Naturally, jobs vary a great deal in duties, skills, and pay. The lowest- I paid job is that of the clerk who merely accommodates the request of a customer across the counter. The successful saleswoman in more creative selling jobs is hard working, persuasive, creative in developing methods of selling and discovering new prospects. She is well informed about the products or services she sells.
In many lines of selling she can make large amounts if she is willing to work on a commission or percentage basis.
Some of the most exciting challenges can be found in direct selling. You’d be surprised at the number of women in your neighborhood who earn money selling encyclopedias, cosmetics, china, silver, wearing apparel, hosiery, jewelry, foods, and greeting cards, among other items. Direct selling is a fascinating field. We’ll devote most of this article to it.
More Increased Opportunities Are Now Available
The spread of the cities into suburbs—the so-called urban sprawl—has brought changes in shopping habits. With few exceptions, retail stores— including large department stores, variety stores, specialty shops, supermarkets, and variety chains—are open at least several evenings a week, For the woman who has a particular interest, there are specialty shops that sell sports equipment, books, art supplies, yard goods and needlework items, clothing, infants’ wear, appliances, and many others,
There has been a significant increase, too, in related jobs, such as telephone solicitors, demonstrators, market researchers.
More and more women are selling real estate and insurance. I first be came aware of the great number in real estate work when I considered selling my home. The broker sent his selling force of about i5 people around to make a group appraisal. More than half were women! Some women handle all details, from showing the property to closing the deal; others merely concentrate on the initial steps leading to a deal, while someone else handles the contractual details. Evidence of the growing involvement of women in insurance can be seen in the recent creation of the Women’s Insurance Company of America in Bethesda, Maryland. In both these areas of selling it is possible to learn on the job, although local regulations may require the passing of an examination in order to qualify for a license.
Advantages of Paid Selling Jobs
Retail selling offers many opportunities for women of little skill or experience. Where the customer merely requests a stock item, only slight training is required, usually to obtain knowledge of the stock and to know how to make out sales slips, use the cash register, or verify a charge account.
When more know-how is needed to help a customer make a selection, the store may ask for previous experience. Some stores have training pro grams.
Whether or not you aspire to a permanent career in selling, a major advantage in working for a retail store is your assurance of a definite income plus fringe benefits, which include discounts on purchases you make, and occasionally bonuses and commissions.
You can locate these jobs through the classified columns, by applying at the personnel office of the stores, or by personally calling on the owner, if you prefer a small establishment.
Your general appearance and grooming are important, as the impression you make on the public will be considered.
A résumé won’t usually be needed, although larger stores may ask you to fill out an application blank. If you have special interests or experience appropriate to the work, like ceramics, books, art, interior decorating, fashions, by all means reveal that information.
Watch for the approaching opening of new shopping centers, department store branches, and supermarkets. They all will need salespeople.
If your adventurous spirit declines the protection of an indoor selling job with an established concern at a stated salary, and is attracted by the challenge of forging into commission territory or self-employment, then you will want to look into the many possibilities of selling direct to consumers. Your income will depend on—
- the amount of time you devote
- your enthusiasm for your product your selling personality
- what you sell—its need, its appeal
- your ingenuity in developing new prospects
Some companies prefer previous experience in direct selling, but they are exceptions; most concerns in the field are willing to take on inexperienced women. Usually, new women are put under the guidance of more experienced sales supervisors. Many companies have highly developed training programs covering the product or service as well as instruction in the art of salesmanship, with emphasis on the techniques which the company has found most successful for its line. If there is no training period, new sales people are given manuals which contain selling hints and step-by-step methods of presenting the merchandise.
How to Choose Your Line
In deciding what to sell, you should take several factors into account. First is an enthusiastic interest in the product or service. Second is the market potential. Third is the sales backing you get. Fourth is the locality in which you expect to sell.
You should select a product or service in which you can put your own feeling of confidence. You have to feel naturally enthusiastic about it so that the sincerity of your appeal gets through to your prospects. It should be something that your prospects might expect to buy from a woman, so that you will feel comfortable in presenting it.
The tried-and-true item might be safer, but sometimes the new offers a fresher challenge and the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something big. A new product should have unusual features, be of high quality, and be priced competitively. Whether old or new, the product should ordinarily have a potential for repeat sales. Alternatively, there should be a high unit profit on non—repeat items. A narrow market should be reached rather easily if it is to he worth while to pursue.
Sales backing consists both of pre-selling by the company and the pro vision of sales aids and training. A pre-sold product, through magazine, newspaper, radio, and television advertising, tends to enjoy a favorable public image which makes prospects more amenable to your sales “opening.” Backing you up personally, the company should provide adequate sales supervision, sales training, sales incentives, training aids, and suitable sales catalogs and literature. You shouldn’t be thrown out on your own without having been thoroughly prepared.
The population characteristics of the neighborhood in which you plan to sell should be considered. Thus, children’s encyclopedias are not likely to sell well in a neighborhood of older or retired people. Likewise, a concentration of recently married people would he premature prospects for children’s encyclopedias, but cookware and table appointments should be ideal. Some items have a broad appeal, like household items, food special ties, costume jewelry, hosiery, and wearing apparel.
How to Choose a Company
The next consideration is the company whose product you wish to sell. It is easy enough to check on the company if you do not already know it by reputation. Your Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau should be able to advise you. You can also rely upon it if it is included in the Blue Book of Direct Selling, mentioned below.
You may be impressed by the virtues of the product through the ads you have read or a TV demonstration you have seen. This is a good start in building your enthusiasm. A great deal will then depend on the field manager in your area with whom you will work; or, if then’ is none, on the kind of promotional material and salesmanship instructions the company will send you.
If possible, try to learn the opinions of other people who either are selling for the company or have sold for it. This will help you make up your mind about the product as well as the company. On the other hand, should you
find yourself talking to a disgruntled woman, you’ll have to judge whether the fault was the company’s or due also or mainly to the ex-seller’s approach. You might then want to talk to others.
Where to Find Direct Selling Opportunities
For a complete list of direct selling companies offering products of interest to women, write the National Association of Direct Selling Companies,165 Center Street, Winona, Minnesota, and ask for the Blue Book of Direct Selling. Then write to any of the companies that particularly interest you. You will receive information by mail or a representative will call. Other sources include your own local newspapers as well as sales magazines which can be found at most large newsstands. Two prominent ones are Specialty Salesman and Salesman’s Opportunity.
As more and more companies and salespeople go into direct selling, you might ask whether the field is not being saturated. According to experts in the direct selling field, no company has ever been able to recruit a sales organization large enough to make regular calls on more than a small percentage of potential users. For practical purposes, they say, the market for most companies selling door-to-door today is unlimited.
Three Direct Selling Methods
Some women choose both product and company to suit the selling method they prefer. There are three main methods, but in their general scope, depending on your imagination and ingenuity, a number of variations can be developed.
Cold Canvassing This is the original stand-by—door-to-door selling. You approach the prospect without having been introduced or without knowing that she is actually interested in your product.
Referral and Appointment All of the prospecting is done beforehand by telephone, by mail, or by obtaining referrals from other customers. This approach is more likely to be used in connection with merchandise in a medium-to-higher-price range. It seems more suited to products in which women will have an individualized interest, such as apparel and fine table appointments. Usually the company offers a gift or a price concession to the customer who refers others. In effect, the saleswoman puts her own customers to work for her as assistant saleswomen.
Party Plan Selling An entertaining demonstration of a product or an entire product line is made in a private home to which the hostess has invited a number of her friends and neighbors. This informal social setting serves as a relaxed environment in which guests are highly receptive, having been pre-sold to some extent by virtue of their having accepted the invitation to come. Housewares, cosmetics, and jewelry are favorite, but not exclusive, party plan products.
Incentives are used liberally. First, the hostess is given a gift or price concession, depending on the volume of sales achieved at her party. She is also rewarded if any of her guests agree to set up their own parties. The guests themselves are usually rewarded with party favors and a door prize. Quite a gay atmosphere can be created in this way.
From the seller’s standpoint, the party plan has the following advantages:
1. The saleswoman can reach many prospects at the same time.
2. The hostess and her guests participate in selling. In the first place, the incentives for the hostess impel her to invite only those who are likely to buy. Secondly, when some guests begin giving orders there tends to be a bandwagon effect as the others follow.
3. Each party usually leads to the booking of new parties with guests who become hostesses themselves after seeing how it’s done and the rewards for themselves.
Companies like Stanley Home Products, Tupperware, Greetings Un limited, and Viviane Woodard, to mention only a few, emphasize the party plan to their saleswomen as the major method of increasing sales and gaining new customers.
Incentives to saleswomen to keep reaching for new goals range from simple recognition badges to expense-paid trips, with mink stoles, automobiles, diamond jewelry, silver services, electric appliances, and turkeys, along the course. Some companies pay cash bonuses for reaching a level of sales.
Responses to Local Ads
Most city newspapers carry a heavy amount of classified advertising of selling jobs. These include retail store selling, direct selling, and telephone calling. The following is a sampling from one day’s issue.
TELEPHONE SOLICITOR — For evening only and Saturday
This simple ad. which, in addition, merely gave a telephone number, brought more than Go responses from which :j women were selected sight unseen.
It was for a suburban firm that sells air-conditioning systems to home owners. The firm had already surveyed certain areas of new homes, the price range of which indicated that the owners might now be ready to undertake the additional cost of air conditioning.
The main qualification was a good telephone personality and, of course, the unseen interviewer could evaluate this from the conversation. The successful applicant was to telephone the prospect, advise that her company could install one of several air-conditioning systems, and if he were interested, arrange for a salesman to call. Under no circumstances was she to exert pressure. Her pay would be $1.15 an hour for making the calls with her word accepted for the amount of time she worked. If, however, after two weeks, she came up with no prospects, the arrangement would be terminated. For the three women who accepted, the arrangement was ideal, since they had young children who kept them tied to home base.
If you consider telephone selling, you should have no illusions about the difficulties you may encounter. You will find many prospects who will resent receiving calls from strangers at times that are inconvenient for them on matters in which they are not at all interested. Many people have learned to grow resentful toward high-pressure selling methods, including misleading offers of something free when they really get nothing unless they make some kind of purchase.
Writing about this in his column, “The District Line,” in the Washington Post, Bill Gold said: “The closest thing to a consensus among readers might be something on this order: I pay for telephone service for my convenience, not for the convenience of salesmen. When you intrude into the privacy of my home, you ought to take pains to be brief, courteous, straightforward, and honest. And if I express disinterest in what you are selling, you should respect my right to say No.”
Telephone soliciting may be a worth while activity for you, but if you go into it, you might take seriously what Bill Gold had to say.
This was another ad:
WOMEN — GIRLS. Consumer research div of national corporation seeks young women to do survey work regarding new product currently advertised in one of country’s leading magazines. Guaranteed salary, if qualified.
Here, too, the interviewer spoke freely over the phone. He described the “new product” as a new educational program, sponsored by a well-known publication. Women with some college education were preferred, and a training period of two and a half weeks to familiarize the applicant with the program was stipulated.
This turned out to be sales work rather than “survey work.” The educational program consisted of a new children’s encyclopedia. By narrowing applicants to the age of mothers with school children, the company felt it could more readily enlist the sympathetic interest of prospective customers. Subscribers to the magazine were given as leads.
It is unfortunate that some deceptions are used in order to draw prospects into selling. Selling is the mainstay of all business. It can be highly remunerative. Nevertheless, the job hunter should know exactly what she is being offered. Often, an advertiser calling for people with a flair for public relations actually is looking for salespeople.
A “guaranteed salary,” as mentioned in the ad, should also be regarded with skepticism. Actually, the guaranteed salary would depend on your productivity, in most cases. If there is a guaranteed minimum, regardless of sales, this should be clearly stated and understood.
You must be satisfied that the product or service is reputable and that you can generate enthusiasm in selling it. Sometimes new and unique products are first offered through direct selling. Admittedly, the product which has already built its reputation is itself an introduction to your prospect. But don’t shun the new item if it excites your enthusiasm. Many well-known products with unique features didn’t reach the stores until years after they had become known to consumers who purchased them from direct sellers. Electrolux vacuum cleaners, Gillette razors, and sterling silver are cases in point.
If the ad conveys sparse information about the company or its product, a great deal can be gleaned during a few minutes of conversation over the phone. If the company’s representative won’t identify the product, there must be a reason which will probably constitute a barrier for you.
If the person who interviews you gives you reasons why the product is a good one, points out the importance of a training period, appears genuinely proud of the company, seems interested in you, and lets you know what training help the company will give, expects little or no investment from you aside from your time and energy, and promises you only such returns as your own work will entitle you to receive, you can conclude that all this offers a reasonable selling opportunity.