The term “SALESMAN” or p.c.’d to “SALESPERSON” is quickly disappearing from the lexicon. I don’t think there is a new term for used car purveyors but just watch. They will soon be referring to themselves as “marketing associates” or “team support staff” or some dufus MBA will be appointed to conduct a project to discover new euphemisms.
The sad part is that, as the term, which many today think is too crass, the employed population, most especially in the white-collar sector have adopted the moral vacuity which was the hallmark of the traditional salesman of yesteryear (the mid- to late 1900’s).
Make no mistake about it. The salesman, operating largely or wholly upon commission, is a distinct kind of entity.
Before I spout off on a subject, I do like to establish some bona fides for my right to have an opinion. When I returned from Vietnam. I took a job at Altman’s Camera, then the largest camera store in the U.S. as a salesman. I learned later that it was in name only. I was going to graduate school on GI Bill for Masters in Education and Library Science and worked there 4-1/2 days a week. I was top salesman in still cameras, which meant top salesman in the Store for 13 straight months. I thought I was a really good salesman. I would learn the true facts soon.
Altman’s closed up because of one of the most asinine labor disputes in this country’s history, but that is another whole “observation” some time. I finished my degrees and became a teacher. A change in my fundamental duties after four years led to my accepting an offer from industry to become the formulating chemist and technical services manager (I managed one and sometimes two assistants — big deal).
The company was at the time the fifth largest chemical specialty manufacturer in the country. They had a commission-only sales force of anywhere from 400 to 550 sales reps at any given time (yeah, they got draw against commission and often carried a red figure meaning they owed the company money) but were basically starting every Monday morning with a blank slate and a large briefcase of demonstration products. They all had a toll-free telephone number to my desk — my job was to recommend the right product and outline the application method. I was busy.
Know this about these salesmen:
1. The company hires countless numbers of sales reps each year. They know from experience that only about ONE in TEN of them will stick. THAT IS CORRECT. It is that tough a job: prospecting the phone book (then) and finding businesses that could use our products: cleaners, drain openers, floor polish, disinfectants, insecticides, to esoteric things like belt de-glazer for sewage plants. Over 300 products and they would get one week of training where the emphasis was on sales technique over product knowledge.
2. The young pups today, especially MBA’s, watch GLEN GARRY/GLEN ROSS and think they know everything about sales. They don’t. Not even close.
3. Early on, they sent me to meet with the Division Managers for Pittsburgh and Pennsauken, NJ, (outside Philadelphia). These two brothers were about the sharpest pair I ever saw in sales. When I told them that I had been a successful salesman at Altman’s, they could not hide their derision so I asked for an explanation: that is not selling. A person walks into a place pre-disposed to buy something. Real selling is that coldest of cold calls where just getting past the flak-catchers at the front desk and getting to see the person with the authority to buy a product may take hours of your time.
4. All the sales cliches slung around often have at least a grain of truth. Sell the features and benefits but be ready to pounce. “Will it do _____?” “If it does, will you buy it?” (It always does and even if it doesn’t that’s where a call to Blocher in Tech Services will remedy the situation.)
5. Zig Zigler, one of many loquacious sales advocates learned that it is a lot easier giving seminars to salesmen telling them how to sell than to actually sell stuff yourself! He opened many seminars with the accurate observation that no kid aspires to be a salesman when he grows up. “If you asked your kid what he wants to be when he grows up and he answered ‘SALESMAN’ you’d rush him to the shrink.”
7. Here is what the VEEPs at my company and others eventually explained to me:
a. The “born salesman” is a person with a particular type of personality disorder.
b. Many of the behaviors are by degrees similar to a sociopath: a glib, superficially charming
character who knows what he wants and will pursue whatever path is required to achieve it.
c. One VP of Operations at one of the Big 4 once said, “We’re not looking for life’s winners;
we want the guy who life has beaten up a little bit — who wants to get even. This guy we
can motivate to get the sale at all costs.”
NOW this effect is being pushed as a good thing — lately, lawyers are getting pitches for seminars teaching them how to “close the deal” and “capture market share.” Like all of the seven deadly sins, you start with something that might be tolerable and even admirable in small doses, but which transforms into a consuming behavior which eclipses that person’s better instincts. If a straightforward explanation of what I can try and hope to accomplish will not convince him to commit to ma as his attorney, I don’t want any doomsday prophecies or hard closing statements to do the job.
Our politicians long ago abandoned statesmanship and integrity for salesmanship — look at the absurd amount of time they are forced to spend on fundraising and the cretins they have to pretend to agree with. Eventually, they adopt the cretins’ viewpoint — it’s easier than a self-assessment.
And now we have the ultimate salesman as our President. If Trump didn’t have inherited wealth, he likely would have started as a used-car dealer. And a SALESMAN OF THE FIRST ORDER, he is.
Example? He took a group of people in rural areas who are one generation or less removed from people who the mere mention of “Communism” would cause foaming of the mouth but they think his cozying up to Putin is somehow acceptable. It beggars the mind.
He has never done anything that he didn’t want to and never for anybody outside his sphere of today. He never served not just in the service but he never served for ANYBODY. That the numbers of millions of Americans who voted for him AND STILL STAND BY HIM find that admirable is saddening for the future of this country. My grandfather was a Southern Presbyterian Minister, my mother roomed with Billy Graham’s wife in college. I think they would both be praying hard for this country.
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