Salesmanship is viewed as a form of advertising, since its object is to show that a particular product or service will satisfy the consumer’s wants. The face-to-face situation differs from the more impersonal forms of advertising, however, since it permits the salesman to determine the customer’s special needs and observe his reactions as the sales talk proceeds. Then he can adapt his approach and selling points to the individual prospect; and if he has a variety of products to offer, he will be able to select the one best suited to the customer’s individual requirements.This concept of salesmanship differs greatly from the older (but still prevalent) approach in which the salesman sought to overpower the prospect with his “personality” and to pressure him into purchasing by enthusiastic but empty phrases. Today it is not enough to tell the customer that the product is a great buy and that he will be missing the opportunity of a lifetime if he doesn’t snap it up. Rather, the sales process must be a two-way affair in which the salesman not only talks but asks questions and listens—and he must be able to think more in terms of serving than selling. In a word, the newer approach is customer-oriented, not sales-oriented, and there is evidence that it leads to greater success in the long run since its object is not merely to sell but to suit the product to the buyer.This point of view has been accompanied by a radical change in the concept of the “sales personality” as well as in the selection of salesmen, sales training, and especially sales techniques. These aspects of the subject will now be reviewed.Sales Personality. Older treatises as well as popular books offer inventories of salesman traits such as aggressiveness, self-confidence, enthusiasm, verbal fluency, extraversion, emotional stability, sense of humor, and so on. Different authors suggest different sets of traits, and little evidence is given to support their choices. Moreover, this approach breaks down when we recognize that different types of selling require different approaches. Selling computers differs from selling shirts, and door-to- door selling is not the same as wholesale selling. Aggressiveness and overconfidence would be a hindrance to a man selling scientific equipment, and an emotional, overenthusiastic approach would be highly suspect. On the other hand, a thoughtful, well-informed explanation with special attention to features that meet the specific requirements of the company would probably be highly effective.Salesman Selection. Most companies, then, are not looking for “sales personalities” in general, but for men or women who can sell their particular product to a particular market. For this purpose the most useful single selection method appears to be a carefully devised, weighted application blank based upon studies of salesmen who have been successful and unsuccessful with the specific product or service. For high-level sales personnel it is helpful to include an intensive interview and a battery of selected tests. Some investigators maintain that general sales aptitude tests are of little or no use since different sales jobs have different requirements.Sales Training. On-the-job training and role playing are both highly effective. The optimum amount of training varies considerably from individual to individual and job to job. Technical selling often requires long-term preparation and special classes, as well as refresher courses and frequent sales conferences designed to keep the salesman up to date. Most of the sales training today focuses on information more than on techniques, since the salesman must be prepared to answer his prospect’s questions, and must know the details about the competitor’s product as well as his own.Sales Methods. As Anastasi points out (1964), field research on the sales process is meager, and studies based on simulated sales interviews conducted in the laboratory are limited and artificial. However, she cites two investigations which have yielded significant results. The first study compared effective with ineffective saleswomen engaged in door-to-door selling for a nationwide organization. An interviewer who had no knowledge of their sales records evaluated them on certain aspects of oral communication, such as use of voice and language, listening behavior, and dramatic appeals. The differences between the two groups were substantial enough to suggest the importance of stressing communication skills in selection and training programs for this type of selling (Pace, 1962).The second investigation was a field study of driver-salesmen for a large company. The sales records of the men were found to be unrelated to their personalities—for example, the men who were described as “negative, colorless, weak, and drab” did as well as those described as “genial, cordial, familiar, easygoing, backslapping.” On the other hand, those who took the trouble to count the dealer’s stock of the company’s products received orders that were on the average two and a half times as large as those obtained by salesmen who neglected this step; and those who informed the dealer about the week’s special offer before taking the regular order averaged 27 per cent more sales per call than those who took the regular order first (White, 1940). This study provides further evidence for the point made earlier, that the methods of the salesman are in general more important than his personality. As Anastasi comments, “With regard to ‘sales personality,’ there seems to be room for wide individual differences in successful selling. Each individual should try to utilize his unique pattern of traits to his best advantage, rather than trying to follow someone else’s rules for getting along with people.” See APTITUDE TESTS (SPECIAL).