By: Ken La Rive
We learned to be salesmen early on. It all started when we needed and looked for our first meal, and then a little later on when our diaper needed changing. It wasn’t something we consciously thought about, at least not back then, because we have in all of us God given talents that helps us get what we want and need, and as time goes by we have used each and every one. A cute little pout, a piercing cry, a red faced grunt, a smile, or later when we learned the universal mantra of: “mama, mama, mama, maaaama!” It got us all a bit of the attention we wanted, and in our own minds, what we deserved.
It was of course a grand process of trial and error, as some of attention came back to us in the form of a correction, or a counter pitch. But never mind, because we soon learned well from these experiences, and with it, how to deal with life, and survive. As time went on, our sales ability became refined, more complicated, and subtle. So subtle in fact, that our salesmanship is sometimes purely unconscious.
We all know that life is constantly in a state of change. Sure, life marches on, and change promotes growth, and adventure too. As we grow older, how we deal with life surely has to change too. And yet, the basic sales ability and technique we learned that very first day still remains with us, and still applies.
Basically, you must admit, selling was first motivated by selfishness. We wanted something, and because we had a limited amount of bargaining power, our asking took an imbalanced form. We were actually trying to get something for nothing, something undeniably intangible. What is a cute coy smile, an aggravating or relentless verbal assertion, the smell of potty, worth? Well, it was surely somewhat balanced by a parent’s love, but in the process we tried every trick, and learned what worked and what didn’t.
Later, however, as we matured into adulthood, some began to realize that the most rewarding kind of selling was one where there was a balanced exchange. The easiest way to get want you want was to give the other person what they wanted. Barter! Unfortunately, some still don’t get it, and our prisons are full of them.
But then, again by trial and error, we learned that if we want to continue, one transaction after another, we must give quality consistently. In that way the other person will come back time and time again. Repeat business, so you will. With this a business is born and grown. Suddenly, it was found, that if you concentrated more on what the other person wanted and needed, and not your own, your needs would inadvertently also be met. It was found that a true winning salesman concentrated on the giving. That was where the true gratification came. What a concept!
Don’t believe me? Look around at all of the really successful people in the world. They did nothing without the help and stimulation of others. Great musical artists, software programmers, manufacturers and builders, all give something that people will stand in line to get. It might be something intangible too, like an evangelist on TV telling you to put your hand on the screen to be heeled, and to send a check ASAP. It could come in tangible forms like a new blood test for cancer, snake-oil tonic to stimulate hair growth, or a new black market chip so you can catch all the TV stations, including pay per view, for free.
There are no bounds to the capacity of salesmanship. Whole countries can go to war by the salesmanship of their leader. Men will go to their deaths, some even gladly, because of what they learned in a sales seminar, also called a war briefing. Some will even give up their immortal souls.
A so-called terrorist is a prime example of salesmanship run amuck, and the pitch started so early that they now think it is an original thought: to blow up innocents, and themselves, for the cause. The primary problem here, as I see it, is that there will be no repeat business, and talk about selfishness? What they are getting in return are virgins in the kingdom of heaven? Come now. It takes one hell of a sales job to talk men into dying for something so nebulous. What faith has to be promoted? …blind faith! So…
So the point here is that salesmanship comes with a moral responsibility attached. If the thought of the client isn’t the primary purpose for the exchange, it is wrong. An example of this I still think about today, even after more than thirty years. I needed a simple thermostat for my mustang while driving through the desert of west Texas. Two station boys told me that I needed new shocks, that mine would make the drive to California unsafe, and that we might loose control. I knew they were lying, and told them to take my car down from the lift. I paid for that thermostat, and on my way out saw them laughing their heads off. They were lucky I had my new bride of one day in the car. Surely, dotting their eyes would have put a damper on our day, but I still wish I had. Making my wife feel even the remote possibility of fear, for the sale of two shocks?
Finally, remember that your salesmanship has consequences. What you give, what you sow, is what you will receive. A selfish salesman will win a few, but it will always come back on him. It is kind of a law of nature, I suppose. Yep, men knew it back in the halls of Babylon, the jungle of Vietnam, and from Hitler’s podium. We are a product of it every time we turn on the TV set, have a business meeting, or choose a restaurant for supper. Somehow, everything we do or say has been influenced by the sale, one way or the other. Becoming aware of it can be the difference between freedom and brainwashing slavery of the will.
Question why we do things, and the sales pitch will raise its head. It has to, because believe it or not, it makes us who we are.