Evolution of Selling

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Sales has come a long way. The sales profession is one of the oldest and most underestimated jobs. In former times a salesman was travelling with his products on a horse-drawn carriage from one town to another to sell his goods. But until today it has evolved from this uncoordinated selling on weekly markets to a very complex process including different activities to finally close the sale. This essay is prepared to have a closer look on even those changes in the history of selling and to explain the evolution by considering historic and contemporary sales methods and attitudes.

With the end of mercantilism, by the middle of the eighteenth century, new and innovative technologies were emerging. These innovations would have a huge impact on production processes. It was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 1750’s. Alongside with this technological progress selling methods and attitudes had to develop as well. There were a lot of sales people using innovative sales methods during this time, but to show the variety of those new models and highlight one particular salesman it is appropriate to have a closer look at Josiah Wedgewood. Josiah Wedgwood was an English potter who founded Wedgwood Company in 1759. His ‘practices provide an example of the development of many modern selling techniques during this period including sales management, field warehousing, showrooms, self-service, promotional samples, and pricing to penetrate new markets’ (Powers, 1987). In former times pottery was mostly sold at annual markets close to the production area at Staffordshire, but by the time of Wedgwood’s death, at the end of the eighteen’s century, his products were sold world-wide. ‘Marketing techniques had advanced from rudimentary to surprisingly modern sophistication’ (Powers, 1987). He opened showrooms and warehouses in strategically favourable locations like London, Bath, Liverpool or Dublin, offering free freight to retailers buying at

Wedgwood. To create new markets Wedgwood Company sent overstocked products to unexploited markets to sell them at lower prices in order to establish a market for pottery. He invested in advertisements and promotions, organised public auctions or private showings. To increase his success he decided to stimulate consumers’ demand with a competent sales force. Instead of relying on horses or post carriage Wedgwood used canals for shipping and transporting goods, this made it possible to deliver fragile items in safe conditions to customers. Concerning his sales people the rise of rail transportation increased their achievements as now they were able to travel longer distances in a shorter time and could cover larger areas more rapidly. Another advantage of the railway was that sales people could travel independent from the goods they were about to sell. While the pottery was transported in freight cars the salesman could concentrate on selling. He ‘was freed from being a feed boy, stable hand, driver, loader, and peddler combined’ (Powers, 1987). It facilitated the profession of sales. Additionally new communication technologies developed and allowed customers to send their purchase orders directly to the company instead of waiting for the salesman. And in return sales people were able to write their customers. It was the birth of sales letters. Newspapers including promotion and advertisement could be produced in a great number. These changes in transportation, production and communication had a huge impact on the sales methods during this time.

But to focus on more recent changes within sales methods and attitudes it is important to look at the time after the First and Second World War. At the end of the Second World War nearly everything was destroyed which caused a rapid expansion fueled by pent-up demand. In this period of time it was easy for salespeople to sell almost every good. But when this first wave of demand was satisfied it turned out to 2

be hard to stimulate and keep...
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