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The office, store or show-room, play an important part in the securing of the business, and it should always be neat and well kept, with its windows clean and the window display rearranged at least twice a week. While the company need not carry a large stock, it should have a complete line of high grade fuel appliances, fixtures and lamps, frequently re-arranged, to impress the consumers when they visit the office, with the fact that a large amount of business is being transacted all the time, and large quantities of goods being sold. These appliances should be sold and installed at a profit sufficient at least to cover all expenses in connection with the new business department, and to enable the company to employ men for this work who will make installations in the most satisfactory manner, thus greatly assisting the solicitor in securing new business. The fitters must be courteous and tactful and aim to please and satisfy the consumer to such an extent that the work and service will prove a lasting advertisement for the company.
It is not deemed advisable to spend much money on newspaper advertising, but a reasonable amount can be profitably spent at certain seasons of the year. It is far more profitable and will bring better results, to spend the money in taking care of present consumers, keeping up the show-room in a first class manner, and keeping your solicitor constantly and persistently after business.
Requiring consumers to come to the office to pay their bills instead of delivering the bills to their houses, has been successfully tried and proven a very important factor to the new business department. This method eliminates the expense of delivering bills, and is the ideal way of handling collections. It also brings the consumer in direct contact with the company, and enables the company and consumer to become better acquainted, and then, too, all grievances may be settled in a satisfactory manner. The company knows just when to expect the consumers at the office and takes advantage of this by being prepared to demonstrate and interest them in the different appliances and supplies. This is usually the best time to interest them, because their attentions are already directed toward gas. It is essential that the bookkeeper or cashier who has charge of the office in the absence of the manager, and who usually attends to the cash window, should be pleasant and obliging and listen courteously to all complaints and make an accurate and complete record of the same. This bookkeeper should, also, have sufficient knowledge of appliances and supplies and their prices, to enable her to discuss intelligently their merits, and make a sale whenever it is possible. Many a good consumer has been lost through discourteous treatment received at the office, and many prospects overlooked. The manager and solicitor are at the office during the busiest discount days, and busy evenings. During this time the solicitor closes many of his old prospects and finds new ones.
The soliciting of the business places for both lighting and industrial appliances, should be under the direct supervision of the manager. Do not give anything away. Charges for installation in business places should cover at least the actual cost, then the business man or consumer does not feel that he is being bribed to use gas, but he knows the value of the goods and feels that he must use them in order to make it a profitable investment. The secret of making the business lighting a success, is to so arrange the fixtures that the business place will be better lighted at the lowest possible cost. The gas company needs the lighting of the business places not only for the revenue, but the fact of its having a large per cent. of the business lighting, proves a forceful advertisement and furnishes a good argument when canvassing residences.
In small towns the price of gas often hinders the securing of industrial business, but there is always a certain amount which can be gotten to the advantage of the consumer. The manager must be certain that the company has all the business of this kind that it is possible to get.
The amount of new business secured in any town, and the increase of the gas sales depends to a great extent upon the methods employed and practices followed, but it is absolutely necessary that manager and solicitor work unceasingly and energetically. This being true, and every employee co-operating with them, the results should be of a most gratifying nature.
DISCUSSION. H. M. Long, Albion :
The methods set forth in this paper are very good and can be carried out in every detail where local conditions will permit, but not all local conditions are alike.
It is possible in nearly every small plant to give good service -the manager and employees can have the confidence of the consumers the well arranged office and attractive show room can be had—and the consumers will come to the office to pay their bills—but then comes the operation of the appliance department, at a profit, with or without, a solicitor.
For instance in a small town where ninety per cent. of the buildings are using gas for some purpose, one must look to the present consumers to increase the gas sales, many of these thinking they are using all the gas they can and will not consider additional appliances.
These conditions require the services of an expert solicitor who commands a salary that the profits of the appliance department are not sufficient to pay, so the manager must get the business without a good solicitor, he must do some of the solicitor's work himself and divide the rest among the employees.
He can train the employee to suggest new and additional appliances while doing their regular work and reading meters, and have them take orders and do the work themselves wherever it is possible to arrange for them to do it, but any prospect out of the ordinary is reported to the manager who gives it his personal attention.
This method has been practiced for the past year and we have lost but very few prospects, the gas sales show a steady but not large increase, the consumers are satisfied, and the appliance department shows a balance on the profit side of the ledger.
In this paper by Mr. Sloan is given a particularily strong and clear outline of a policy, which would be eminently satisfactory and successful for any company, be it large or small. The paper is meaty and full of good hard common sense.
There are one or two points on which I would like to elaborate. At the top of page two appears a statement, “any employee who does not talk gas and does not really believe in the merits of gas, should be discharged at once. No man can be a strong advocate of a cause in which he has no faith.” There is no truer statement in the paper, yet how often do we find gas solicitors and salesmen who are half-hearted, and who really would prefer to be selling something else; men who apparently have little knowledge of what they are selling, knowledge which may be gained by practical experience and who enumerate points and arguments in which they have no confidence, points which they have not taken the trouble to either prove or disprove. As an illustration, I recall a rather lengthy discussion I had sometime ago, on the merits of a particular gas lamp, with a man who should have been in as good a position as I to pass upon the merits of this lamp. While I could find many points in favor of this particular device, the man on the other side of the argument could find nothing to commend and much to condemn it. After the discussion, in a little conversation on the side, I asked him point-blank what had been his experience with this lamp; how many of them was he using in his own house at that time? He replied that he had been afraid I would ask him that question on the floor, and he was prepared to ignore it; that he was not using any of them in his own home but had put one up on a bracket, lighted it, stood back and made his observation. I then reminded him that my statements had been based on personal experience,-several of these lamps were in use in my house for over a year, and that as a consequence, my faith and knowledge of this lamp was based upon very practical satisfactory experience.
Every salesman should remember that before approaching a customer, or a prospective consumer, he must know his line, know the goods he is selling, have confidence in them ;—that if he has not first gone back in a corner and sold himself these particular devices, and is satisfied that they are the best available for his customer, he had better do as Mr. Sloan advises-get out of the business or “be discharged.” It is incomprehensible to me why so many salesmen will permit consumers to buy apparatus which is utterly unsuited to their purposes, without first
giving that consumer an explanation of why a particular equipment would be less satisfactory than some other equipment which they should purchase. Mr. Sloan says that a solicitor “must be able to advance a clear, forcible argument for his goods and meet every one objection to the use of gas with three good reasons why his prospective consumer should use it.” This statement is reasonable. A good solicitor can even go further. He can answer all possible arguments against his goods, actually heading the consumer off and placing these answers before the argument has properly formed itself in the consumer's mind. We know all the stock arguments against the use of gas lighting and fuel devices, and I believe are justified in assuming that the consumer is going to put some of these arguments up to us. By answering these points fully, even though your consumer has only half formed the objection, you will have the effect of sweeping him off his feet and the few original objections which he may be able to bring up, have been so weakened that even though this is the first time they have been given to this particular salesman, he will have little difficulty in getting away with them.
A good show room, as stated by Mr. Sloan, is an adjunct to the business which no gas company can afford to overlook. Do not hesitate to show the best goods available on the market,-if there is any one thing which has been responsible for the depreciation of gas illumination, it is cheap burners and cheap equipment. Talk quality and know all the good points of the devices you have on sale, that you may properly justify their price. Show that a two dollar lamp when compared to a one dollar lamp is not a matter of one dollar additional profit to your company. You shoud have little difficulty in satisfying a consumer that the two dollar article is worth many times the one dollar article. Experience in both gas and electric show rooms has shown that the people have the money to invest in high grade goods. It has been very forcibly illustrated in some very handsome show rooms where customers have bought the most expensive fixtures in the room, fixtures which were not designed for sale, but as examples of the best the market afforded.
A good fitter is a more valuable asset than a good salesman. A poor fitter can spoil more orders and lose more customers than