There are groaning bookshelves of celebrated sales books out there. Though I have read very few of them, there are surely reasons to read most of them, I suppose.
The reason I don’t read many sales books, even though elite sales initiation is the specialty of my firm Corporate Rain International, is that the assumptions behind many of these books seem non-essential, trivial, and cynical to me. Though I know sales gurus command big bucks for their writing and personal appearances, from the outside most of this stuff looks to me to be about process, technique, psychology, dazzling virtuosity, and penultimate values and skills–a veritable plethora of sales technique insufficiently moored to core value and core values.
Sales is not about fooling people, despite our increasingly hucksterish culture of voyeurism, chimera, sophistry, and ends-justifies-the-means manipulation, mistaking image for essence. Per this, I am bemused that my home state of New York has started a 50 million dollar image campaign to attract new business to the state. This is a fools errand while the state isn’t forthrightly addressing its business-hostile environment and frightening structural debt issues. A PR campaign in such an environment is the worst sort of wasteful pablum, really a cynical attempt to paper over the obvious reasons businesses should not locate to New York.
(Tangentially speaking, politics drives me crazy these days. I occasionally watch the Republican primary debates, as well as the unceasing four year, 365 day/year Obama reelection campaign, and am exhausted by the superficial, the calculated, the disingenuous. It’s enough for me to take a second look at Newt Gingrich, who looks like a haughty, unsmiling, overstuffed sausage, but is at least arguing real policy and serious issues. He is rising in the polls, despite his personal unlikeability quotient, because people long for seriousness and real depth of thought.)
Which brings me back to sales and substance. I really believe sales is simple. You simply tell the truth and tell it fiercely and sincerely. If you can’t do that with a product or service, find a product or service you can do it with. At that point you are doing your potential client a favor by revealing to him or her the truth, in much the same way a social worker or a minister seeks to serve and enlighten. There is no reason a salesman should look upon his profession as less than ennobling. People intuitively respond to real value sincerely explicated.
There is always a hunger for the essential, whether in sales, politics, entertainment, or finance. People have been spiritually sickened by the Bernie Madoffs, the Kim Kardashians, the banking and governmental con men, and an increasingly sclerotic culture that denigrates real essence and accomplishment and raises up image, branding, and phony feel-good nostrums.
So clear explanation and education about substance and real value is about all there is to sales, to my way of thinking. That and hard work.
Or, as Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach once said, “Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’ That will only confuse you. Just be sure you’re saying something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”
Thank you, Bill.