Talking suckers into buying junk

My current addiction is Skyrim (a computer game for those of you who have real lives and responsibilities). In the game, certain characters perform the role of merchants, selling arms and armor, potions and enchantments. One of these virtual merchants has a pretty funny marketing line when you walk into his store and ask what he has for sale. He says, "A little of this, a little of that. Some people call them junk; I call them treasures." I enjoy this bit of humor because it speaks a truth about what many people believe is the nature of salesmanship: talking suckers into buying junk.

I understand that many people hold this dim view of sales, but I don't agree with it. Sure, con artists exist, but my lifelong experience teaches me that those kind of salespeople come and go. Their tricks and dishonesty are eventually exposed, and they are forced to move on. Meanwhile, the true sales professionals keep forging ever tighter relationships with their clients, building toward the only success that lasts - success derived from integrity.

So how do you know who is a sales professional, the kind of person who can help you with your organization? I have a few suggestions (shock!). First of all, a true professional is much more like a teacher than an auctioneer. They take time to understand where you are and what you need before hectoring you for money. They approach sales as educators. If they are selling business software, for example, they take time to clearly lay out the issues in their software that could affect your business. These issues may be positive or negative. Professionals make certain that you understand the benefits of their product, but at the same time, give you a realistic expectation of the costs, the time commitment and the impact on your customers if you purchase a product from them.

Think of the best teacher you ever had in school. What things did that teacher do to help you in your journey toward success? Does the sales person sitting across from you today remind you of that teacher? A good teacher will never give you junk and tell you it's a treasure.

Guest blogger Dennis Mathis is a long-time resident of the Four Corners who nurtures an interest in writing, marketing, technology, reading and business. About a year ago, he retired from a public relations job and is now formally self-managed. It is a harder job than he imagined it would be. He and his wife, Nancy, live in a log cabin near Lemon Lake decorated with birdhouses, and when the water is calm, they kayak along Lemon's graceful shoreline.