Thoughts On Selling

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to "salesmanship".  I am examining different perspectives of it including popular culture influences.

For example, I didn't consider interviewing for a job as "selling"; I simply described and related my background and experience. Based on that I hoped it would be enough to convince the interviewer to hire me.

Perhaps selling was not in my consciousness due to a predefined idea of it. As a kid I saw (mainly in comedies and cartoons) the salesman as selling something door-to-door with the implication there was questionable need, like brushes, a "cure all" tonic, "hair restorer"; or used cars, and being rejected. They were characterized as fast/smooth talkers, not to be trusted.

Yet they were also portrayed having an indefatigable cheerfulness, (that, oddly enough, was satirized in itself).

As I got a little older I became aware of another approach: the "soft sell", which in my opinion became more pronounced in the post-Civil Rights/Woodstock period. There was more advertising that echoed attitudes of the times to a greater degree and used a more spontaneous way to relate to the audience. As an example I'm thinking of the Alka-Seltzer commercial parody of a commercial ("Mama mia! That's some spicy meatball!" Check the original from late 1960's early 1970's on Youtube).

Conventional advertising carried right alongside, including the famous "infomercial."

I once tried concession stand selling in malls, where I called out to people to try a product (for free! That didn't just happen with the rise of the internet) and demonstrated it on the spot. Most were nice even when declining the offer, some were outright hostile. It is a free country, after all.

Later I encountered an opportunity to sell term life insurance plans and advise prospects to "invest the rest". (The investment was in the Magellan Fund which experienced phenomenal growth in the 1990's.) One of the methods was cold-calling (telephoning people directly from a listing or phone book without getting to know them beforehand), a harsh introduction to that technique.

These type of experiences either thicken one's hide or encourage looking for something else.

Yet, in a job that was not in public retail, when I explained a proposal or negotiated, or even as small a thing as training 1:1, I was in fact selling.

If you ever promised to be good for Santa to bring you presents, guess what?

So there's definitely a benign side.

While writing this over the course of several months (I didn't forget this topic as I had promised in an earlier post in the blog) I had the opportunity to hear Eben Pagan, a renowned internet marketer who recently launched a new coaching program.

Part of his philosophy is you can't convince anyone of anything. You can only give them the right information so that they can convince themselves.

It's about solving a problem/fulfilling their desire, not selling your expertise and yourself.

A quote from "Ebook Creation Made Easy" that resonates with me: "Nobody likes over-the-top selling or advertising. In fact no one likes sneaky, subtle advertising either."

Now, I'm hearing about the role social gaming has in delivering marketing messages "unobtrusively and without annoying messages." Is this a trend? Does this fall into the "subtle" category?

I've encountered a lot of contrasting viewpoints on effective marketing, and if there is one clear conclusion emerging it's that one size does not fit all, but there's no substitution for integrity. And some will not consider integrity synonymous with edginess. Then again, some are OK with that.

There's obviously a lot to be said on this topic. Many people have written books with sufficient poundage/kilobytes (and perhaps weight) concerning this, and I will be a lifelong student.

Posted in Business and Marketing.

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