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The Square Deal Wins
by [?]

Salesmanship is the business of the world; it is about all there is to the world of business. Enter the door of a successful wholesale or manufacturing house and you stand upon the threshold of an establishment represented by first-class salesmen. They are the steam –and a big part of the engine, too–that makes business move.

I saw in print, the other day, the statement that salesmanship is the “fourth profession.” It is not; it is the first. The salesman, when he starts out to “get there,” must turn more sharp corners, “duck” through more alleys and face more cold, stiff winds than any kind of worker I know. He must think quickly, yet use judgment; he must act quickly and still have on hand a rich store of patience; he must work hard, and often long. He must coax one minute and “stand pat” the next. He must persuade–persuade the man he approaches that he needs his goods and make him buy them–yes, make him. He is messenger boy, train dispatcher, department buyer, credit man, actor, lawyer and politician–all under one hat!

By “salesman” I do not mean the man who stands behind the counter and lets the customer who comes to him and wants to buy a necktie slip away because the spots on the silk are blue instead of green; nor do I mean the man who wraps up a collar, size 16, and calls “cash;” I mean the man who takes his grip or sample trunks and goes to hunt his customer–the traveling salesman. Certainly there are salesmen behind the counter, and he has much in common with the man on the road.

To the position of traveling salesman attach independence, dignity, opportunity, substantial reward. Many of the tribe do not appreciate this; those do so best who in time try the “professional life.” When they do they usually go back to the road happy to get there again. Yet were they permanently to adopt a profession–say the law–they would make better lawyers because they had been traveling men. Were many professional men to try the road, they would go back to their first occupation because forced to. The traveling man can tell you why! I bought, a few days ago, a plaything for my small boy. What do you suppose it was? A toy train. I wish him to get used to it–for when he grows up I am going to put him on the road hustling trunks.

My boy will have a better chance for success at this than at anything else. If he has the right sort of stuff in him he will soon lay the foundation for a life success; if he hasn’t I’ll soon find it out. As a traveling salesman he will succeed quickly or not at all. In the latter event, I’ll set him to studying a profession. When he goes on the road he may save a great part of his salary, for the firm he will represent will pay his living expenses while traveling for them. He will also have many leisure hours, and even months, in which to study for a profession if he chooses; or, if he will, he may spend his “out of season” months in foreign travel or any phase of intellectual culture–and he will have the money of his own earning with which to do it. Three to six or eight months is as much time as most traveling men can profitably give to selling goods on the road; the rest is theirs to use as they please.

Every man who goes on the road does not succeed–not by any means. The road is no place for drones; there are a great many drops of the honey of commerce waiting in the apple blossoms along the road, but it takes the busy “worker” bee to get it. The capable salesman may achieve great success, not only on the road, but in any kind of activity. “The road” is a great training school. The chairman of the Transportation Committee in the Chicago city council, only a few years ago was a traveling man. He studied law daily and went into politics while he yet drew the largest salary of any man in his house. Marshall Field was once a traveling man; John W. Gates sold barbed wire before he became a steel king. These three men are merely types of successful traveling men.