A certain stand-up comedian (I can’t recall who) does a routine, where he explains why many straight men are wary of being in the company of gay men. “Low sales resistance” he says.  He reckons that in the right circumstances, and particularly after a couple of drinks, most men can be talked into anything, whether they want it or not.  Witness for example, the guy leaving Richer Sounds hi-fi store heavily laden with boxes, when he only went in for a SCART cable, or the fella driving out of the showroom with a brand new BMW, when he only wanted a service on his old one.

Friends, I need to confess that I have been that man (not the gay thing; but I wouldn’t tell you anyway).  No, I need to confess that I am a sucker for a well executed sales pitch.  Having been through innumerable sale training courses, I can recognise a professional at work.  I know when I’m being empathised with, gently probed, fed open and closed questions at the right time, given alternative and assumptive closes.  I have had my objections handled, been given the sizzle, sold the features and benefits, and even been unsold the product (when a salesman refuses to let you buy something, as a challenge to your masculinity).  There are a group of sales guys in New York, who call regularly with stock tips, who have a fantastically persistent and ballsy technique.  Let me tell you this though, I love it.  I’ll often give the telesales person the time to make their pitch, and if they do well, I’m happy to compliment them on their technique.  Now I’m no star in this department, but in my time, I’ve been no slouch either, and I certainly know enough to admire a craftsman at work.  A terrible salesman/woman however sets my teeth on edge, and really makes me cringe in embarrassment for them.  It’s not unusual to find me picking holes in some lame pitch, or even prompting them on what they should be asking or saying next.

So here’s my problem.  I refuse outright to buy anything from a bad salesperson, as they won’t have earned it, and that would only be a patronising pity purchase anyway.  Even if I really want the product, and they are offering the best price, there’s no way they’re getting my business, unless I’m desperate; and even then I’ll register my objection.  Conversely, I am a sucker for a great sales pitch.  If I find myself admiring someone’s pitch, and that they are methodically and imaginatively going through the techniques I’ve learned over the years, I will open up a little, and leave myself vulnerable to a persuasive close.  This can make for some difficult explanations with her indoors.  The one I most regret recently, was with a certain telecoms company, where I really let my guard down, and found myself in a terrible contract, which was almost impossible to extricate myself from.  Lesson learned.

How about you?  How do you deal with good and bad sales people?  Do you make them work for the sale, or do you find it difficult to negotiate?


Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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