ONE of the great secrets of success is tact. It takes skill to move to a definite point without arousing antagonism and, above all, to avoid the necessity of taking issue with another whose ignorance, prejudice, or bombast seek to browbeat you out of your position. Neither to capitulate nor to antagonize! O Tact, what wonders are accomplished in your name! What marvels of mental adroitness! Skill. Wit. Knowledge of facts. Tolerance. To know when to talk and when not to talk! To know when to listen as well as when to speak! To talk just enough and no more! To reverence silence as you reverence eloquence! To value words fitly spoken but not to be hypnotized by your own!
One must note the impression his speech is making and be guided by it. He should if possible draw out the opinion of his customer but only at such points as will reasonably assure him that they will be of an affirmative character. Another’s opinion may be very valuable especially if he is well-informed, but the hour of a sale is not the school hour and the main object should never be forgotten.
Tact demands a knowledge of another’s character, his probable point of view, his general interests. It is the
part of wisdom to know all you can about a customer in advance, what his hobbies are, and especially his eccentricities. To mention a man’s diversions might lead to opposite results; in one case to pull you in and in another to throw you out. The “hard-headed business man” may have imagination enough to know that you are simply using “salesman’s tactics” when you run your eye over his wall and become suddenly enthused by his portly form in a pair of knickers. His stuffed fish may recall to him a different story from the one you have in mind. He may be more interested in what you have to sell than in what you think of golf, and the mere mention of a club may suggest its usefulness. It takes tact to determine these delicate points. Some men are very sensitive about their golf.
Nevertheless a friendly spirit usually awakens a response in another, leading to sympathetic relationships. This is as true in one walk of life as it is in another.
Never forget that it is a part of tact in any intercourse where you have an end to gain for yourself to show the other what he is to gain for himself.
One of the fine points of tact is the way you deal with yourself. It is very hard to admit a fault to yourself. A dozen alibis readily present themselves. Or discouragement sets in. “Of course I am a ‘boob’; there’s
no use trying.” What adroitness it takes to correct yourself and still remain self-confident, “sold to yourself!” Nevertheless this is demanded. If you have failed in an undertaking where good salesmanship is a deciding factor, ask yourself afterwards why you failed, and what you should have done. Make up your mind it will not occur with you again.
Nor should we forget that we are all salesmen, selling our services, our goods, our personality, to society, the church, the club, the lodge. We are all interested in “putting ourselves over to the public,” and success demands the acquisition of the art.