through East New York.
PART THREE -TIPS FOR COLD CALLING
“Cold calling” is a sales term for trying to make a sale when there has no preliminary groundwork, such as phone calls or pamphlets mailed to the home. Here are some do’s and don’ts for successful cold calls:
- Do not make sales calls at a funeral home during a funeral. It may be tempting due to the great number of people gathered, but sales data shows that mourners generally don’t care to spend money at a funeral, viewing, or wake.
- Do pay attention to the needs of your customers. For example, do not try to sell silverware in a housing project. Do try to sell sneakers.
- Do pay good attention to your appearance. A salesman who has stains on his tie, a wrinkled suit, and a four-day growth of beard may be picked up by the police in higher class neighborhoods. (Some traveling salesman have seen this as an opportunity. Neville Sanderson in 1971 sold three dozen cases of novelty toy water guns while sitting in the holding room of the Plainsboro Police Department. He was salesman of the month for April, though he was later charged and found guilty of aiding and abetting a mass breakout of prisoners from the same prison using his water guns.)
The creed of the traveling salesmen has always been “integrity.” Despite the hundreds of traveling salesman jokes, the salesman who sleeps with the farmer’s daughter is the exception, not the rule. In fact, the National Board of Traveling Salesmen has been locked on litigation with farmer Rufus Frederick Jones of Wheeling West Virginia and his buxom daughter Josie for spreading the lies of philandering salesmen. Evidence shows that the pies left on their window sill and the advances by young Josie were legal entrapment and the divorce of salesman Paul Collins on grounds or infidelity should be overturned.
Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the world of Traveling Salesmanship. We look forward in the coming weeks to providing you with the support you need in your new career, as well as our weekly newsletter, The Willie Loman Gazette.
Arthur William Rotnac
National Board of Traveling Salesmen
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Thanks again to BMJ2k, for allowing me access to his wordsmithing.