1916 NCR Sales Convention


"He (John Patterson) is fully convinced that by perfecting the various types of cash registers, each one for its separate purpose, he has done more than has been done by any other individual to bring business men to realize the value of knowing all they should know about the financial end of their business, for the reason that in order to sell his cash registers he must first convince his prospective customer that it is necessary to know how he stands at any one time - what his money is being paid out for, how the money comes in and for what." – American Artisan & Hardware Record 1916

How thoroughly did John H. Patterson teach and train his sales force to make them better at teaching the customer? Here is an example taken from the 1916 sales convention.

During the very strenuous six days of schooling, led by Patterson himself, salesmen learned the marked improvements of the 1916 NCR model cash registers and their additional safeguards. Patterson thought that these new developments had created a machine that was a “National Public Utility.” In other words, the registers weren’t just machines but systems to create better businesses. Proprietors just needed to be convinced by the NCR sales force.

To help salesmen visualize the potential roadblocks and over come them to convince prospects, Patterson and his men devised a unique plan, a staged drama with a number of acts and scenes staged by Patterson himself, and other NCR employees. No other companies were doing this at the time.


Household squabble between an impatient husband and a worried wife over the fact that they had been charged a 2nd time for goods that they had bought at the local grocery store. No receipt.

(Grocery store):

The store the couple purchased the goods was at E.B. Wilson’s store. He had an old cash register which did not give a receipt and, as a matter of fact, which was wholly inadequate to the problems that confronted him. Mr. Steffey, a NCR man, appears and in a sympathetic, personal manner, gets the confidence of Mr. Wilson by showing him that he is not making the full use of his old register and by calling his attention to little kinds in the use of the register which he had been overlooking, but finally interesting him in the new system of registers which the Company had gotten out for 1916 which would eliminate a whole lot of the troubles he had been having. Mr. Steffey made a date with Mr. Wilson to talk with Mr. Patterson, who was the local rep in charge of the sales registers for that city.

(Patterson @ Grocery store):
Patterson wins the grocer's good will and convinces him the value of the cash register. However, Mr. Wilson tells Patterson his wife would never consent.
(Patterson w/Mrs. Wilson):
Patterson talks with and convinces Mrs. Wilson that the register provides a system that will "save so many leaks and losses that she will be able, after a very short time, to have her Ford automobile, her piano player, a new hat, and a whole lot of other things which she particularly desires." Patterson wins her over and thinks who else could be a roadblock? The Wilson's banker.

(Patterson w/Banker):

Patterson finds out that the Wilsons have a $1,000 loan with First National Bank. If they purchase the “expensive” register, the Wilsons fear their banker would call their loan for immediate repayment. Patterson meets with the banker and explains why the Wilsons are struggling and how the register will turn around their business. The banker agrees to extend the current loan and lend more for the purchase of the register. Still there are more roadblocks.

(Patterson w/Wholesaler):

Wilson owed a lot of money to his wholesaler and feared they would stop working with him if they knew he took out more money from his banker. Patterson would accompany them to the wholesaler’s manager of the credit department. The article went onto describe, “Their reception is exceedingly chilly, so much so that not one of them is invited even to a chair, but, by and by, Mr. Patterson, by the exercise of the highest type of business diplomacy, wins over the wholesaler to his way of thinking and gets his consent to the purchase of the register.”

There was still another roadblock.

(Patterson w/Fellow Merchant):

Mr. Wilson’s neighboring merchant friend had co-signed his loan at the bank. Patterson, again, convinced the fellow merchant the benefits of the cash register.

So after all of these roadblocks, the group was then showed how well Mr. Wilson was doing a year later after purchasing the cash register. Wilson would testify his success and that it was all due to the cash register.

Lessons: Patterson felt teaching his sales force was so important that he was the leader in teaching. No one, at the time had such a focus on developing their sales force. And Patterson at age 72 was never too old, or his company too big, to directly teach his sales force himself.

Additionally, Patterson left no stone un-turned. He wanted to make sure that his sales force had an answer and strategy to overcome almost every possible obstacle.

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