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Selling Is A Bad Idea

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An IT salesman-saleswoman complaint:

“Why doesn’t the CEO. CXO. COO want to talk to me? I have so much to offer them if only they would see me.”

Here’s the answer.

Selling is a bad idea, and everybody is selling. It’s hard to avoid. From television advertising to intrusive telemarketing to sophisticated technical salesmen “diagnosing your needs,” they are in it for themselves. The business about being in it for others is at best equivocal and at worst a lie. Distrust of selling is endemic. We live in a sea of this distrust. At the same time, more and more money and effort goes into “client centered” sales; automobile dealers call me a guest; healers are selling their own herbal remedies. If someone is selling something, I’m sure I have to take what they say with a grain of salt or a spoonful of sugar. It would seem that selling is effective because people keep doing it. Still, given the distrust of selling that prevails it takes more and more energy to sustain if not increase business. Selling is a bad idea and appears to be the only one in town.

People buy what they want. They don’t buy what you want them to buy. If they do buy, you will pay later in resistance to you and your sales process. If it’s true that people buy what they want then there should be no need to sell them anything. It also suggests that all you have to do is be good at having people get clear about what they want, unless they are already clear. Of course, to do this you need to care about what they want, as opposed to what you want to sell This is pretty rare. I went to a car dealer who talked me out of the hybrid vehicle I wanted by saying that he had other,  options that would be less expensive over the long run, even given the high price of gasoline.

He lied. The actual mileage was far less than claimed. When we complained he had absolutely nothing to say. He was selling what he had been told to sell. And that’s the problem. Is the salesman or saleswoman ultimately here for you or for themselves? Companies are really good at training people to pretend that they are here for you. Most of us know when it is not true. The world of sales is usually standing on its head. Almost everything is backwards in an “Alice in Wonderland” looking glass. That the customer comes first is generally a lie.

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