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John Patterson: sales pioneer


John Patterson was a visionary. After buying the patent for the cash register in 1880, he created the foundation for the American salesperson and sales force that we know today. Patterson was a thinker, a risk-taker, a reader, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a student and a salesman.

If you read and re-read this carefully, you will find several subtle clues that will lead you to sales greatness. For the rest, look for a book called “The Patterson Principles of Selling.”

Patterson’s success came from to his ability to blend the emotion that makes the sale with the logic that figures out the reasoning behind it. He had the perfect blend of logic and emotion. Forming opinions or justifying decisions leans toward being logical, but Patterson understood that the process of buying was emotional.

Not just a businessman, Patterson was the creator of most of the practices that distinguish modern American business from businesses in other parts of the world. Not just a salesman, he was the founder of modern salesmanship. Not just a speaker, he was among the most effective of public demonstrators. Not just a financier, he was the chief exponent of getting money by spending money. Not just a manufacturer, he was the originator of the modern American factory. Not just a judge or a picker of men, he was the father of organized business and the developer of more business leaders than any other man of his time. Not just a man of commanding personality, he was a rare leader of men — equally sure of himself in threatened defeat or in expected victory.

He was the first person who realized a customer was more likely to complete a transaction through “wanting to buy” than “trying to sell.” Patterson created the original “pull-through” sales model. He pioneered sales training. He taught his people to adapt and harmonize with the “probable purchaser” (whom we now erroneously call the “prospect”). He inspired his people with ideas that worked. And he backed his salespeople with advertising and promotion, so his brand of cash register was by far the machine of choice.

But far and away, the overwhelming evidence of his genius was his concept of “creating the demand for a receipt, rather than just trying to sell the concept of a cash register.”

Where did Patterson get his concepts and strategies? He read. Patterson regarded a good book as a great mental possession. Only books worthy of being read again and again were to be found in his private library. All of his books were marked and underlined cover to cover. Whenever new knowledge appeared, Patterson underlined it, bookmarked it, studied it and put it into practice. Many underlined passages in his books show the essence of the message that captured his attention. Books helped to shape the man and the empire he built. Patterson believed that a good book was not a plaything for one’s idle hours, but a means for generating power.

He read. And he generated power.

About two years ago, I purchased a bunch of books from the original John Patterson library; most of them were on longevity, plus a few biographies. I was perusing the books last week and decided to look at every book I owned of Patterson’s. I pulled out the title “He Who Thinks He Can” by Orison Swett Marden. My blood ran cold. It is a first-edition book published in 1908. I smiled and went about my business. I carry the book with me now, and read a page or two a day. I especially read the parts Patterson underlined. As usual, he found the gems.

Everyone needs a father, someone to look up to, admire, and learn from. Not so much for the details, but for the big picture. The guiding light. To me, John Patterson was that man. I hope he can be to you.

Free Gitbit: Want the bare-bones list of the 32.5 Patterson Principles of Selling? Just go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time user and enter the word PATTERSON in the GitBit box

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible” and “Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached by phone at (704) 333-1112 or by e-mail at salesman@gitomer.com.

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