I recently was forwarded a posting from www.madmenshow.com by Robin Greene, who blogs frequently and well on sales initiation (with her partner, Sheryl Tuttle) at New Business Pipeline. Robin’s forwarded blog was a love bouquet to Don Draper of Mad Men as the best salesman of all time on television. However, the blog concluded with a list of, to quote, “…the best salesmen, con artists, sweet-talkers, swindlers, and bullshitters in movies.” Wow.
The juxtaposition and equivalency of salesmen, con artists, sweet- talkers, swindlers, and bullshitters is breathtaking. And yet it fully reflects the popular view of salesmen as somewhat lower than whale shit. The list includes such luminaries as Gordon Gecko (portrayed by Michael Douglas in Wall Street), Blake (portrayed by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross), Freddy Benson & Lawrence Jamieson (portrayed by Steve Martin and Michael Caine, respectively, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Roy Waller (portrayed by Nicholas Cage in Matchstick Men), etc. You get the idea. A veritable concatenation of the villainous and the predatory.
Certainly when I began my late-in-life adventure as a salesman and entrepreneur, my idealistic and somewhat bohemian family didn’t quite know what to say. They probably thought I had become apostate to all that was fine and good. A Faustian sellout to filthy lucre. A crazed lemming descending into the rat hole of venality.
But what makes a good salesman in reality is the opposite of the amoral knaves of popular myth. You simply don’t win in the long term by fooling people. You win through sincere care and concern. That is a naive but very real truth.
Unlike the popular cliches about salesmen, long-term sales success comes from focusing on service and candor in all aspects of the sales process. A liar and a villain is eventually known by his works. Gordon Gecko aside, you don’t successfully sell with deception and legerdemain.