I recently watched a video from Chris Ducker on how to not sound like a sleazy salesman in your blog content. Chris made the audacious claim that content marketers are worth more than a salesperson. While the actual content of that video was extremely good, the video's hook grated me due to the characterization of salespeople.
You see, we’re an easy target.
When people say these types of negative statements, they’re usually overly simplistic. They’re normally poorly thought out and based on emotions. It’s like saying “I hate dentists” or “I hate Canadians.” (I apologize to my neighbors up north for this example, but it will make sense in a moment).
People normally don’t hate all dentists. Hating them all is completely irrational. They’d surely want one around one around when a tooth is hurting. They may dislike a previous dentist they had, but that shouldn’t color their opinion of the whole job sector. That’s a childish view of life.
The same could be said of Canadians. Maybe Justin Bieber isn’t to their liking but let’s not blame an entire country for him. Again, it’s completely irrational, especially for a country that birthed the inventor of basketball and gave us the McKenzie Brothers. Canadians are awesome! (see, guys, I redeemed myself!)
My second example might be silly and slightly extreme but it really is no different than the dentist illustration or the salesman example at the start.
Yet, a kind portrayal of the salesperson isn’t shown in the media. Everyone that paints a picture of the salesperson, does so essentially with the same characterization of Kurt Russell from the 1980 movie, Used Cars. In it, Russell was indeed a sleazy salesman. While an incredibly funny movie, it did nothing to help the image of the trade.
Everyone can portray a salesperson as sleazy and it’s assumed to be fine. However, this depiction is inaccurate and dangerous in what it teaches people.
Why should that matter? I’ll give you a couple reasons why the I believe the image is damaging.
You ARE in Sales
First, let’s talk about reality.
Do you know that you practiced sales today?
- If you tried to convince your kid to eat something that they didn’t want to put in their mouth. Sales.
- If you took time with how you dressed today, considering how someone else might respond to it. Sales.
- If you flirted with someone today. Sales.
- If at any time you smiled at someone today and asked them a question in hopes of getting help in return. Sales.
- If you wrote a blog post, a book, a poem or anything for that matter, in the hopes someone would read it. Sales.
We practice sales all the time and it doesn’t have to be for money. Did you feel sleazy at any time? If so, you were doing something wrong.
I even practiced sales when I was a police officer. If you don’t think I was selling while on the street, you’re crazy. Most of my job was getting people to either give me information or do what I asked with just my words. I needed to know when to be nice, sweet, or aggressive just by reading the person and situation. That was advanced sales training if I’ve ever seen it.
Besides, the old stereotype of the sleazy salesperson is no longer viable. Daniel H. Pink’s book To Sell is Human makes the argument that yesterday’s market was based upon information asymmetry. The seller had the info while the buyer didn’t. It was buyer beware. Today, with the increase in technology and information sharing, it’s seller beware. Sleazy behavior just won’t be tolerated any longer.
It Sends the Wrong Message
The second reason the portrayal of a sleazy salesperson is disastrous is that it sends the wrong message to our kids and young people. We’re telling them not to go in to sales as a career. Instead, we’re pushing them toward a job with a supposedly steady paycheck.
Is that the best message we should send to our youth?
Sales is the most transferable skill around. Once you learn how to truly sell, you can work anywhere.
And after the Great Recession does anyone out there believe there is such a thing as a guaranteed, steady paycheck anymore?
Now, I’m going to share something with you that I’ve never shared with anyone before (seriously). My salary history.
When I was a property manager the highest wage I ever made was just over $50,000/year.
When I was police officer the highest wage I ever made was also slightly over $50,000/year.
When I worked for a national mall developer, the best year I ever had was when I made a little over $90,000.
However, as a salesman, in my single best year I easily made more than all of my previous best years from other jobs combined. How is that possible? Because there is no ceiling on how much I make. There’s also no floor, yet I don’t worry about that. I’m not looking down, I’m looking up. Now, this doesn’t always happen, but it could and that’s what I’m talking about.
My income is completely tied to how much hustle and ingenuity I bring to the table every day. Is there some luck? Sure, but that’s a small part of. The majority of my results are based on effort and creativity.
I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more luck I have – Coleman Cox
I didn’t move into full commission sales until I was forty-two years-old. I will never go back now. My only regret is that I didn’t learn about this sooner. I’d be so much further ahead in life. The advice I had gotten from my parents growing up was get an education so I could find a steady job with a good paycheck. None of my good paychecks have compared to sales.
Yet, it’s working without a net that gets most people scared. “Get the safe job,” they think. “Go for the guaranteed paycheck,” they’ll tell their kids. I believe it’s easier to vilify the salesman by saying, “He’s sleazy” than to admit “I’m scared to go out and do the same thing.” I understand. It took me a lot of years to get the guts to do it.
When most people find out that I work on commission sales, the first thing they typically say is, “I could never do that.” If that’s what you think, then you’re probably right. No amount of my trying to convince you will ever change your mind.
Most don’t want to go without the hourly wage safety net. That’s fine. It’s their choice, but for those of us who do make that decision, we rarely turn back.
Sales versus Marketing
I once heard that Sales is what occurs one-on-one and Marketing occurs when you’re not there. I believe that’s a very important distinction to make.
In my brokerage business, I have a marketing aspect that occurs for my listings as well as my successes. Past, current and potential clients receive quarterly email blasts on market updates as well as recent transactions. Every deal gets a press release for the appropriate local newspaper and business journals.
My listings are posted to various real estate search portals and they are blasted out through the appropriate networks. The information is disseminated quickly and efficiently.
However, if I don’t pick up the telephone and call someone, nothing really gets rolling.
You see, Sales is proactive. Marketing is reactive.
In other words …
- In Sales, I contact the prospect.
- In Marketing, the prospect contacts me.
Some of you may say, “That’s exactly what I want!”
However, I have clients who would tell you exactly the opposite. They want to be called.
I routinely call clients and tell them about certain opportunities that are either available off market or just about to hit the market. They may have to make decisions quickly to jump on a deal or lose the opportunity to someone else. Having a broker keeping an eye out for their needs is of paramount importance. One client bought and then, eighteen months later, sold the same property making a $700,000 spread because of my initial phone call.
If you think sales are sleazy, you’ve boxed in your mind and said this is how life is. How can you possibly determine how an entire sector of life is from your single viewpoint? I know I can’t.
Look Beyond the Big Screen
Are there crappy baristas? Yup. I’m sure we’ve all had a terrible cup of coffee and sworn never to go back to a certain place. Does that stop you from coffee forever? Gads, I hope not. Would a crappy cup of joe cause you to blame an entire generation of baristas?
Are there under-performing government workers? It’s a cliché, but yes there are. However, the majority are good working folks trying to make life better for us and themselves. Just because you run into a slow-mover at the DMV doesn’t mean everyone at the government works at the same pace.
Are there dirty cops? Unfortunately, yes. However, the vast majority are decent men and women trying to keep our neighborhoods safe. Don’t malign every person who wears the badge because of the actions of a few.
Finally, are there sleazy salespeople? Sadly, there are few out there. We occasionally do run into them. Most, though, are in our imaginations or on the big screen. I’d argue though that what we’re really seeing is a person who doesn’t know how to sell.
When a person doesn’t know how to sell, they often press the issue because they think that’s what must occur to get the deal done. I don’t get upset by it. They are telegraphing their intentions and they make it easy for all of us to say no. Be thankful for it.
As you move throughout your day, take time to realize how you’re actually selling yourself with your words and image. All of us do it.
It’s natural and we should embrace it, not vilify it.
What do you think?
Do you embrace the idea of sales
or does it make you cringe?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.