I don’t mind salespeople. After all, I make my living selling, and by helping my clients sell. Of course, we tend to call it marketing because, well, it sounds more highfalutin. But, I readily admit, selling it is.
I greet the young man and cheerfully ask, “What’s for sale?”
Unfortunately, he weasels. “I’m not selling anything,” he says. “I just want to clean your carpet for free with a Kirby vacuum.”
I say, “I assume your hope is that I will like how the Kirby performs and then buy one.”
The young says yes, that’s so.
“Ah,” I say, still cheerful, “you are selling Kirbys.”
No, insists the young man. He isn’t selling anything. Why? Because he isn’t going to “force” anything on me. He just wants to clean my carpet with a Kirby and let me decide for myself if I want one.
Hmm. This sure looks, walks and quacks like selling. But the kid at my door insists that that’s not what it is.
There is nothing dishonorable about selling. Assuming, that is, you do it honorably. This fellow could own up to his occupation and proceed with his pitch, uninterrupted. But by playing with words, he is blowing his chance. And in this case, just as marketing is highfalutin for selling, playing with words is highfalutin for weaseling, which is highfalutin for lying.
It may not be the young man’s fault. Possibly the Kirby people taught him that approach. If so, shame on them.
When I make a sales call, I open with candor. I often say something like, “Brace yourself, this is a sales call.” Or, “I’m one of those sales people, but I hope you’ll hear me out, because I have something I think will interest you.” Guess what. It serves me well. It always works better than trying to pretend I’m not selling. (The first time my boss — back when I had one — heard my “brace yourself” approach, he about had a cow. Then he saw how readily and repeatedly the opener ingratiated me to people who were tired of shooing away weasels. His labor pains ceased.)
I fondly recall the copier salesman who never had any trouble getting in to see us. “It’s Matthew,” he always opened, “copier salesman from hell.”
If you ever phone me or show up at my door and I ask you what’s for sale, give me a straight answer. I may not buy, but I’ll hear you out. Try to convince me you’re not selling when we both know that selling is exactly what you’re up to, and I will probably tell you, as I did this young man, that I don’t do business with people who obscure the truth. Which is highfalutin for, “You’re a liar. Away with you.”