What a Business Failure from 1846 can teach us about Sales Today in 2017

What a business failure from 1846 can teach us about sales today in 2017

Would it surprise you to discover that the man behind one of the greatest inventions of the modern era – the sewing machine – almost died a pauper? If anybody epitomises the truth that building a better mouse trap doesn’t necessarily mean the world will beat a path to your door, it was Elias Howe.

When Elias Howe patented the first practical sewing machine in 1846, the women of the day laughed at him. “What,” they wanted to know, “would we do with all the extra time your machine will give us?”

Great Product, Lousy Seller

As business people, we’re always striving to be innovative; to be the first to deliver a bigger, newer and better offering to the market ahead of the competition. Elias Howe’s sewing machine was all of these things, but without the ability to sell, he was nothing.

Elias Howe lived his life in borrowed suits, little knowing that one-day his machine would be instrumental in making the very suits he could not afford.

Poor Bugger. Should’a used Video!

At one stage, he left Massachusetts to travel to England because his brother in-law appeared to have found an opportunity to sell his machine there, but it was all for nothing and Elias return to the United States stone cold broke. His wife was at death’s door.

However, it turns out that a certain ‘Singer’ (recognise the brand name?) was making good money with the same lockstitch technology Howe had patented. Singer could sell, Howe couldn’t – fortunately for him, the courts agreed and after considerable litigation he went on to earn considerable royalties for his invention from the likes of Singer.

He also invented the zipper, having patented an ‘Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure’, but burned by his experience with the sewing machine he never tried to sell the technology.

The moral of the story is that nothing sells itself, but in a world where good sales practises that achieve quick results – like cold calling – are difficult, to say the least, sales people can be forgiven for thinking that cold calling is dead.

A great new tool for selling? Yep.

But it needn’t be. The very technology that some would say is supplanting the b2b salesperson can be turned to the salesperson’s advantage. For example, what if we told you that a short, authentic video delivered to your potential customer’s reception warms the way for that phone call like no other could?

A good video that gets your prospective customer’s attention and makes them receptive to your call should match these criteria:

  1. Short
  2. Authentic, with perhaps a touch of humour
  3. Personal
  4. Makes use of a cheap delivery mechanism, like cardboard video players
  5. Sets the scene for your follow-up

For more information on exactly how to do that, read our free eGuide “Never cold call again: How to get that 1st b2b appointment using video” here.





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