5 things modern online-marketer can learn from old-school salesman


Have you ever met a salesperson raised on old-school sales manners? That kind of a shop person selling suits in three-generation family store on the busiest shopping street in the city. Feet together, hands behind the back, collar high and starched, looking ready to serve. With a demeanor of an English gentleman and charisma of Fred Astaire.

Nowadays they are an endangered species. But they have left us a heritage in form of a general-purpose timeless principles, which make sense even in our modern times. Useful not only for sales or marketing, but for life in general. In old “how-to” sales books you can find many of them, but we’ve picked these 5 and rearranged for purpose of an online-marketing company:

1. Get dressed nicely, but appropriately

Good salesperson knows that they should dress depending on what kind of people are they dealing with. The same dress on a meeting with bankers may be untrustworthy when selling to blue-collar workers. Best clothes are those, which don’t distract the attention from the substance – selling.

What does this mean today: Your marketing and communication mix depends on who are you selling to. Nothing surprising. But many companies don’t realize this includes even the smallest details.

From nice and (mostly important) readable typography or choice of colors on a landing page to catchy content and CTA button. From the first product prototype to the customer service. Every creative process should always start by putting someone else’s shoes on. The customer’s shoes.

2. Adopt good organizing habits

Good habits are increasing productivity. Good salesperson keeps an appointment book, so they won’t forget any meeting. Besides they have a well-prepared long-term plan, they also prepare a small to-do list for tomorrow every evening and review what they did or did not do today. Good salesperson believes in the motto: “Knowing where you are going will get you there.”

What does this mean today: Your company should clearly define its mission, strategies and tactics. All employees should clearly know their responsibilities and priorities and responsible people track if the set goals are being met. The advantage of modern times is that we have more accurate and precise tools to track the productivity than we did in the past.

But it should be said that good leaders don’t want to micromanage and control everything. Rather than that, they show the way and leave people to fulfill their path on their own.

3. “Noblesse oblige”

“Noblesse oblige” literally means nobility obligates. It means that with every human action and particularly those with great impact on society should come with responsibilities for its results. Noble values and goals, good manners and goodness can somehow be sensed by work done with these intentions.

Such a creation seems more honest and is more persuasive. Serving well to people brings more joy to work and gives it higher meaning.

What does this mean today: Try to overcome the basic instincts in every aspect of your work. Anger when handling inquiries, laziness when tightening details or pride when you should apologize.

Don’t take orders from anybody, but choose your customers carefully. If the company or the product is not sympathetic and maybe even harmful to society, it is better to take your hands off. Earn a reputation of a noble company and it will return in form of a public favor and satisfied customers.

4. Build good relationships

The most successful salespeople have always been those who have had the best relations with their customers. Those who recognized that selling is more about being concerned for prospects’ needs, getting to know them better and then offering them the best solution, rather than selling something by force.

Joe Girard – the man listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the World’s Greatest Salesman” has brought this art to perfection. He kept records about everything he noticed about his prospects and customers – kids, hobbies, birthdays, travels, etc. That was helping him to open the talk with the topics his customers were interested in and made them believe there’s someone who really cares.

What does this mean today:

  • Investigate (with a newsletter, surveys, fill-in forms, emails, analytics, organizing events, interactions on social media) what your customers are really concerned about, so you will be able to serve them interesting and useful content.
  • With data in your hand, define exactly who your customers are, what are they interested in, what does their average day look like, what challenges are they facing, their job, hobbies, age, life situation…
  • Send personalized emails (from a human, not a company; to a specific person) with content based on collected data. Segment your mailing list by your marketing personas.
  • Create specific content targeted on your marketing personas also for landing pages, your social media communication, LinkedIn and other communication channels
  • Track what your customers respond to, A/B test your messages. Optimize further communication by the feedback you get.

5. Show respect to your customers/ prospects

Imagine 1920’s or as F. Scott Fitzgerald would say the Jazz Age. Art Deco peaked and jazz blossomed. The women got the right to vote. Excellency and the noble behavior were everywhere.

The salespeople of that age looked the same way. The great respect to the customer was common and natural. What were (and still are) those days’ good attributes of serving politely:

  • Listening to customers with full attention (because listening shows that you care), no interruptions by phone
  • Telling the truth
  • Being on time
  • No smoking, no chewing, no dirty language, no alcohol breath
  • Smiling
  • Responding to emails
  • Not selling overpriced stuff
  • Trying to help and sell what customers really need, no overselling

What does this mean for today marketers:

  • React politely in each communication you have with clients (emails, social media, web language…).
  • Be honest. It’s better to say I don’t know, but I will find out, than pretending skills, references or features, you or your product don’t have.
  • Pay attention to what your customers are saying to you and mainly about you. Word of mouth is powerful. Watch carefully your online and offline reputation – what people are saying about your brand. Actively respond in a polite way. Try to fix problems ASAP.
  • Respond to every single email, comment or a call as soon as possible
  • Use nice humor a lot
  • Talk about things that customers cares about.They are human beings with feelings, not consuming robots.

Salespeople of the past teach us what we already know, but sometimes we forget a little. That selling in a first place is about friendly and natural talk. Clear, interesting and persuasive. But such talk requires a professional in a human behavior field. A person with empathy, compassion and positive attitude. And those are the characteristics one is not born with, but must actively develop.


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