A look at yesterday to see tomorrow. Past and Future sales.
Who made the first sale?
Eve sold Adam the apple. The first sale. A sale based on ethics, values and morality. Or was it just the opposite?
She had no sales tools, no power point presentations, no brochures. Eve was persuasive. She used her words and her body language, so to speak, to make the sale.
Skip ahead a bit to the early 1900’s. That’s where the beginning of selling skills, methods, techniques, and tricks, as we know them today were formed and documented.
A historical overview of the science of selling will show it began to be written about (totally from the male perspective) around the turn of this century. The word “she” or the female perspective doesn’t show up until the 1970’s. Obviously they had forgotten about their founder: Eve.
Sales, like any other part of Americana, has a history. To know where it’s going, often it helps to know where it’s been. Old sales stuff (pre 1940) has always led me to new ideas. My oldest sales book is from 1893. It’s about retailing, and says to honor the customer and back the house (company).
The early sales books were a bunch of observations about ethics, backing your company, doing your best, serving others, building relationships, telling the truth, deliver more than you promise, quality products, and working hard (referred to as plugging). That was the early 1900’s. Kind of sounds familiar.
The most interesting element of sales has been its ideological evolution. Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century everyone was nice, polite, humble, mannerly, and looking to establish friendships and relationships. That lasted about ten years.
Early in the century, traveling salesmen roamed America by train. Remember Professor Harold Hill, the Music Man? People were wary of “traveling
salesmen,” and would try to ward them off but these guys were slick. Persuasive. Selling snakeoil, lotions, potions, religion, rain, and anything they could get away with.
And they got away with (and still get away with) LOTS.
Then the doortodoor guys took over around the twenties and thirties. Everything from brushes to milk was sold and delivered as promised.
Women were the target customer of the early doortodoor era, and were treated with respect. Then salespeople found out that there was a way to talk that could persuade more or better than others. By changing their words, they could make more sales. Sales techniques were born and perfected.
Around 194050 salespeople and sales trainers began to heavily document and teach manipulative and sometimes deceptive practices. These tactics were refined and taught through the 1970’s, 80’s and even, sadtosay, in the 90’s. I refer to the early days of salesmanipulation as the “hoodwinking” period of sales. The “reputation” of the salesman began to emerge and for the mostpart, it wasn’t a good one.
But hey, you say NOT ALL salespeople and sales tactics are bad. True but that’s not how we judge groups of people in America we judge them by the actions of a few. A few disreputable used car salespeople, or home improvement salespeople and BINGO all salespeople are not to be trusted.
GOOD OR BAD, HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE: I’ve been a salesperson for more than 45 years (started at age 7) and have studied sales and positive attitude for 25 years. The conclusion I’ve come to is: If it weren’t for salespeople, the rest of America’s labor force wouldn’t have a thing to do. Unless someone sells something, nothing happens. No sense for the accountant to come to work nothing to count. No sense in the worker coming to manufacture anything nothing to make.
As a salesperson, if you take pride in what you do, you are on the threshold of building relationships. All you have to do is drop the manipulation.
GOOD NEWS: I believe we are now in a renaissance period of salesmanship. We are going back to the roots of the early 1900’s and once again focusing on the relationship. There has been a trend towards the role of the salesperson as a consultant and that trend will flourish.
BETTER NEWS: Corporate America is coming to the conclusion that relationships are valuable, and being seen as a commodity seller is a losing situation. They realized that if their salespeople (you) are seen as information resources, the customer will become a longterm value purchaser.
BEST NEWS: Your reputation and your ability to establish these relationships, is based on your actions. The best 21st century actions you can take are: Be a student of sales, and be a disciple of relationships.
HISTORY LESSON: If it’s true that Eve sold Adam the apple, consider these new truths:
The first salesman was a women
The first sale was a product not a service
And a huge myth is now broken sales is now “the oldest profession.”
Sales is a noble and misunderstood profession. It takes guts, personality, self discipline, the ability to accept rejection, and daily training to emerge as a topperformer. Tomorrow’s sales leaders will be 95% relationshipbuilding goodguys with white hats. That’s good news for people who need to buy things.
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Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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