This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
In selling goods never talk price, but always quality. Quality is what after all, makes or loses a customer. Price has nothing to do with a customer's palate. We are all, more or less, slaves to appetite, and know no other law than self gratification. The pleased palate is wedded to the sources of its gratification, and does not stop to compare prices. If an article is offered cheaper by some competitor, the pleased customer says it is because the service is inefficient, or that a low price on one article is only an excuse for an extravagant price on another, and therefore he becomes the steady patron of the store where quality is the first considered, and where a fair price is the rule.
The Different Classes of Customers.
It is next to impossible to sell two customers in the same way. Each must be attacked differently. One is brought to the point of buying by a fair argument on the merits of the goods as compared with other similar articles ; another comes to his conclusion to buy entirely through extraneous influences, because the salesman or proprietor is a " good fellow." Another is like a child, needs to be told his wants. Another class are the suspicious ones, who see a mountain in every molehill, who can be neither led, coaxed or reasoned along. Again, another buys just what he needs or comes after - nothing more. There is still another class which every retailer long in trade will have noticed, those who know so much, or think they do, that rarely buy any article he recommends. Some customers prefer not to be asked to buy; they prefer to ask for what they want, and any urgency or diversion from what they were looking at drives them away.
It is not best to throw out too many goods at one time to one customer, as it frequently confuses the eye and distracts attention. It is usually best to take down as requested, or to show some striking novelty at first. When a woman doesn't know just what she wants, it is rather a difficult thing to satisfy her by throwing down a large variety of goods, and not giving her time to consider any one particular style or coloring,
A most frequent fault of salesmen is that they show too high priced goods to start with. Study your customers ; size them up, so to speak; if you know them, consider their means and resources. Sometimes, the reverse is the case; in that event correct yourself at once, and get at what is desired adroitly and as quickly as possible. Another thing: Salesmen should not call or sing out the price of every piece of dress goods as they take them off the shelves. Why? Because every customer has the idea that the piece of goods they like and really want is higher in price than they can afford or want to pay. A lady, looking at goods, will be certain to ask the price of the piece she is likely to buy just as soon as she sees it. Generally your price is lower than she anticipated, and the sale is easier made. Instances have occurred where a salesman has shown up and talked up a piece of black cashmere, without mentioning the price. The goods look so fine and attractive to the customer that they are actually afraid to ask the price. Not being judges of the goods they think anything looking as fine as these goods must be beyond what they wanted to pay. When the price is finally given the ladies are usually perfectly delighted to think the goods can be purchased so cheap.
Another great fault of some salespeople is that they will say too quick, "We have not got that." If an article is sold out of stock and you know it, give rather an evasive answer like, "I will see; I think we have it," and make some effort to get something. Show that you are willing to do something for your customer; possibly you can interest with something else.
Good salesmanship can be acquired by keeping the eyes open, adopting good points from others and avoiding mistakes which you may have made or have seen made.
A salesman should always fully understand and personify that one trait which is far-reaching and effective - good humor. Of course, occasionally there are very trying people to meet; do not dispute with them. Get their good will if you can. If a seller wants to make a success of himself, he must be able even to bear a slight injury or injustice from someone, who may take advantage of his position. There is nothing degrading in it, it belongs to his experience and school of life. Sometimes angry parvenu women (luckily their numbers are few) attack salesmen until patience ceases to be a virtue, and still those same customers will perhaps come around all right after awhile, and become the staunchest and best supporters the salesman possesses. Moralize on this and try it.