Training Correspondents 1

letter, letters, business, conferences, market, system, advertising and conference

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One advertising manager in an eastern concern which employs sales correspondents to cover the smaller towns of each state has secured remarkable results in two years' time by means of weekly con ferences with these men and others in the organization who are interested in correspondence. He estimates from definite figures on sales that there has been a 40 per cent increase in their efficiency. This manager gives the following description of his I started these conferences with the idea of learning as much as my correspondents would learn about writing better letters ; more, if possible. I was determined that it should be strictly a cooperative enterprise. I believed that we should all get together in order to find out how we all could improve our letters.

To encourage freedom of discussion, I always supplied copies of correspondence without any marks which would tell who had written the letters. I chose these examples care fully, edited out all marks of identification, had enough copies of each mimeographed so each man could have a set, and sent them around the day before the conference. They served as a reminder of the conference and gave each man a chance to do some thinking before he came.

Our first hour of conference was up before we had finished discussing the first letter, so the next time I tried the plan of having each man write out a summary of his criticisms of two letters. One was a good one, the other a letter that had failed. We covered more ground. I have since followed the plan of assigning definite lessons, but not arbitrarily. I got suggestions from all the men concerning their ideas of good assignments.

Each man has a hand in the creation of everything we do. For instance, we created a brief manual of instructions. There is not a man on the staff whose handiwork is not in cluded in this manual. Each man has pride of ownership in it. In fact, I think that each one of the men feels that he himself created nearly all of this manual—which is not far from the truth, as a matter of fact.

One of the big results of these conferences was a general broadening of our information concerning various classes and types of our customers and prospects. We found that nearly all of our letters that failed showed lack of informa tion that the correspondent might easily have had. We have developed the habit of cherishing every scrap of in formation that enables us to get a more accurate picture of our readers, and of reading with greater care the letters we answer.

9. How to read a letter.—The method pursued in the conferences referred to is best described by an illustration. Again, we use the words of the sale,F

Take this example. Here's a letter from a man out in Lakeville, Indiana. I find that Lakeville is a little village of about 200 people; but something tells me that the letter was written by a better business man than you would expect to find in a village of that size, especially in a country village which is close to a big city like South Bend. In fact, this letter compares favorably in tone, thought, and expression and in general appearance with letters of inquiry from buyers in big stores. Here's the letter : Gentlemen: Your advertisement in the current Hardware Deal ers' Magazine leads me to ask for more information about your product.

I am not sure that your system would sell to our trade, but it seems to me that there is a good market here for the right article in that line.

Yours very truly, You see, it is really a good letter : He gives us as little definite information as possible about his situation. He wanted to make sure that he would get unvarnished facts. Yet his letter suggests a good market. He wants us to give his request careful attention. But the letter tells us more than this. The fact that he is willing to give our advertising credit for his interest is evidence that proclaims him a pro gressive merchant, especially so as it comes from a man in a very small town. Also, it looks as though he has not yet tried to sell another system, for he says in the second para graph "but it seems to me that this is a good market." Now if he had said, "but there is a good market," and not "it seems to me," then it would not be so certain that he had not tried to sell some other system.

Therefore, this man is a good business man. his rating and his letter both suggest a big and profitable business, and the size of the town makes it certain that nearly all his business is done with farmers.

That is the way in which we thought about that simple letter of inquiry in one of our conferences. We wrote this man in about the same tone of down-to-business impersonal dignity that characterizes our letters to big buyers.

There is not much doubt that this advertising man's conferences were conducted in accordance with sound educational practice. At least he had in mind the important fact that the best kind of training in sales manship is self-training, based on every-day business experience, and he did not forget that it is the chief function of the supervisor of correspondents to in spire his men with the desire to train themselves.

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