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Death of The Salesman

2009, I hope, will see the death of the salesman. And woman, of course. I’ve had arguments with sales experts over the years – people who argue that ‘sales’ is about helping people to buy what they really want, and that new disciplines like ‘consultative selling’ help the new generation of sales people to move on from the hard sell to really understanding their customers’ needs and adapt to meeting those needs.

But, really, if you think in terms of ‘selling’ and ‘sales’ you need to clear your head and start again, because you’re thinking in a dying paradigm born of a supplier-dominated world. We are in the Age of the Customer. If you do your marketing right, from the very start (right from product concept, that is) you shouldn’t have to do any selling anyway.

I was researcing something from Bertrand Russell to start 2009 for my leadership blog and came acros this from him, written in 1932 would you believe, on resistance to selling:

On Sales Resistance

“Throughout recent years, a vast amount of money and time and brains has been employed in overcoming sales resistance, i.e. in inducing unoffending persons to waste their money in purchasing objects which they had no desire to possess. It is characteristic of our age that this sort of thing is considered meritorious: lectures are given on salesmanship, and those who possess the art are highly rewarded. Yet, if a moment’s consideration is given to the matter, it is clear that the activity is a noxious one which does more harm than good…

…Everything economic is looked upon from the standpoint of the producer rather than of the consumer. In former times, it was thought that bread is baked in order to be eaten; nowadays we think that it is eaten in order to be baked. When we spend money, we are expected to do so not with a view to our enjoyment of what we purchase but to enrich those who have manufactured it.

…And so everything is done for the sake of something else. We make money not in order to enjoy what it provides but in order that in spending it we may enable others to make money which they will spend in enabling yet others to make money which…. But the end of this is bedlam.”

– Bertrand Russell, writing in the New York American, June 1932


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