The birth of sales, part 2

What made Crane’s approach so effective? It concentrated entirely on the customer’s needs, rather than on the company’s merchandise.

Crane’s presentation proceeded in four steps—steps that are just as effective today as they were a hundred years back. Here they are:

First: identify the customer’s problems. Where are they taking a loss? Which goals are they unable to achieve? Which holes in their existing capabilities are preventing them from doing well? Patterson constantly instructed the salesmen to never talk cash register when you initially meet clients. Focus on their challenges. There’s absolutely nothing in which clients are so concerned as their own personal business. That’s still terrific advice.

Second: develop a definite value proposition. Pinpoint the specific places where losses are happening and quantify them. Summarize the losses and show the potential for increased profitability in concrete dollars and cents. The more you understand about the customer’s business, the more convincing the value proposition will be.

Third: show the solution. Recap the customer’s issues and the potential for increasing earnings. Then show how the solution will work. Don’t do it in terms of its engineering functions, but its commercial impact. Functions are important exclusively in terms of the value they produce. Technology for its own sake is not part of the selling message.

Fourth: ask for the order. Assume that a clever business person will want to buy. If the customer gives you objections, respond to them and close again.


That’s it. Research into the psychology of decision making has proven that these four factors correspond to the way consumers think when they are making a choice. Patterson didn’t know that, naturally. All he understood was that it succeeded! And it’ll succeed for you, too.