Principles of Gospel Salesmanship

Our monthly larger outlook column.

By S. L. CLARK, Field Missionary Secretary. Columbia Union Conference

A successful minister consciously or unconsciously employs the principles of salesmanship in his public and personal work. He who knowingly takes advantage of these principles will achieve a far greater de­gree of success than does the worker who fails to use them. This article is written with the thought in mind of calling attention to certain simple rules that govern in the field of selling. These same principles, when applied in the right way by the gospel worker, will bring abundant fruitage in souls.

First it is essential that we define the term "salesmanship." It is often said that salesman­ship is "changing people's minds." On the surface it appears that this is true, for when a man who believes in the immortality of the soul hears a sermon or Bible study on the state of the dead and at its conclusion decides to be­lieve differently, that man's mind has changed. But who changed it? Fle changed it himself as a result of what he heard. We do not change the other person's mind. When it is changed, it is because he has considered the evidence and changed it himself.

How often have we heard a person pressed to believe differently about something assert, "I will make up my own mind." People resent the approach of another that savors of a disposition to change their mind. Those with convictions want to think for themselves. At best, in an effort to persuade others, all one can do is to direct their thinking, and let them come to their own conclusions. The old saying, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still," certainly applies here. The Scripture says, "Let every man be fully per­suaded in his own mind." Rom. 14:8.

Why does a man change his mind? First, he thinks that what he. believes is the truth. He naturally wants to think that he is right. Because he thinks that what he believes is the truth, he does not want to hear anything other than what he believes. We call this attitude prejudice. People have a pride of opinion that they want to maintain. Every man wants to think that be is right in his thinking and do­ing. That is the reason excuses are offered—beginning with the first effort at self-justifica­tion, by Adam in the Garden of Eden, when he said, "The woman whom Thou gayest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat," and including every excuse offered since. This is all taught in the scripture which says. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes." Prov. 21:2.

Man's pride causes him to want to think al­ways in terms of being right, and tends to keep him from wanting to admit that he is wrong: but the man who is honest in heart, wants to exchange error for truth. However, many an honest person has been driven away from a consideration of truth because the principles of salesmanship were not respected by the per­son engaged in soul-winning endeavor. Hu­manity is constantly thinking in terms of, "I Want—, I Want—, I Want—." In the selling field, it is a proved fact that money is never spent unless there is something that the purchaser wants. In fact, all of life's ac­tivity is striving for the things man thinks he wants. This likewise applies to evangelism. After carefully considering all this, we are now ready to arrive at a definition for salesman­ship :

Find out what people Want. Convince them that what you have to offer will satisfy their WANTS. Then they will be strongly inclined to render a favorable decision.

Man is a bundle of wants. Notice hereafter how often you hear the expression, "I want." Better still, notice how often you use it yourself. In instructing our colporteurs in the art of gospel salesmanship, we give them a simple bit of philosophy for definite consid­eration, as follows:

Words create ideas.

Ideas produce Wants.

Wants make decisions.

Life is man's first great want. The second thing man wants is happiness. Life without happiness or hope of happiness ceases to be a want. Satan beguiles man by an appeal to his wants, but Christ persuades him to walk again in obedience to God by an appeal to his wants. Jesus appeals definitely to the want for happi­ness in the sermon on the mount. He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, "Blessed are ye," or, "Happy are ye." A happy life is what man ultimately seeks in everything he wants.

The minute you approach another person on a subject in which he is interested, you not only have his attention, but also his immediate interest. Jesus, who understood the operations of the human mind, made His approach ac­cordingly in the sermon on the mount. First He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Then He made His appeal to a specific class, -the poor in spirit," and promised them the "kingdom of heaven." The poor in spirit in His audience pricked up their ears and said to themselves, "He is talking about me, I feel my poverty of spirit, and want to do something to enrich my­self. And He promises me the kingdom of heaven. That's just what I want."

Then the Saviour made His appeal to another group : "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." Suddenly the mourners came to a point of rapt attention. Prior to that moment, life had seemed uninter­esting, hardly worth continuing to those who were grieving over their sins and bereave­ments. Quick as a flash there burned into their consciousness the words of the great Consoler, -They shall be comforted." And so the Sav­iour made appeal after appeal to the hearts of men, well knowing that He must appeal to the interests of mankind to get attention.

As mentioned before, there are cer­tain rules that must be followed in persuading men. The apostle Paul said, "Knowing there­fore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." Some in the ministry are able to persuade many, and others only a few; and the difference lies in knowing and practicing these rules or not knowing and practicing them. Following are a few important rules, with a repetition of our definition of salesmanship.

I. Find out what people want. Convince them that what you have to offer will satisfy their wants, and the person or persons being appealed to will be strongly inclined to render a favorable decision. While life is what people want, they must first get the idea that they are lost. On the day of bPentecost, Peter, blessed by the Holy Spirit, got over to the multitude the idea that they were lost, and they cried out in agony of heart, "Men and brethren, what shall we do ?" They wanted something. When people awaken to a realization that they are lost, their want of life always tends to assert itself.

2. Always approach others from the stand­point of their interests. This rule is well illus­trated in the experience of Paul in Athens. He started talking to the Athenians about their gods, and they had plenty of them. They were interested in the subject of their gods. Then Paul became specific. He said, "As I was com­ing along the way, I saw that you had dedicated an image to the unknown God. Perhaps you will be interested to know that the God whom I represent is the God you have been worshiping without knowing Him." Interested? Certainly ! Paul was talking to them about some­thing in which they were interested, and about which they wanted to know more. There was a bit of curiosity appeal mixed into the ap­proach. If he had stopped there, they would have insisted on his continuing.

3. Take advantage of the curiosity appeal to arouse interest. The curiosity appeal is of greatest value to the evangelist in his printed advertising. The more curious are the people who read the advertising, the more will come to hear the subject. However, the evangelist must not give away his subject. In other words, satisfying the reader's curiosity tends to kill the interest. Keep your public curious, and you keep them coming. It is the custom of many evangelists to make announcement at the close of a sermon, advertising the next subject. On such an occasion the right words will not only bring back that audience, but will bring many others besides. For example, here is one curiosity appeal that holds the attention right through because it carries a curiosity ap­peal from beginning to end. Don't forget that people always want their curiosity satisfied.

"Now a word about our next subject, 'Where are the dead ?' There are so many conflicting opinions on that topic that many wonder if anyone really knows the answer. When a man dies, does he go right straight to heaven, hell, or purgatory, or just to the grave ? Will he be a real being in a real world, or a spirit being in a spirit world ? Can we talk with the dead? Perhaps there is no ques­tion for which people are more anxious to have an answer.

"Tomorrow night I am not going to tell you what / think about it, or what anybody else thinks about it, or what some church teaches about it. I am going to show you what your own Bible says about the subject. Perhaps you already have definite convictions regarding what you believe. If so, come, and we will show you from your Bible just how to prove your convictions with a 'Thus saith the Lord,' provided they are based on the Scripture. And remember that you can do many of your friends a kind personal favor by telling them about the subject and urging them to come with you to hear it. I repeat again, I know of no subject that more people are concerned over than the topic for tomorrow night. So don't forget those friends,"

4. Perhaps there is no rule which is trans­gressed more, and yet the breaking of which is fraught with more serious consequences, than the rule, You cannot antagonize and favorably influence at the same time. I attended an evan­gelistic service one time at which the evangelist for some reason started a tirade on what he called "Holy Rollers." A number of religious sects might be classified under this slang name, but those who belong to such sects greatly re­sent the name. This evangelist proceeded to heap ridicule upon such people, describing in an animated manner their "rolling exercises." You could look around the audience and tell by the expressions on the faces just which ones were being described. Needless to say, some got up and left the meeting.

On another occasion an evangelist read a clipping from a newspaper that told of a Catholic ladies' society, called "The Holy Angels,- who were giving a benefit dance. He then heaped all the ridicule possible on the idea of holy angels going to a dance. It was not diffi­cult to tell, upon looking around, who the Cath­olic people were, or at least those who were sympathetic with Catholics, and some left the tent. The brother's eloquence was to be ad­mired, but he drove away from his tent some who might have been honest in heart, and who might have embraced the truth. It is well to remember the words of Jesus, "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."

Condemnation always antagonizes. Any­thing that belittles another antagonizes. When you question another's judgment, or attempt to show him to be wrong, you are encouraging antagonism.

5. The rule, Avoid an argumentative presen­tation of your subject, is akin to the one just discussed. Some folk have so much argument in their system, that it. almost makes others angry just to look at them. I can think of a fine gentleman no longer in the ministry, who failed in his work and was dropped for the sole reason that he "just couldn't get along with people." Even his converts came into the truth in spite of his personality. One convert now serving in a mission field told me that she came very near not accepting the truth because of the minister's antagonistic manner, and his harsh, abrupt way of approaching and dealing with people.

It is well to remember that every man thinks he is right. The minute you assume the atti­tude of arguing your subject, the man who dis­agrees with you is not listening to a word you say, but is concentrating on what he might say back. With this in mind, we can easily see how useless it is to take an argumentative attitude, either in the pulpit or in person-to-person con­tacts. Avoid all arguments.

He who follows these principles of salesman­ship will be able to persuade many to follow Christ in the way of life, and abundant will be his fruitage.


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By S. L. CLARK, Field Missionary Secretary. Columbia Union Conference

June 1941

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