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Vintage Farmall tractor illustration
MODERN TRACTOR: In 1937, many people were still farming with horses, and corn was planted in check rows. A Farmall 12 looked modern in that light.

Sales principles haven’t changed in 80 years

Throwback Thursday: Could you have made a living selling Farmall 12 tractors in 1937?

Suppose it’s 1937. You just graduated from high school, and your dad says you must get a job off the farm for a year. Besides, there isn’t enough land for two people. So you ask the Farmall dealer in town for a job. He hires you as a salesman, hands you a Farmall 12 Sales Manual, and tells you to know it forward and backward by next week.

There was and is such a manual. It’s 48 pages in 8.5-by-11-inch format, and it’s not full of pictures either. How could you write 48 pages on a tractor as small as the Farmall 12? International Harvester Co. did, and salesmen were expected to know it.

You read the story on the back page your first night and realize you’re not just selling against John Deere, Oliver Hart-Parr and Allis-Chalmers — you’re still selling against horses. The headline reads: “The Farmall 12 will pay on any farm where they need any horses at all.”

A.C. Fredrickson, Woodstock, Ill., farmed 50 acres. He did it with horses until he bought an F-12. “I was mighty skeptical about being able to farm entirely with the tractor,” the story quotes him saying. “I thought about it several years before I could make up my mind to get rid of my horses and buy a tractor. Last year in the spring of ’36 I decided to give it a trial and purchased a Farmall 12. I’ll say this little tractor does everything.”

He even plowed small gardens for neighbors. “If I can get through the gate, I can plow the garden. The tractor is handier than a team of horses — more accurate, for I never saw a team of horses that would turn a corner twice alike. I can take this tractor around the corner same way every time.”

Facts and figures
Farmer testimonials have been around for a while. But you need more than that to sell someone a tractor. A centerfold in the manual shows a cross-section of an F-12. You can learn things like “there is a special rawhide oil seal assembled with the lip turned out toward the fan pulley” or “the steering worm wheel has two keyways, so the second half of the wheel can be engaged with the worm, thus giving double life.” Good salesmen know these things.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW: A centerfold in the Farmall 12 Sales Manual shows a cross-section of the F-12.

The IHC people gave you some sales ammo on Page 3: “20 reasons why the F-12 is the best buy.” Here are a few of the reasons listed:

Reason 1. Because it’s the most economical tractor in the world to operate. (What did you expect them to say?)

Reason 4. “Others may claim ‘Quick-Attachable’ features, but the F-12 still has the ‘Quickest-Attachable’ machines on the market. We recognize no competition at this point.”

Reason 10. “Power-take-off is regular equipment. No general-purpose tractor is complete without power-take-off.

Reason 15. “Highest grades of nickel-chromium alloy steel used in gears. Transmission trouble unknown to the F-12 owner.” (Hmm. Wonder if that was true?)

Reason 19. “6,000 dealers and 85 factory-branches located throughout the U.S. are ready to render complete repairs service for the F-12 anywhere. No other tractor is so well protected.”

Wait a minute, I thought it never needed repair … oh, right, that was just the transmission. Yep, sales manuals really haven’t changed much in 80 years!

Comments? Email tom.bechman@farmprogress.com.

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