Thursday, 7 May 2015

Why do Salespeople overstate, inflate, embroider embellish, blown up their claims and are expected to be larger than life ? Ethics and morals in Selling.

Today in the UK we have our General Election where we vote for our local member of Parliament.

We have to exercise some discernment on all the claims and counter claims that the parties have communicated on the doorsteps, the  Press ,TV and Radio and social media.

We love to have a good old moan at and criticise our political representatives . The opinion polls say the result is too close to call and that another coalition is on the horizon. 

There have been some exaggerations stated from pressurised politicians during the electioneering period but before we finger point the political candidates perhaps we should look at ourselves today as well.

Interval Curtain at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden's
 production of Donnizette's L’elisir d’amore 
The Elixir of Life where  the travelling medicine salesman is one,
Dr Dulcamara played by the  Bryn Terfel
Are we prone to exaggeration?

 Have you ever exaggerated a product’s strengths? 

Have you ever underplayed a product’s weakness?

Is everything in your CV or LinkedIn profile  totally true?

 Was that trip adviser critique you wrote in anger just a little overstated? 

 Was the track record of the new product you are selling a little embroidered? 

Was your sales forecast just a bit overstated or understated? 

Were the reasons you gave for losing the sales just a little more blown up ( cheaper competition, delivery etc) than was really justified ?

Of course  we salespeople are not alone in all this.

The distinguished former civil servant  Lord Thomas Armstrong was ‘economic with the truth’ in the 1987 Spycatcher trial. Politicians are economic with the ‘realité ‘ as Alan Clark one said. I dear say some premier football managers did seen the foul committed by one of their players but when after the match asked deny seeing the incident and dear I say,
buyers can be liars as a negotiation ploy.

It is perhaps useful for us to consider why this may be.

Earlier this year ,the American  journalist/ anchor   Brian Williams was suspended for six months without pay from the Nightly News for "misrepresent[ing] events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003.

I came across an article in Portico magazine by journalist Jack Shafer on the Brian Williams story. It stopped me in my tracks and I would like to share it with you

“Williams’ insistence on playing for laughs—and his talent at garnering them—points to the compulsive desire to please often seen in the behaviours of salesmen, teachers, confidence men and political candidates.

 As long as the comedian has the crowd chuckling, he can sell them something, teach them something, pick their pocket or otherwise bamboozle them.

 The comic arts should not be banned from journalism—God forbid that should happen!

 But journalists who work overtime on entertaining you or making you laugh deserve your suspicion. In journalism, the story is supposed to be king. That doesn’t mean the cleverness or emotive writing has no place, only that the narrow bandwidth comedy offers can carry only so much journalistic information”

In sales I also think we should be wary where our cleverness and emotive descriptions which can take us beyond our bandwidth of trust with clients. Wise buyers know that we are prone to such exaggerations.

In this era of the industrial Internet of things IIoT, more is recorded of our claims as salespeople in social media, videoed presentations, recorded conference calls, emails and their attachments etc.

We  in the future IIoT era,may well  be exposed to the equivalent video clips of Mr Williams’ reports from 2005 that have now gone viral.

 Of course like journalism, selling should not be just be all ‘worthy’ vegetables. Buyers want meat in our presentations to them also.

However if our entertaining embellishment values outbalance our trust values  with clients business suffers.

Of course customers have their part to play in  making “reasonable demands”

An analogy  in this current UK election ( and many past elections).
Claims and counter claims of the main political parties in solving the country’s deficit through Harnack ( austerity) or  their opposite post- Keynsian economic principles cannot be reasonably be achieved in a short electoral period of five years.

 We as voters ( the consumers in this case) perhaps need to have  reasonable rather than overstated demands on politicians .

Come what may, salespeople up and down the country will play their part in the success of the country  following this election,whether acknowledged by politicians , electorate or not.

But maybe we should keep the embellishments under control a bit more.

Good Selling

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