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The Evolution of Sales Training
Tom Hopkins, another sales training trailblazer, points out that Arthur Sheldon, founder of the Sheldon School in downtown Chicago, already had taught many thousands the "science of salesmanship" by the turn of the 20th century.
Most of the sales training that took place during the next 50 years or so took the form of direct coaching by sales managers. Hopkins lists Willie Gayle, Fred Herman, Elmer Leterman (author of "The Sale Begins When the Customer Says No") and Elmer Wheeler as some of the early pundits.
It was Wheeler who served up the well-known phrase, "Don't sell the steak -- sell the sizzle!" from his position as head of the Tested Selling Institute in New York City during the 1930s.
(The importance of relationships in selling in the 1930s and for decades to come was underscored by the success of Dale Carnegie's book, "How to Make Friends and Influence People," which still hovers around the 200th best-selling book on Amazon.com.)
Salespeople and their managers had few choices when it came to training. Of course, the world was considerably less complex then, but buyers all too often were seen as prey.
That sentiment was brought into the forefront by Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" in 1949. Ziglar said that play did more to create obstacles for salespeople than anything that came before or after.
"It's the opposite of what selling is about," Ziglar said. "It shows a loser and gives selling a bad name."
Ziglar points to integrity as the most important trait required for successful selling. Noted sales trainer Bill Brooks agrees and suggests that if you were in sales in the 1960s, you were in a less-than-respected profession. That is a perception that hasn't changed in some circles.
Technology Enters Training
In the mid-1950s, J. Douglas Edwards brought technology into the sales training arena with his vinyl record, "13 Effective Methods for Closing the Sale." Later, Earl Nightingale (who was more motivator than sales trainer) began to deliver content in audio. He eventually formed a company that would become the leader in personal development products.
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