Sales Mentality

Posted: April 2, 2007 in Advertising

Sales, marketing, and advertising are all part of a sphere of activity that I find, well, distasteful. Since at least as early as the 1950s, the advertising racket has focused on discovering and exploiting purchasing behaviors and the stimuli that affect them. Subliminal advertising was among the techniques that raised red flags among the general population, and it was summarily made illegal. Since then, market research and advertising have become so subtle as to become virtually invisible to the layperson.

For instance, color schemes, floor plans, scent machines, and music are all employed to boost sales in one way or another. Consumer trends are tracked and analyzed through the now ubiquitous “shopper’s card” offered by grocery chains. Inferior products are sometimes placed next to even worse products as a hedge: “look, that one’s even worse, maybe this one’s not so bad.” Sales guarantees like “find this product advertised for less and we’ll beat the price” are often offered disingenuously, as many large chain stores have products manufactured specifically for them, meaning that no one else can sell the same product at a competing price. Timed discounts and/or rebates create a false sense of urgency. And these are just some techniques that don’t involve interacting with people.

Face-to-face sales are frequently no better. Every competent salesperson knows how to ask repeatedly for small “closes” before asking for the final sale. Encouraging and complimenting insincerely (“that’s a good color on you”) for the sake of a sale is certainly not above most salespeople. When I last went shopping for a new car, all the used models were priced about double their expected take-home price, and the salespeople would simply not let me off the lots until I had looked at at least a dozen cars, including those that in no way fit the profile I had provided. It was clear desperation.

I once unwittingly attended a multilevel marketing recruitment. When I asked how one develops prospects, the answer was “anybody, everybody. Talk to people in line at the grocery, your car repairman, friends and family, etc.” Everyone becomes a walking prospect, a sales mark, for one’s own enrichment. The multilevel marketing folks also relied on the cult of personality, stressing heavily and repeatedly what an “amazing person” such and such manager/trainer was, as if better sales technique translated into better character.

An acquaintances of mine sells telecommunications and has learned to see everything in terms of the “deal,” where he must maneuver for the best possible outcome for himself. No generosity, no concern for anyone other than himself, and an inability to see any value outside of a financial end result. His worldly disatisfaction and frustration are readily apparent.

Maybe some folks are built for this stuff. I know that I’m not, and beyond a couple minor flirtations, I stopped well short of going into sales. I have nothing against commerce. At this point in our history, it’s a necessity to our material existence. But acknowledging that fact doesn’t excuse some of the more despicable practices that have become de rigeur in the marketplace. Why, for example, should I be aware that women’s pupils dilate and heartrates quicken when they go shopping, or that small ticket items like Coke, being red, draw consumers close in, whereas large ticket items like TVs are predominantly blue (blank screen or case) to be soothing and put people at ease?

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