Sales Villains! – Changing the Face of Sales

by | Dec 12, 2019 | Business Strategy, Sales Leadership, The 5 Principles of Sales Excellence | 0 comments

Sales Villains! – Changing the Face of Sales

Sales Villains! – Changing the Face of Sales

If your entire knowledge of the sales industry is gained from watching TV programmes, it is hardly surprising that you may have a rather negative opinion of both sales and sales people!

Sales and selling, as we mentioned in the previous article, has been around since the dawn of humanity. In fact, it could be said to be the second oldest profession (we’ll leave it up to you to work out the oldest one…but suffice to say that includes ‘selling’ too!). 

The how and why sales is portrayed so negatively is probably something worthy of a PhD thesis, but for now, let’s just have a quick trawl through the stereotypes we are (still) being shown on TV and films that may influence the way sales people are perceived.

Arthur Daley

Mr Daley (played by the late George Cole) was the lead character in ‘Minder’, a series that started in 1979 and ran for some 107 episodes before finally ending in 1994.

Charitably described as a lovable rogue, he was in fact the epitome of a dodgy salesperson…’a Cockney wheeler dealer’ in fact. Ostensibly a used car salesman, he also had a garage full of tat which he attempted to sell onto the unwary.

This quote from the show demonstrates perfectly the type of approach to sales that we are keen to see the back of:  “You make contact with your customer. Understand their needs. And then flog them something they could well do without.”

‘Del Boy’ Trotter

Another ‘cheeky chappy’ Derek Edward Trotter – aka Del Boy – played by David Jason, was the lead character in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ which ran from 1981 to 1993. It was resurrected in 2001 running for a couple more years and had a one of special in 2014 for Sports Relief.

Del Boy was a self styled businessman, a market trader running ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ from a suitcase or the back of his Robin Reliant car. 

He believed he could sell anything to anyone and had absolutely no qualms about how a sale was made (or even what he was selling).

Famed for his scams, which included selling bottled tap water and calling it ‘Peckham Spring Water’, Del Boy was the eternal optimist…’This time next year Rodney we’ll be millionaires’.

He never saw himself as dishonest.

Albert Arkwright

Staying this side of the Atlantic, Albert E. Arkwright may not be a name you recognise immediately – say ‘Open All Hours’ though and you’ll know who we mean.

Arkwright, played by the late Ronnie Barker, was a miserly Northern shop keeper with a penchant for ensuring no one left his shop without buying something, anything…even if they didn’t want whatever it was they ended up purchasing. He was assisted by his hapless nephew played by David Jason.

Crafty – dishonest even – he may not be the archetypal slick salesman, but he ably demonstrates the ‘Arthur Daley’ school of selling…’flog em something they could well do without’!

‘Open All Hours’ was resurrected with David Jason having taken over Arkwright’s shop following the death of his Uncle. He continued the tradition of ensuring customers never left the shop without buying something…the ultimate trickster salesman, very much in the tradition of the ‘Snake Oil Seller’ we talked about in the previous article!

Stateside Sales ‘Villains’

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ is a 1987 movie that delved into the murky world of stocks and shares. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) has the immortal line ‘greed is good’ and the whole premise of the film is that anything goes in order to close a sale…

Taking the stockbroking theme even further ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ was a 2013 film chronicling the true story of Jordan Belfort, his career as a stockbroker and how his firm, Stratton Oakmont, engaged in rampant corruption and fraud. 

Belfort practiced ‘hard selling’ techniques which duped investors into parting with cash to buy stocks, thus inflating the value of said stocks. His company would then sell the stocks they had previously purchased at low rates – earning $millions in the process…

‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ is a 1992 movie about the ruthlessness of hard sales. Four salesmen pitted against each other and vying to close sales, whilst motivated mainly by the fact that their jobs are on the line. Nothing is ruled out in the desire to make a sale – morals are chucked out of the window in the quest to close.

What about ‘Reality TV’?

One current TV show which really, really does no favours to the sales profession and those who work within it, is ‘The Apprentice’.

The contestants are seemingly encouraged to put ethics and personal morality behind them in order to ‘win the prize’. A philosophy which harks back to the worst sales techniques of the 1980s.

Common Themes 

There’s countless more TV shows and movies which portray sales in a poor light, including a relatively new production called ‘White Gold’, a UK production about double glazing sales in the 1980s.

From the mundanity of a grocer’s shop in the north of England to the glamour of Wall Street in the 1980’s, there are key similarities in the portrayal of sales people:

They are predominately male

They are liars (or at best deceptive)

They are unscrupulous

They are slick

They don’t care about their customers

They are in it only for themselves

Let’s quickly go over these points:

They are predominately male

Not so very long ago, this may well have been the case as sales wasn’t perceived to be a career that women would want to enter, let alone succeed in. Actually, until relatively recently, sales wasn’t really recognised as a career at all. 

The hard sell, do anything to make a sale methods employed in the 80s and 90s were very much suited to a masculine way of doing business. Competition over collaboration is a very male trait and could partially explain the relative lack of females in the industry.

Times have changed however, and there are some VERY successful female sales people and entrepreneurs out there, doing things their way.

They are liars

Now this ‘myth’ doubtless has its origins in Snake Oil selling! 

Whilst lying about the benefits of a product may have worked in the days when you could high tail it to the next town before your customers found out they had bought a pile of rubbish; these days, the internet and high speed comms means that a sales person who makes up stories about the efficacies of the product WILL be found out.

Do sales people who lie still exist – probably, but they will be uncovered.

They are unscrupulous

Yes, there are perhaps some people who (in the words of some of the contestants on The Apprentice) ‘would sell their grandmothers to be successful’ but, as per the above – there are fewer ways to hide this kind of behaviour thanks to the way the world is connected today.

They are slick

This seems to hark back to the car salesman persona, or perhaps the insurance sales people of the late 80s and 90s…the suited and booted individuals who put appearance over product knowledge and customer empathy.

They don’t care about their customers

In the commission only environment of certain sales sectors, it’s not hard to see how this perception would arise. Look at the movie mentioned above, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, did any of the individuals selling stock in order to raise the price and make a killing for themselves, really care about the small time investors they conned? Probably not – they were all more interested in competing against each other to make more money!

They are in it only for themselves

There’s no doubt people existed (still exist) who only work in a specific role for what it can give them personally…and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that – we all work to earn after all.

However if money, flash cars and power and its associated prestige are someone’s main drivers then they may indeed come across as ‘only being in it for themselves’.

Shattering these Myths

We’ve said it before, but Steve Knapp Sales is on a mission to change the face of sales. 

Sales is chocked full of myths and stories about the way sales should be conducted…

As we enter into the second decade of the 21st century, it’s way past time that the sales industry moved away from the practices of the 20th century and caught up with the values and ethics of this era.

Times have changed, and in fact as millennials rise into positions of power within business, they will change even further. 

No longer will it suffice to rely simply on a never ending churnover of sales staff with limited knowledge, training or ability.

Your sales teams need to reflect:

  • Authenticity
  • Trust
  • Knowledge
  • Your company culture

They need have empathy and understand your customer’s buying journey.

Whilst some individuals have always been said to have a natural gift for sales, perhaps it’s time to recognise that actually their gift may simply be that they tune in to the prospective customers. They are able to get on their wavelength, understand the pain points and really LISTEN to what is being said.

Instead of pushing a product or service, they enter into a two way conversation. They HEAR what is being said and they aren’t formulating a response whilst ostensibly listening to the other party. 

If sales is to permanently move away from the poor (and often deserved) reputation of the past we all need to see there are better ways to sell – ways that work in the best interest of ALL parties.

If you want your business to grow in a sustainable fashion it is imperative that you take a long hard look at your own sales processes and teams…you can be sure your competitors will be doing the same thing. Failure to keep up with the changing face in sales could mean the ultimate failure of your business.

To read more of Steve Knapp’s teachings and thoughts on Sales pick up your copy of Funnel Vision Selling Made Easy today on Amazon.

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