At a family event recently, somebody asked what I do for a living. An innocent enough question, so I replied “I work in sales and marketing”. Without missing a beat, the elderly gentleman said “Oh, you are one of those”.
I was curious about what he meant by “one of those”, so I asked him. That was it. He was off. He had a negative view of sales people, of on a rant about how many telephone calls he received at home, always being “sold” to and used adjectives like pushy, arrogant and rude. I listened politely for a few minutes, then excused myself and headed to the bar.
A couple of weeks ago, during the commercial break of one of my favourite TV programmes, there was an advertisement for coffee capsules. The scene featured a young brash, salesman on the telephone, calling from a fictitious loft insulation company making a call to a housewife, a prospective customer. He was talking at her, I noticed he started with a closed question, using street slang and making comic gestures with his colleague in the background (a bit like a scene from The Office meets a comedy sketch on Ali G). Of course, the lady used this time to make herself a cup of coffee and let him rant for a bit and then asked him to call back the next day.
Although this is an amusing telly advertisement, I could not help noticing that sales people are still today being portrayed in this brash, unprofessional almost comic way. It is not surprising sales people have a poor image – according to LinkedIn, there are approximately 10 million sales people working in business to business sales around the world today. This does not include retail, food and customer services, so the chances are that many of us will be either sold to or will have to sell ourselves, products, ideas – even if we are not in a traditional sales related job and there is a strong chance that many of us will regularly find ourselves being sold to.
I love being sold to. In one of my favourite department stores in the City of London the staff are so well trained you rarely come away with just one item. They engage with you and subtly entice you to buy something complementary. It is a heady experience.
I am writing this as a champion for all sales professionals. Let us all work together to raise the standards and perceptions of us hard working sales professionals that enables products to be bought and sold.
After all, it is up to us sales professionals to make the world go around.
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