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Don’t confuse lying with selling
- The dangers of believing what you see on TV
By David Tovey
I recently met a business owner at a networking event who described himself as a serial entrepreneur. When he finally got around to asking what I did (after his ten minute ‘elevator’ pitch) he smirked and gave me a look that suggested he thought I was just a little naïve when I mentioned Principled Selling and values-based leadership was the way that 21st Century businesses could create more profit and differentiate their business.
“When it comes down to it people will do anything to turn a profit despite all the fine words – big business, small business it’s all the same” and he followed up with a lecture around natural born salespeople and you can either sell or you can’t.
I decided that trying to counter his arguments would be pointless and we each moved on to other conversations – though I did overhear portions of his ‘pitch’ every few minutes or so!
The next day I received a twitter message from a follower asking if I’d seen a Channel 4 programme about the tactics some retailers use to sell. “They seem to confuse lying with selling” he said in his tweet. I decided some research was called for and watched the programme via Channel 4’s on demand service.
The programme makers used hidden cameras to expose various techniques used to ‘upsell’ high margin products of questionable quality but what was really revealing was the comments made by some of the salespeople.
“I’ll do whatever I need to do to get a sale – whatever it takes” said one in store salesman who claimed to be making a heap of commission. “You need a good story for why the goods are so cheap, like its liquidated stock or something” said another who was taking hundreds in cash for counterfeit mobile phones that she knew didn’t work.
The programme reminded me of another TV series – The Apprentice – where contestants proudly announce that they can ‘Sell ice to Eskimos’ and suggest that business is about “manipulation, domination and treading on people’s toes”.
Now I realise that this is all in the cause of entertainment and I have met some ex ‘Apprentices’ that were nothing like their on screen personas – BUT – the attitudes of the above ‘serial entrepreneur’ and the people in these TV programmes do serve to reinforce the myths, to millions of consumers and business people, that anyone involved in ‘selling’ is going to be prepared to say anything and to be as dishonest as they need to be in order to get a customer to part with their money.
All of this in 2015!
In a decade when the old style propaganda marketing has been updated to 21st Century marketing, it can seem that old style selling hasn’t moved on at all.
Being prepared to do or say anything to get a sale, at best, might result in a single transaction but any business model based on a transactional mind-set usually ends up with hugely expensive after sales ‘explanations and complaints’ departments. A business model destined to underperform or fail.
Maybe if you are selling dodgy products then the only way to sell them is to use dodgy sales techniques. Fortunately most businesses and most people aren’t dishonest and therefore don’t need questionable techniques to win more business.
Most people I meet in business understand that selling products that don’t come back to customers who do is far more profitable and a far more sustainable business model. So, laugh at the TV entertainment, scorn the ‘do anything to get a sale’ salespeople and go about your own business with honesty, integrity and trust. Taking principled approach to selling is intelligent, mature, sustainable and more profitable.
David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultants, coach and author.