How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger, written in 1949, and endorsed by Dale Carnegie as the best book on selling, is a classic on how to improve your selling techniques. Bettger, a Philadelphian who died in 1981 at the age of 93, was first a baseball player, then a failure in insurance selling before he discovered the secrets of success. He then became the top insurance salesman for Fidelity Mutual for 10 years. He believed so much in insurance that he put his entire estate into life insurance and when he and the wife died in the 90's they were temporarily strapped until the proceeds came in.

In a typical gesture, they used the proceeds to start a philanthropic fund for indigent speakers. The path and techniques he used to become successful are covered in the book's 36 chapters, each of which describes a way of making the sale. There are summaries after every 3 or 4 chapters of the key points, and a few tour the forces about unique techniques that Bettger used to make fantastic sales. Many of the techniques were first written about by Benjamin Franklin and ample borrowing from Abraham Lincoln also livens the book. Here are some of the best techniques for selling that Bettger recommends:

The first rule is to be enthusiastic. Dale Carnegie believes this the most important rule. Bettger applied this to his baseball also, sliding into every base.

The second rule is to keep good records. Apparently IBM and GE, the best sales organizations of his day insisted that every salesman prepare in advance a list of all the people he was going to call on the next week. Bettger also kept records of the number of appointments and number of sales he made. And the commissions made per hour from first, second, and third meetings.

The third rule is to find out what the customer wants. Bettger's methods to find this out were silence, asking the question "why " all the time whenever an objection was made, and then asking a very important add on: "in addition to that, is there another problem?". This last is one of the keys to his success. But mainly the spirit of letting the customer tell what he really wanted by letting him tell his story. The query "Please tell me how you got started in business. And could I have the privilege of walking through your warehouse or factory" once the prospect got started telling his story was very important here. The sincere appreciation of his customers became a key add on here to close the sale.

 The fourth rule is a variant of "make the customer feel that it would be very good to place the order now". Bettger did this often by setting up an appointment with a Dr. for one hour after his meeting. A variant of this was always to praise his competitors so as not to get involved in the objections that could arise.

The fifth rule is always to make appointments. That way the customer treats you as an important part of his day, and the salesman's part of this was to be prepared with exactly what the customer needed. Once he was at the meeting, Bettger always asked the question "why" whenever an objection was made so he could find out the main thing the customer wanted.

As an aside, it is good to hear Bettger quoting Pierpont Morgan favorably who he considered one of the shrewdest business men ever: "There are two reasons for a person to do something. The reason he gives you that sounds good. And the real reason." Bettger's use of the "in addition to that is there any other reason that you have for not giving the order now?" was very effective here.

The sixth rule is to be a good listener. And here he has a quote from Franklin from the autobiography which is filled with good ways of getting people to give you the order and give them and you what you want.

The seventh rule is to praise your competitors at all times and to get a haircut and shine the shoes every week. He suggests gaining the confidence of a haberdasher to help you look good. As part of his constant quest for enthusiasm he suggests smiling at everyone you meet.

The eight rule is to become the sincere friend of your customer, keeping records of the names of his family, and secretaries. He often told a young man that he felt that the young man was destined for greatness, and this tip of the hat often proved true, much to Bettger's successful sales when the young man became head of a big Steel Company of bank and gave Bettger all his insurance business.

The ninth rule is to sell in stages. Try to sell the appointment first then the product. After the appointment you can find out what the customer wants by the techniques above and then move into the close.

The tenth rules are variants of the attention, interest, desire, action for closing. He has an unusual way of getting the close. He prepares a contract in advance. Then he asks the prospect if the vital statistics are correct, and finally he asks him to sign where a big X is in the contract.

The eleventh rule is to use demonstrations, and to get your customers to make referrals for you. He prepares post cards with "I would like you to meet Bettger who did a great job for me" for all his customers.


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