'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
THE WORLD’S OLDEST PROFESSION
They say the “world’s oldest profession” is prostitution. Well, that is simply not true. Before that particular business activity ever occurred, three things had to happen: (1) someone had to explain to a potential customer the benefits, advantages, and new features of the product and/or service; (2) an acceptable purchase price had to be negotiated; and (3) a delivery date had to be coordinated.
Which means the “world’s oldest profession” is sales. Prostitution is probably the world’s second oldest profession. Depending upon the quality of the merchandise and the state of intoxication of the potential customer (a sailor on shore leave, most likely), the three sales-related components of the transaction might have been discussed and finalized within a span of two seconds—but they still had to happen first.
A lot of people have very little respect for the profession of sales in general, and for salespersons in particular. Frankly, I can’t understand why. Selling is a noble profession. Think of it this way: all the products and services we enjoy today were first sold—at least once and often multiple times. Whether we’re talking about food, homes, cars, computers, clothing, life-saving drugs, or even the products and/or services often purchased by drunken sailors on shore leave (I’m referring, of course, to massive doses of penicillin), they first had to be sold.
Without the profession of sales and the many hard-working salespersons in the profession, our entire economy and standard of living would collapse overnight.
You may have guessed by now the main reason I hold the profession of sales in such high esteem is because it is my profession. I am a salesman, and darn proud of it.
Now, I admit, there are some guys out there who give our profession a bad name. Once in a while you’ll run across a fellow who swears the used car for sale was previously owned by a little old lady who drove it only to church. Then he quickly explains the “Hell’s Angels” and “Live Fast, Die Young” bumper stickers were simply a joke the lady’s sewing circle friends played on her, as were the oversized racing tires, the flame decals, and the bullet holes in the trunk.
However, the vast majority of salespeople are honest, hard-working professionals. You may not know it, but you are in sales, too. Regardless of your official occupation, you have to sell every day to be successful. You sell yourself and you sell your ideas. And frankly, many of you are doing a terrible job of it.
I’d like to offer a simple technique, known to all effective salespersons, which will help you immensely: Whenever you wish to make a sale, NEVER ask a question that can be answered with a simple “No.” Instead, phrase your question to give the potential customer two options, both of which assume the sale has already been made.
For example, after giving a detailed presentation explaining the benefits and features of a product, many rookie salespersons conclude by asking, “So, do you want to buy some?”
Even if you’re selling gold bars for two-dollars apiece, most people will instinctively answer “No” to that question. At that point the sales opportunity is as good as dead.
The proper question is, “So, do you want to buy a six-month supply, or would you prefer starting out with a three-month supply?” Or maybe, “So, do you want me to deliver it on Friday, or is Monday better for you?” Or maybe, “So, do you want me to post on the Internet the photos I took of you and your secretary at last year’s Christmas party, or do you want to give me a purchase order?” (OK, well, maybe that last one doesn’t quite follow the formula.)
Give it a try. I think you’ll see it’s a very effective technique. So, what do you think of this column, is it the best one you’ve ever read, or is it merely in the top five?
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