There is a wide difference between self-reliance and obtrusiveness. Every man should have a full degree of self-confidence. It is needed in every walk in life. But the salesman, more than most men, must have an exceptional degree of faith in himself and in what he has to sell.
This self-confidence, however, is a very different thing from boldness or obtrusiveness. Courtesy and considerateness are cardinal qualities of the well-equipped salesman, but boastfulness, glibness, egotism, loudness, and self-assertion, are as distasteful as they are undesirable.
The eloquence and persuasiveness of silence is nowhere better exemplified than in the art of salesmanship. One man says much, and sells little; another says little, and sells much. The reason for the superior success of one over the other is mainly due to the fact that he knows best how to present the merits of what he offers for sale, knows how to say it concisely and effectively, knows how to ingratiate himself, largely through his personality, into the good graces of the prospective buyer, and knows when to stop talking.
Modern salesmanship is based primarily upon common sense. A man with brains, though possibly lacking in other desirable qualifications, may easily outdistance the more experienced salesman. It is a valuable thing in any man to be able to think accurately, reason deeply, and size up a situation promptly.
The salesman should at all times be on his best talking behavior. It is not advisable for him to have two standards of speech, and to use an inferior one excepting for special occasions. He should cultivate as a regular daily habit discrimination in the use of voice, enunciation, expression, and language. This should be the constant aim not only of the salesman, but of every man ambitious to achieve success and distinction in the world.
There is a story of a politician who had acquired a mannerism of fingering a button on his coat while talking to an audience. On one occasion some friends surreptitiously cut the particular button off, and the result was that the speaker when he stood up to address the audience lost the thread of his discourse.
Gladstone had a mannerism of striking the palm of his left hand with the clenched fist of his other hand, so that often the emphatic word was lost in the noise of percussion. A common habit of the distinguished statesman was to reach out his right hand at full arm’s length, and then to bend it back at the elbow and lightly scratch the top of his head with his thumb-nail.
Balfour, while speaking, used to take hold of the lapels of his coat by both hands as if he were in mortal fear of running away before he had finished.
Goshen, at the beginning of a speech, would sound his chest and sides with his hands, and apparently finding that his ribs were in good order, would proceed to wash his hands with invisible soap.