“The most difficult task in editing this first issue of The Jobber's Salesman was that of trying to find space for the many valuable articles and features that we would have liked to include.”
— Howard Ehrlich, editorial director, The Jobber's Salesman, in introducing the new publication to the electrical industry in 1920.
I can sympathize with Ehrlich. Whether it's producing an issue of EW in the 21st century or editing the first issue of “The Jobber's Salesman,” (Electrical Wholesaling's name until 1932), it's hard to squeeze in all deserving articles. Over the past 85 years, that's been a tough challenge for Electrical Wholesaling's editorial staff.
In its earliest years, the magazine was loaded with articles about the massive potential that stood before the electrical industry: the electrification of an entire nation. One ad from the Electrical Supply Jobber's Association called the jobber's salesman the “messenger and interpreter of opportunity,” and said, “In the great development that is coming about in the merchandising of electrical sales, he is the advance agent of progress.”
A 1920 Square D ad with the headline, “Our faith in your future,” offered distributor salespeople a pep talk on the sales opportunities awaiting them. It read, “The time is at hand for the economic expansion abnormally delayed by the “Great War” (World War I). The construction of houses, office buildings, factories and electric and steam railroads must be and will be attended to at once. Nineteen-twenty will register as the most wonderfully productive year in history…Nineteen twenty, Mr. Jobber's Salesman, is your big opportunity to ride the crest of prosperity to a higher plane of salesmanship.”
I wish I could say the same about 2005! Actually, you can expect 2005 to be a growth year for the electrical business, judging from the responses to EW's annual Electro Forecast survey. Respondent's comments in this month's cover story (page 16) offer some interesting insight into the changes and challenges in the electrical wholesaling industry. Several of the challenges mentioned in this article don't seem much different than those that confronted the owners of electrical supply houses and jobber's salesmen in the 1920s: refining the customer-distributor-rep-manufacturer relationship; finding qualified employees; and helping distributors run their businesses as profitably as possible, discover new markets and plan for the future. Some things just don't change.
In this anniversary year, EW's editors will be publishing interesting tidbits that have appeared over the years in the pages of the magazine. Check out the following sales tips that appeared in a 1920 issue of “The Jobber's Salesman.” They appeared in a column entitled, “Some Salesman's Don'ts.”
Don't argue — illustrate.
Don't ever tell a prospect that he is mistaken.
Don't ask the prospect a question to which he can say “no.”
Don't talk price; talk quality even though your price is low.
Don't run down the other fellow's goods; talk the reason why of your goods.
Don't say anything against the goods on which the prospect looks with favor, for you will offend his judgment on which every man prides himself.
Don't loaf on rainy days; they are good days to find prospects in. They don't have so many callers. You don't have to wait and are permitted to stay longer.
Don't talk loud, particularly at the opening of a selling talk; talk low in order to concentrate the prospect by straining his hearing slightly.
Don't neglect the fact that legs often make up for brains in getting orders — although one isn't much good without the other.
Don't neglect to read the trade journals in your line. (Amen!)