System: The Magazine of Business, April, 1912, pages 396-402:


sales call


THE extent to which the telephone may be used to increase sales is limited only by the salesmen's ability to originate and apply schemes for getting customers into the habit of ordering goods by that method.
    Few business concerns, large or small, can afford to neglect the possibilities afforded by the telephone for keeping in communication with their customers. One great store in Philadelphia, at a conservative estimate, credits at least half of its twenty-five per cent increase of business during 1911 to a persistent campaign for telephone orders. Here are fourteen of the countless methods that have been, and are now, successfully used by various business concerns to solicit purchases over the wire.
METHOD  I:   How  an  illustrated  telephone  catalogue  established  a  "personal  relation"
operator taking order
One store issues a catalogue list of its goods, which it sends to all of its customers with instructions on how to order by telephone. And, at the head of each page, it publishes the name and portrait of the operator who takes down the message
    A western department store recently issued an illustrated catalogue that contained the names and portraits of the telephone operators in each department. When the prospective customer looks for the number of any department, he finds, at the head of the page, a photograph of the girl who will answer his call. This establishes the personal relation that is such an important factor in salesmanship. Customers feel that they are, in reality, talking to a real person, instead of to a corporation represented by a voice--a person who is there to give personal service much the same as the clerk behind the counter.
    Should there be any mistake in filling the order, it may be adjusted through the individual telephone salesperson who took it. Telephoning an individual whom the customer knows, even in this remote manner, is likely to become a habit--a convenient, time-saving habit that writes orders that may be given readily and quickly. Especially is this true when in each department the orders are received by a salesperson who knows the stock.
    These unique telephone catalogues, in an unusually effective way, compel attention to the convenience of buying by telephone. At first, these catalogues were sent out in every outgoing package. They were also sent to mail-order customers with a printed enclosure that solicited long distance "emergency calls," and offered expeditious service and expert help in the selection of goods. It was impressed upon the customer's mind that such orders would be marked "discretionary," and were returnable. This proved to be one of this catalogue's strongest selling points. Also, a leaflet of instructions was issued to the telephone operators in this store. Here are a few extracts from it:
    An employee should be ready to talk to the customer as soon as the connection is completed. Get the name, address and telephone number of the calling person as early as convenient in the conversation. Speak in a moderate tone directly into the transmitter with lips close to the mouthpiece. When the telephone rings, answer promptly with the name of your department. Avoid the words "well," "hello," or "what is it?" Be quick and to the point. Finish every conversation you start. Never fail to say "Is there anything else, or another department to which I may transfer you?" Never evade a complaint. Show real regret that there has been cause for complaint--genuine pleasure in correcting it. We want everyone in this store family to regard the telephone as a help and a means of his or her development. It will pay you as well as it does the store.
METHOD  II:   How  a  hardware  man  extended  his  activities  through  the  classified  directory
    So wide is the range of merchandise carried in a well-stocked hardware store, that most people fail to appreciate all the goods that might be purchased there. In one small hardware store the telephone directory was used to widen the field of prospects.
    This dealer had his name placed in the classification list in the back of the telephone directory under several classifications, even those with which the hardware business has but indirect connection. According to the directory, he was a bell hanger, a locksmith, a dealer in butcher's supplies, a cutlery sharpener, and many other functionaries. Technically, he may not have been all he claimed to be; but he was directly associated with men who were, and in turning telephone orders over to them, he was assured that they would buy their supplies from his store. But his main object was to educate the public into the habit of telephoning orders to his store. In this respect, the slight expense of having his name appear as many times has proved a profitable expenditure.
METHOD  III:   How  a  clothing  dealer used  a  telephone  to  exploit  a  special  sale
    Recently, a clothing stock was destroyed by fire. The proprietor first replaced the glass show windows. Across the top of each window, dropped low enough to prevent a view of the work within, he pasted a large paper sign with his telephone number covering nearly half the space. Above the number was the one word "Remember!"
    A number of telephone instruments, borrowed from the local telephone company, were placed on the floor of each window. Around the transmitter of each was a circular card also bearing the number and the word "Remember!"
    A small card on the transmitter of each telephone read: "April 24th is the date! Better 'phone your orders--there'll be an awful rush!" Thus the opening date as well as the telephone number was fixed in the observer's mind.
    In this merchant's own words: "I did a ripping telephone business that day, and the people had never seen the goods either. I guess they read our telephone newspaper advertisements. You know they were along the same line as the window, only more explicit."
METHOD  IV:   How  a  telephone  number  was  impressed  on  the  memory  by  a  catch  phrase
phone reminder
A florist has devised a clever scheme for keeping his 'phone number before his customers--consisting merely of a circular cardboard blank for recording telephone numbers. It may be easily attached to any transmitter
    A telephone number that pleases the ear is easily remembered. One sporting goods dealer, fortunate in this respect, worked up a successful advertising campaign by a catch phrase. Street cards, bill boards and newspapers were used to burn into the mind of the public this couplet:


    This was invariably accompanied by the name and location of the store. Also, in each case, the words "Sporting Goods" were prominently displayed so that this number would come to mind when anything in that line was needed.
    This phrase has become so popular through persistent advertising that occasionally vaudeville actors in that town work the phrase into their jokes.
    At the start, a great deal of money was expended in giving publicity to that number, but, according to the manager of this store, orders received over the wire have actually doubled his business. And much out-of-town business is secured through this unique advertising. For instance, when a local tennis team went to a neighboring city on a short trip one summer, and several of the players found that they needed new rackets, "4041" got the order, whereas another store had been supplying these players when at home.
    This merchant also maintains a "minuteman" delivery service. A boy and a bicycle are held in reserve through the day for special emergencies. If the boys at the baseball field need a new ball in a hurry, "4041" gets the order. Or, if a customer at home, clad in slippers and smoking jacket, finds that he is out of tobacco, "4041's" minuteman is pressed into action. The size of the order makes no difference in the speed of this service.
    A well advertised, easily remembered telephone number, combined with such service, gives this merchant a monopoly on the telephone orders for sporting goods in his town.
METHOD  V:   How  a  business  used  its  telephone  number  on  its  bill  heads  to attract  trade
    Ordinarily--for it is but human nature to follow the path of least resistance--we prefer to call a telephone number that comes to mind, rather than search a telephone directory, as was illustrated in the case of the store just mentioned. A harness maker utilized the same principle. He put his telephone number in large black figures directly above the name on his bill heads, to fix it in his customers' minds. Another advantage was the fact that when a bill proved unsatisfactory or contained an error, he usually heard from the customer at once. The telephone number was a gilt-edged invitation to call him up and have the matter settled satisfactorily--and, perhaps, deprive the customer of an excuse for deferring payment.
salesman at desk
A salesman's territory may be extended as much as tenfold by the judicious use of the telephone--supplemented by his card list of customers with their telephone numbers. And the savings he effects in time and carfare sometimes help him to make material reductions in his prices
METHOD  VI:   How  a  druggist  made  customers  by  giving  telephone  checks  with  purchases
telephone checks
One drug store attracts trade by giving a telephone check--good only in that store--with every twenty-five cent purchase. Another offers daily "prizes" for the customer who telephones in his order nearest to a pre-arranged but secret time
    In the window of a drug store located on a corner is a sign which tells the public that a ticket entitling the bearer to a free telephone call will be given with every purchase over twenty-five cents. The checks are good at any time, and the bearer has the use of any of several private telephone booths.
    This druggist finds that often customers who wish to 'phone will walk two blocks farther and make a twenty-five cent purchase rather than pay a nickel for using a telephone nearer at hand. Also, he says that this plan has paid for itself a hundred times over by his increased soda and cigar business alone. In the summer months, an average of seven out of every ten women who come in to use the checks, stop at the soda fountain, and about as great a percentage of men will buy cigars.
    Another good feature of the plan is that the public has gradually come to use this telephoning station as a common meeting place--a custom that makes this druggist one of the most popular in the city.
METHOD  VII:   How  a  weekly  "prize"  for  customers  who  ordered  by  telephone  attracted  trade
    Another young druggist, a man who recently started a store of his own in a suburban town, had about exhausted all his resources in fitting up a model establishment. He came to the conclusion that it would take something out of the ordinary to attract business to his stand. Finally, he hit upon a "telephone premium" plan.
    Through local papers and circular letters, he told the public that between certain hours on a certain day each week the customer who telephoned an order to his pharmacy--"The Telephone Pharmacy," he called it--nearest a secret time (the time to be posted with his banker) would receive a large box of candy free.
    This plan proved to be a winner. Many people in the neighborhood, when they needed anything in his line--some of the needs were inspired by a desire for a chance to win the candy--used the 'phone and learned the telephone-your-order lesson. In the short space of six weeks, this young man reported that his sales had increased somewhat over forty per cent.
METHOD  VIII:   How  a  telephone  bell  in  the  show  window  is  made  to  attract  attention
    Most business men from force of habit will turn their heads at the ring of the telephone bell. Cognizant of the fact, a haberdasher had the bell box of his telephone placed in his show window, out of sight. A long cord was used so the telephone could be placed on a table some distance from the window. The bell could be heard plainly by passersby.
    This window is on one of the main streets. Hence, the occasional telephone ring attracts considerable attention. Fully half the men who are passing the store when the bell rings will look toward the window and often they will stop--and read a large placard in his window: "My telephone is a busy one. 'Phone your order to me and save time and money."
    In connection with this plan, this haberdasher also solicits telephone orders through newspaper advertising. He knows from experience that the average man will use this time-saving method of buying provided he is assured the dealer will give satisfaction.
METHOD  IX:   How  one  firm  impresses  its  telephone  number  on  its  wagons  and  novelties
    One of the largest eastern manufacturers of ice cream says that eighty per cent of his local business comes over the telephone wire--yet he is not satisfied. Each alternate year all his wagons are repainted, and every time, during the last six years, his telephone number is printed in larger figures than appeared in preceding years, followed by this terse command: "Phone Your Orders." Also, on souvenir match boxes for men and on match safes for the housewife's kitchen, appear only the 'phone number and this command: "For the best ice cream PHONE MAIN 330."
METHOD  X:   How  a  tailor  attracts  trade  by  a  rebate  on  orders  received  by  telephone
    A tailor who recently established a dyeing, cleaning and pressing department, uses the telephone in a special effort to build up that part of the business. He not only advertises prices twenty per cent lower than the usual prices, but also gives a rebate of five cents on all telephone orders. He sends a uniformed messenger for the clothes, which are tagged with a price card reading, "Phone Rebate 5c." The second month his 'phone calls averaged twenty a day. He credits much of his success to the five-cent telephone rebate.
telephone checks
A tailor has increased his trade over fifty per cent in a short time by rebating five cents on every order received by telephone. The messenger who calls for the clothes attaches to them the accompanying tag
telephone checks
An idea for attracting customers that is adaptable to almost any retail store in towns or cities where "unlimited" telephone service is furnished to business houses on a yearly rate, as distinguished from individual charges for each call
METHOD  XI:   How  a  garage  solicits  telephone  trade  by  the  use  of  automobile  fixtures
    A clever selling plan was recently inaugurated by a garage. It distributed a number of nickeled automobile wheels with a shield, on which space is reserved for the initials of the owner of the machine. The shield is designed to fasten to the radiator cap. Across the back is the enameled name of the garage and the telephone number--in large figures. Now and then, every automobilist is forced to use the telephone, and the enameled number has attracted more than the normal share of emergency orders.
METHOD  XII:   How  a  telephone  switch-board  in  a  store  window  was  made  a  bid  for  orders
    A store recently inaugurated a campaign for telephone orders. One of its most effective methods was a novel telephone window into which the switchboard was temporarily moved. An operator of more than passing attractiveness was paid a special sum for working in the window. In an adjoining window were a number of telephones geographically arranged. Each instrument bore a card with the name of a suburb or a definite section of the city on it--mutely suggesting the wide scope of telephone service. A big show card which bore the firm's telephone number in ten-inch figures was placed conspicuously in the background of each window.
    Telephone advertisements were placed in the newspapers, offering bargains that could be purchased only by telephone. But this firm's advertising manager considered his show window advertising more resultful in proportion to expense than any other plan he has used.
METHOD  XIII:   How  a  department  store  made  a  suburban  telephone  service  profitable
    Another retail establishment inaugurated an apparently expensive "free toll service." This service was announced by an explanatory advertising campaign. Twenty-five thousand people in suburban towns were given the privilege of calling this store by telephone free of charge, either to place an order or to inquire about goods.
    Anyone whose name was listed in the local telephone directory was placed on the firm's credit list. Customers who lived in suburban towns were invited to use the store's telephones to call their homes while they were in the store--also free of charge.
    This is undoubtedly one of the broadest and most liberal telephone policies now practiced in department stores. But more than one store has found it profitable.
    A similar case is that of the small town merchant who, by special arrangement with the local telephone, makes it possible for patrons in an adjoining town to call his store without toll. By this arrangement, a merchant near the town limits line gets a considerable amount of patronage, especially from customers just across the line.
METHOD  XIV:   How  one  merchant  exploited  his  telephone  number  by  a  prize  contest
    My telephone number is Three double O. The person who writes the best rhyming couplet that includes this 'phone number will be given free choice of the sewing machine, the bicycle, or the gold watches now on display in my show window. The two lines of poetry must not contain more than ten words each. One 'phone contest tag will be given with each ten cent purchase at my store. Try it. You may be a poet and don't know it. One of these twenty-five dollar prizes is worth trying for. See them. This contest is on now and closes August 30th.
    This announcement by a merchant in a small town was followed by the publication of the best attempts at versification in his newspaper advertisements--a scheme that more than doubled his telephone orders.
    The task of getting customers into the habit of telephoning their orders is equaled by the task of keeping them in that habit. This is where good service enters. The operator who receives the order must give just as good service as the clerk who fills it. To be tactful in talking to customers "over the 'phone" is an important and delicate task. There are branch telephone switchboard operators with financial firms who receive a salary of two thousand dollars a year and over. The telephone salesman and saleswoman has become a factor in the economic scheme of distribution.