Birth of a Salesman
@3 July 1998

Nowadays I pay the rent, just, by working telesales for three hours nightly. Terrible pay, but I've learned how to sell enough pens and wallets to get by. The hype, the "targets", the "motivation" games, the "teamwork competition" etc. etc. are all just static to me. Inevitably though, you begin to try to figure out how the game works.

With telesales there is a large component of luck. That is, in any bunch of telephone numbers there are X number of sales waiting to happen, and if you do something wrong they won't happen. I doubt very much if I ever persuade anyone who wasn't inclined to buy in the first place. The X number of available sales varies quite considerably, and unpredictably, from shift to shift. Area codes definitely have some effect, but all sorts of imponderables, from the weather to ephemeral politics to what's on TV can also have an effect.

All the other variables being equal, I seem to be selling three things: 1. altruism, 2. value, 3. credibility, . Credibility is the great gift that the charity name gives, but my own presentation can enhance or undermine that. I'm careful not to pressure, nor make inflated claims.

Altruism is the face that most people like to put to the world: they want to be seen as generous to the needy. My job then is to offer them a vehicle for that altruism. Altruism can only be given, not demanded, so it is critical for my tone and expression to invite rather than hector.

Value is what the market will bear, and telesales is a random market: the marginal value of a dollar is much greater to a pensioner than to a successful businessman, both of whom I may call in succession. That is, each particular customer has a value-framework, which may or may not coincided with the sales contract which I wish to promote. My only hope if that value framework is out of range is to try to pin its elements down, and then reshape the framework for long enough to make a sale.

If my credibility is intact, then altuism is much easier to encourage, and the value message is much easier to transmit. This is because credibility is the password I need before the customer will allow me to tinker with his value-set.

Some purchases are made out of a value-base, and some out of an altruistic-base. The most satisfactory sales are those in which value and altruism fuse in the perceptions of the customer. Most people though, luckily for them perhaps, are enough in control of their lives to put a bottom line under all of this stuff. If they really can't afford it, or if the products really are of no interest to them, then that's the end of it.


All opinions expressed in Thor's Unwise Ideas and The Passionate Skeptic are entirely those of the author, who has no aim to influence, proselytize or persuade others to a point of view. He is pleased if his writing generates reflection in readers, either for or against the sentiment of the argument.

"Making It Easy To Be Good" copyrighted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2000

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