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How to Become a Writer-Salesman

While browsing through some old books, I discovered this chapter in a book called "Personal Efficiency, by James Samuel Knox. While the language is somewhat dated, it is interesting to not that there have been very few changes in the techniqes and theory of sales-letter writing since then. Not even in the age of the Internet.

Since the book is in the public domain, I thought I'd share the chapter here.

We are not going to show you in a few magic paragraphs how to become a great letter writer, but we are in a few pages going to attempt to create in your mind a very large desire to become a first-class writer-salesman.

Wasted Advertising

Several hundred million dollars a year is spent in advertising. It is estimated by prominent advertising men that much of this is wasted because many of the men who write the advertisements are not writer-salesmen— they are not salesmen at all. They are near salesmen —mere literary space fillers.

Millions of letters are written every year by men who are not high class letter writing salesmen, Most of the letters go into the waste basket. They stirred nobody into a buying mood because they were written by men who had never learned the art of selling by means of the written word. They were not acquainted with "the unaccountable power that lurks in a syllable." These literary letter writers never learned how to sell. They never learned the principles of Salesmanship. Consequently such men are simply literary fillers.

What an Expert Says

How can one become a good writer-salesman? We are going to let Robert Ruxton tell you. Mr. Ruxton is chief of the copy staff of a Philadelphia advertising organization. He is considered one of the three greatest letter writers in America. We understand that Mr. Ruxton at one time refused a salary of twenty-five thousand dollars a year. He frequently charges from one thousand dollars up to analyze a business and for each thousand words of copy he writes a substantial sum must be paid. With this in mind you will read with a great deal of interest the following paragraphs which we quote from two or three of his books.

The Selling Points of Facts

"From the ability to grasp the DRAMATIC points in fiction I developed the ability to grasp the SELLING points of facts. I then stepped into the field as a life insurance salesman, a kindly old manager starting me out with a substantial drawing account, stimulated by his expressed belief that I would 'make good.' For three months I worked in a town of some fifty thousand people, and had prospects by the score— but no tangible business. I was in the 'near sale' stage. At this point I very fortunately became acquainted with an old life insurance veteran, and made an agreement to work as his 'understudy' and divide the commissions. We left that town for fresh fields and I, under the sympathetic 'coaching' of my companion, graduated into the 'true salesman' class by learning how to CLOSE. I revisited the town upon which I had tried my 'prentice hand' and 'closed' with ninety per cent of my erstwhile prospects. The flame of faith that had begun to flicker at 'headquarters' blazed up again under the influx of business I sent in, and for four years thereafter I was 'one of our most successful agents, sir!'

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