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  • Bigotry Against Businesspeople

    Posted by David Foster on April 23rd, 2012 (All posts by )

    Last week, long-time Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen published an extremely vitriolic column attacking Mitt Romney as “a man of falsehoods.” What I want to focus on in this post, though, is not the positives and negatives of Mr Romney, but rather the concluding paragraph of Cohen’s article:

    He often cites his business background as commending him for the presidency. That’s his forgivable absurdity. Instead, what his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self — that what he does is not who he is. This is what enables the slumlord to be a charitable man. This is what enables the corporate raider to endow his university. Business is business. It’s what you do. It is not who you are. Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.

    So, in Cohen’s view, the businessman’s “concept of self” inherently involves a separation of what he does from who he is…a more forthright way he could have put this, I guess, would have been to simply say that all businessmen are weasels. (It’s interesting that Cohen chooses to use the term “businessman” rather than the gender-neutral term “businessperson.” Does he believe that there are no female slumlords? Does he think women inherently lack the analytical skills and competitive spirit required to be a successful corporate raider?) Evidently, Cohen believes that businesspeople are much more prone to unethical behavior (“Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.”) than are, say, tort lawyers, college professors, civil-service employees, or the executives of “nonprofit” organizations.

    Of course, there is a long tradition of aristocrats looking down their long noses at those who are “in trade.” (Although I expect that average aristocrat’s view of a newspaper columnist wouldn’t be much more positive than his view of a storeowner or a factory manager.)

    Cohen is far from being on the leftmost pole of the Washington journalistic establishment, and that fact that he feels able to make such pejorative drive-by assertions about the nature of businesspeople, without the need to build a case for their validity, speaks volumes about the current climate of opinion among those who today identify themselves as liberals and “progressives”–ie, the controlling elements of the Democratic Party.

    A corporate executive who despised salespeople or manufacturing people would be unlikely to be able to run the sales function or the manufacturing function of his company effectively. There is no chance that politicians from a party dominated by people like Cohen–and much worse–will be able to supervise a free-market economy in a way leading to sustainable economic recovery and growth.

     

    37 Responses to “Bigotry Against Businesspeople”

    1. Bill Brandt Says:

      There is no chance that politicians from a party dominated by people like Cohen–and much worse–will be able to supervise a free-market economy in a way leading to sustainable economic recovery and growth.

      That’s the take-home quote David.

      Why has the Left had such vitriol towards people in business? You see it in Hollywood too with screenplays.

      As you say it explains their complete inability to run a country on sound economic principles.

      Over time I have come to believe that 9a) without wsalesmen nothing would run – or grow and (b) without accountants one couldn’t sustain anyt8ing and finally (c) without business people to guide all this the first 2 are irrelevant.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      “Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.”

      People say the same thing about journalists. Maybe Cohen’s statement is psychological projection. In any case this kind of poorly reasoned bombast is typical for him.

    3. John Says:

      Bill Brandt said:

      a) without wsalesmen nothing would run

      I agree with this, and also believe that in the end sales skills are the only skills that really matter.

      I’ve heard of engineers, for example, with bright ideas being unable to get them past management or accounting. (OK, OK, more than heard of…) The best ideas from engineers etc. aren’t the ones that get implemented, its the ones from the best salesmen among the engineers. However, even if the idea is signed off on by management and accounting, sales always gets the last veto. If they don’t, won’t, or can’t sell it it is doomed.

      On the other hand I have a deep seated antipathy to salespeople of all kinds. I don’t like dealing with them as a customer, I don’t like dealing with them as co-workers, I don’t like being around them socially. My attitude may have something to do with having an engineer’s mindset and a total lack of sales skills myself. I couldn’t sell ice cream in hell.

      Is there a sales college somewhere, or do you just have to be born with it?

    4. David Foster Says:

      John….there are zillions of sales training courses, opinions differ on their value.

      One model that I like classifies people on two dimensions, assertiveness and responsiveness, with the idea being that the excellent salesperson must be *both* assertive and responsive.

    5. Bill Brandt Says:

      John – for awhile – I went on cold calls all over California – for about 5 years. Never did sales before so I learned “on the job” though trial and error. I knew – with my small business – that I had to do it.

      You are right – that everything starts with sales – even among people who look down on sales people – liberal politicians – have to be good sales people to sell the snake oil they are peddling ;-) Everybody is in sales, whether they realize it or not.

      Things I learned:
      1. It’s a numbers game. No matter how I felt – and there could be some brutal weeks when I sold nothing – it all came down to numbers. I sold about 10%. Some days I would call on 10 and sell 5; other weeks I would call on 50 and sell – zero. But I knew overall I would sell 1 in 10. On days that I felt terrible I would still go out and talk to 10 people. Some days it surprised me and despite my lousy presentation that day , I would sign someone up.

      2. You never know who will buy.

      Failure to to understand these 2 rules are the reason most peo0ple are lousy at sales. Even among sales people about 10-20% do 80% of the business. I’ve heard story after story people people who came to a car dealership with cash, a bit shabbily dressed, and nobody would even talk to them. (see #2).

      Could talk about these 2 things for hours but gotta get to work now…

    6. Mrs. Davis Says:

      Over time I have come to believe that (a) without salesmen nothing would run – or grow and (b) without accountants one couldn’t sustain anything and finally (c) without business people to guide all this the first 2 are irrelevant.

      Me too. I just wish it hadn’t taken so much time.

      Sales is like everything else, there’s lots of mediocre performers. It’s just that mediocre sales people can so much more obnoxious than mediocre engineers or accountants. But a good salesperson is an artist, identifying the customer’s pain, determining how much it’s worth to have the pain relieved, educating the customer about the solution, and creating the desire to purchase. Or quickly figuring out the customer will not buy and moving on to the next prospect. They do make the world move.

    7. sol Says:

      Movies and plays almost always depict businessmen in the manner described by Cohen. This happens because the writers base their characters on real life models and the only models they know personally are executives in the movie and television industry. These are the people who invented hollywood accounting. These are people no honest business would every deal with. Which means the writers and actors have never met an honest businessman unless he was a victim of some hollywood swindle.

      So actors find jobs expecting to be screwed. Which happens. Then they look to the liberal politicians for protection and they get seperated from their money and screwed some more.

      In the real world businessmen deal honestly and fairly with their customers and suppliers and they (suppliers, customers and businessmen) all get rich together unless a bunch of crazy liberals use the power of the state to grab all the money for themselves. In that case the honest businessmen do business in a different state. Businessmen vote with their feet and currently they are leaving the shining city on the hill. Perhaps the last to leave will turn the lights out.

    8. David Foster Says:

      I expect that Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” has deterred many people from what could have been successful and lucrative careers in sales out of fear of becoming Willy Loman.

      Note especially this passage:

      “For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.”

      A lawyer, of course, *is* a salesman, in a very real sense: he builds cases, and sometimes presents them, in a way that will or could persuade a judge and/or a jury. What Miller is doing is to portray the lawyer as sort of an honorary proletarian, at the same time he is implicitly positioning him as inherently of a higher social class.

    9. Anonymous Says:

      Miller, of course, was the one who shrugged is shoulders at the fall of the Berlin Wall and said he’d been on the wrong side of history, then proceeded to write in the same vein he had for the rest of his life. Miller, of course, is the playwright who has only contempt for his characters – that work is really going to last. And it is Miller who never claimed his son, but put him away in an institution. The lack of charity in his art, his public life, and his private one are profound. And, characteristic.

    10. David Foster Says:

      In a book which I can’t find at the moment, there are some interesting remarks by a Southern plantation owner at some time prior to the Civil War. This slaveowner argued that his mode of life was superior to that of the Northern businessman, no matter how wealthy, because the Yankee had to be nice to people in order to get them to do business with them, whereas he (the plantation guy) was under no such obligation. (paraphrasing)

      Of course, his freedom to avoid being nice was not unlimited–a little lack of courtesy to someone of his own class, and he might well find himself facing a possibly-fatal duel.

      It strikes me that there is something of this plantation owner’s attitude in the behavior of certain academics and media people, who glory in their ability to insult the majority of their fellow Americans without consequences, but are very submissive to the few people who can actually have an influence on their careers.

    11. Bill Brandt Says:

      @David – could it be said that the Alec Baldwins today are the plantation owners of bygone days? ;-)

      They seem to have the same smug attitude.

    12. Jim Miller Says:

      Two Richard Cohen stories:

      1. He once called George W. Bush an “American Ayatollah”. (As far as I know, he has never apologized for that.)

      2. He was a big supporter of John Edwards, because he liked what the man said. (He made little or no attempt to look at Edwards’ actual record.)

      That said, Cohen sometimes writes a decent column, though it always comes as a bit of a surprise when he does.

    13. Michael Kennedy Says:

      ““For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.””

      The successful salesmen I have met usually know more about their product than the buyer. Many are engineers, Donald Douglas was a superb engineer who made a revolutionary product, the DC 2. Many competing aircraft manufacturers realized that a quantum jump in technology had occurred. The DC 2 was modified a bit to strengthen the landing gear and add more passengers and is still flying 80 years later. The DC 6 was another masterpiece but was overshadowed by another quantum leap, the commercial jet, which Douglas did not get quite right.

      The Constellation was another masterpiece but the jets put it out of business in ten years.

      Boeing figured out the jets but I don’t know enough about those companies.

    14. Bill Brandt Says:

      Michael – when HP started their salesmen were engineers. And it was engineer talking to engineer.

      I have found that true of any good salesman – they know the product at least as well as the consumer – usually better. A good salesman doesn’t sell something the customer doesn’t want – they fill a need. One should feel good about buying their product.

      And they know how to present it –

      I used to have as a business partner a Finnish woman.

      Stubborn?

      She wrote the book.

      And she had ideas that I well, I couldn’t understand.

      Like going to Tahoe to get a “free” weekend by sitting in some boiler room listing to some guy trying to pressure you into buying a timeshare.

      Finally all she said to him was, “If this is so good why are you having to try so hard to sell it to me?

      On the aircraft I always thought the DC7 was just a super DC6 – but it wasn’t – new engines that were far less reliable – DC7s stayed in the airline fleet only a few years before they found it economical to retire them in favor of the jet.

      And even the DC6 – look at that mainstay – the P & W R2800 – the complexity of that thing – imagine doing an overhaul and it is easy to see why turbines took over so quickly and completely.

    15. newrouter Says:

      “Does he believe that there are no female slumlords?”

      valerie jarret

      http://michellemalkin.com/2009/09/18/olympic-sized-boondoggle-what-valerie-jarrett-and-michelle-obama-are-up-to/

    16. David Foster Says:

      Jim Miller…GWB as “American Ayatollah”

      In 2003, Howard Dean (when running for the Democratic nomination) said that unless Bush was defeated:

      “Next thing, girls won’t be able to go to school in America. You watch.”

    17. David Foster Says:

      MK….re Boeing in the jet age, there’s an interesting book, “747″ written by Joe Sutter, who was the lead engineer on the 747 project. I thought I’d written a review of this book, but I see it never got out of draft form, so I’ll excerpt from the draft:

      Right out of school, Sutter was assigned to do aerodynamic work on the Boeing Stratocruiser, a piston-engine passenger liner that had largely completed development but was having serious difficulties. Sutter was given considerably more responsibility than would have been typical for his age and experience, in part because most engineers wanted to work on jets. Many years later, he got the lead engineering job on the 747 based both on his job performance and on the fact that most of his potential competitors for the job were more interested in the then-fashionable Supersonic Transport project.

      There’s a message there. The most glamorous job opportunities, as viewed in the light of current fashions, are not always those with the best long-term payoff.

    18. Percy Dovetonsils Says:

      …or the executives of “nonprofit” organizations…

      As I’ve noted here before, some of the most dishonest, sleaziest characters I’ve encountered were in my near-decade in non-profits.

    19. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I flew on a stratocruiser, which was a civilian version of the B 29 with a double curved fuselage. The DC 7 engines were the problem. It was an attempt to keep the DC 6 airframe flying a few more years. I once spent 13 hours on a DC 7 trying to get around weather in the middle west. We went from LA all the way to Texas and then up to Chicago with 7 foot flame plumes out of the engine exhausts all the way. It wasn’t until jets that planes could fly over weather.

      My mother, who was born in 1898, would not fly until the 747. She decided that anything that big had to be safe.

    20. Bill Brandt Says:

      My father – in the 50s – did a lot of business in the Philippines and about once a year he would fly Pan Am – on the Stratocruiser – all the way across the Pacific. I should have kept the flight bags he gave me.

      They were the same engines as the DC7 – and I think – the B29. And the Super Connie – all Wright R 3350. Powerful engines but troublesome. An acquaintance of mine who was a super Connie pilot – flying the predecessor to the AWACS – the EC-121 – would fly 14 hour missions and said many times he had to shut an engine down during a flight.

      A guy in our Car Club years ago – got a First Officer job with Emory Air Freight – flying DC8s. In the 60s and I think 70s if you were at the right window, a guy with a private pilot’s license could get a job with the airlines.

      Anyway Hank said something interesting about the DC-8.

      Compared to the 707 it is far easier to maintain – which is why you still see them flying – reengined for better fuel efficiency. At least they are flying cargo still where you hardly see a 707 flying.

      I think Boeing just got the jump in the market because the 707 came out a little earlier.

      Convair even had a competitor to the 2 – the 880 – they all looked almost identical although the DC8 was easily recognizable for the 2 air vents under the nose and the 707 had an antenna on the vertical stabilizer.

      Then too maybe the 707′s relative success can go back to the salesmen ;-)

      At the time of their introduction Boeing was hungry for the civilian airliner business and Douglas was accustomed to his large market share.

    21. Gordon Gekko Says:

      If you’re going to go around saying greed is good and touting Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” that compassion is immoral, don’t be surprised when people expect you to own it.
      What could be more tiresome than white-male businessmen whining about how unfairly they’re portrayed on TV?

    22. renminbi Says:

      The Stratocruiser was based on the B50 which was basically an up engined B29-the engine was the R4360, same as used in the B36. The early Connies used the R3350. The real trouble began with the 1049G Super Constellation which used the 3350 with turbo compounding as did the DC-7.These were more powerful and had much better fuel consumption and made non-stop transatlantic flight possible. There was however a problem-it was a mechanic’s nightmare and unreliable. The joke went: How do you tell a DC7 from a DC6? Answer-if one of the props is feathered it’s a DC7. Everyone felt much better when the jets came. An interesting book is “North Star Over My Shoulder” by Bob Buck who flew commercially from the 30s until the 70s. This gives one an idea of what flying was in those days.

      I have read airfare RT Tourist NY to London was $425.

      Great thread. It does seem our political and pundit class has some of the nasty attitudes toward us serfs as did the aristocracy in the past. Note though that the Aristos cultivated virtues such as courage, independence and often public service. Does our political Nomenklatura have any desirable traits? Well,they do service the public,but we don’t need that.

    23. renminbi Says:

      $425 in 1955- about $3500 today.

    24. VictorWhatsYourVector Says:

      Nice to know that some of the “looters” are reading and may therefore learn a little. …although, it appears that they may fall asleep due to the “tiring” nature of the discussion before such good may occur.

      I do concur with Mr. Brant on the “take home quote”: “There is no chance that politicians from a party dominated by people like Cohen–and much worse–will be able to supervise a free-market economy in a way leading to sustainable economic recovery and growth.”

      As an engineer that sells things, I find great joy in helping my customers be successful.

    25. John Says:

      Victor, and others referenced above…

      Can you fill me in on how this engineers selling things works? I’ve seen engineers who were better than others at selling things, or at least ideas, but that is only by comparison to other engineers.

      Put your engineer and another company’s sales guy in front of a customer… or your engineer and a sales guy in front of the CEO when deciding policy internally, and the engineer will get clobbered every time.

      I have seen Sales Engineers, who are always paired with an Account Executive who does the real selling and generally keeps the SE on a leash. But I’ve never seen an engineer, or even a technically minded person of any kind, go up against a true salesperson and win.

      I’m tempted to say that sooner or later the engineer tells the truth and scuttles the sale, but, while that happens, it isn’t as simple as that.

      PS.

      True incident, (though the details are foggy from the elapsed decades): I worked supporting a computer some years ago which featured a false claim on the box and in the marketing materials. This false claim drove thousands of support calls and created many unhappy customers. The support engineers couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get anybody to fix this mistake. Finally somebody managed to call a meeting with the sales and marketing guys. We carefully explained the problem. They denied it. We carefully explained again… They asked “who’s to say what that word means?” and again…. finally one of the sales guys got the look of sudden dawning understanding and he said, “You guys mean they find out it won’t work when they get it home? No problem, by then they’ve already bought it!” Now it was time for the engineers to be puzzled, or at least disguted, most gave up, others went back to trying to explain. The problem was never fixed on that particular product.

    26. David Foster Says:

      John….the problem you describe could have been prevented by a sales compensation system in which the reps were charged back for returned products…or by a senior management who was paying attention.

      I’ve known several people with engineering degrees who became successful salespeople and sales managers. Typically, they make the switch to sales when still pretty young. Sometimes the path starts with an SE role and transitions to actual sales.

      C P Snow, in his book “Science and Government” (review will be forthcoming) argued that the mental processes of the first-rate scientist were necessarily different from those of the successful high-level executive, BUT that this didn’t mean that good scientists couldn’t become successful executives…at a later point in their careers.

    27. Bill Brandt Says:

      John – in the case of HPs early days engineers from HP would talk to the engineers of the prospect companies. These engineers would then tell mgt what they needed and why. Just a pure exchange of facts and statistics. Why their product filled the needs of the customer.

      While I think HP got their start making something for Disney studios in the 30s – Fantasia? – they were really big in the medical field.

      I don’t think being an engineer is necessarily a prerequisite to being a good salesman – during IBMs golden years I remember them coming out to my father’s company to sell us a mini computer.

      First they were advantaged because “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” – they had the reputation. Their products had the reputation of being the gold standard – from typewriters to computers.

      They analyzed our requirements – then recommended the computer they felt would best serve our needs.

      The Series One – a completely modular computer.

      However –

      There happened to be 2 big divisions of IBM each with their own computer and each telling us that theirs was the way to go – the General Systems Division and the (oh I forget the other name now – Data Division? ) – but one dealt with the really big mainframes and happened to have mini computers – the other specialized in smaller business.

      The end result was that they were competing against themselves and confusing us.

      So we bought an HP 3000 ;-)

      HPs salesmen – like IBM – were more “factually oriented” and together with their after-the-sale service reputation, made us go with them.

      There were other companies – now all long gone, that would promise us the moon to get the sale. The legal term is “mere puffery” – going back 200-300 years. Which is a nice way of saying “I am detecting some BS here”.

      Anyone remember Basic Four? Data General?

    28. John Wolfsberger, Jr. Says:

      @Gordon Gekko Says:

      “If you’re going to go around saying greed is good and touting Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” that compassion is immoral, don’t be surprised when people expect you to own it.

      “What could be more tiresome than white-male businessmen whining about how unfairly they’re portrayed on TV?”

      If you’re going to write posts attacking straw men on the evidence of things people haven’t said, don’t be surprised when people ignore you.

      After all, what could be more tiresome than a leftist troll commenting on events occurring only in his private fantasy world?

    29. Bill Brandt Says:

      Sales is like everything else, there’s lots of mediocre performers. It’s just that mediocre sales people can so much more obnoxious than mediocre engineers or accountants. But a good salesperson is an artist, identifying the customer’s pain, determining how much it’s worth to have the pain relieved, educating the customer about the solution, and creating the desire to purchase. Or quickly figuring out the customer will not buy and moving on to the next prospect. They do make the world move.

      @Mrs Davis – good summary. While I considered myself to be a better-than-average salesman I attributed it more to perseverance – perseverance in talking to enough people – even when I didn’t feel like doing so.

      However I could never figure out which customers wouldn’t buy – some would lead you on and say “see me next time” while others – about the time you figure they aren’t interested – would sign the contract. I suspect that separates the really good salesmen from the others.

      There are a lot of mediocre sales people out there.

      I’ll tell you a funny story.

      My 90 year old parents asked me to go car shopping for them. One day my mother wants to look at cars, so I take her.

      We went to 3 dealerships.

      She was interested in one make but couldn’t decide between 2 of the models.

      She looks at the smaller model, sees how the console is higher than the seats and tells the salesman “Wally wouldn’t like this car”.

      Naturally said salesman asks “who’s Wally?”

      Wally is her dog, a little black Shih-Tsu.

      My mother said she preferred to have the larger model with the front seats more comfortable to the dog.

      Salesman seems a bit disinterested with all this (the entire scene was less than 10 minutes) but asks me for my phone number, which I give.

      He never called back and my mother decided to get that model 3 days later, at another dealer.

      Point is, you never know who will buy or sometimes even what motivates them.

      But the good salesmen listen as much as talk.

      That salesman would have had a sale if he had only followed up.

      I’ll bet you 8-9 out of 10 never bother to follow up and of that number one wonders statistically how many miss sales that they never knew they almost had “in the bag”.

    30. Bill Brandt Says:

      @John W – Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    31. David Foster Says:

      I needed to buy a car circa late 2010, and it was interesting…the sales talent was much more bimodally-distributed than I remembered from earlier purchases. Some of the salesmen were pretty good, on the level that might have been considered for a business-to-business sales job dealing with expensive products and complex sales. Others were unspeakably awful and were basically script robots, who for example asked multiple questions that I’d already provided the answers to at the start of the conversation.

    32. Bill Brandt Says:

      @David – I think – when it comes to car dealerships – different people like different kinds of salesmen. I have a friend who loves the “bare-knuckels” back & forth that has been the reputation of so many at dealerships. He loves the – how would I describe it? – stuff that drives most of us nuts.

      After a couple of hours dealing with both the salesman and the closer he was asked to leave a dealership – and don’t come back. (now that takes talent!)

      Most of car ‘salesmen” are no more than Wal_Mart Greeters who summon the closer when you are ready to buy. They aren’t what I would call true salesmen.

      I buy cars very irregularly – I have had my 2 25 year old cars for 23 and 15 years.

      But my favorite salesman was one who told me “We have what you are looking for (showed me the car) – would you like to test drive it? ”

      ” This is what we want for it. ”

      “Let me know if you are interested. ”

      He was a guy I wanted to do business with.

      With him, he was so nice I wouldn’t quibble over a few dollars in price.

      The pleasant experience more than made up for whatever I could have “saved” going my friend’s route (and who really likes that – on either side of the desk?)

      That was the kind of guy I bought my mother’s car from.

      Pleasant, business oriented, no BS. (bait and switch, pressure)

    33. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “I have found that true of any good salesman – they know the product at least as well as the consumer – usually better. A good salesman doesn’t sell something the customer doesn’t want – they fill a need. One should feel good about buying their product.”

      This reminded me of medical device salesmen. Years ago, my partner and I got called to a hospital where we didn’t have admitting privileges. It turned out that a surgeon was trying to implant a pacemaker and couldn’t get it to work. He and the patient were still in the operating room. Also present was the pacemaker salesman, who said “Am I glad to see you guys!” It turned out that he had been doing most of the pacemaker implants for this guy even though the salesman wasn’t a doctor and was breaking the law by even scrubbing in. When we finished, the ICU nurses were all excited. They said it was the first pacemaker they had seen work.

      True story.

      I did hundreds, maybe thousands, of pacemakers. Later in the 80s, cardiologists started doing them themselves. The pacemakers were more complicated than the old ones I did in the 60s and 70s but there was still a basic skill of getting the lead in position in the right ventricle. A friend of mine, who was a board certified thoracic surgeon but who claimed ignorance of anything about pacemakers, used to do a lot of cases with the cardiologists. He would make the incision under the clavicle and put the lead into the subclavian vein, then step back and let the cardiologist do the rest. One day, he wasn’t available so a cardiologist friend of mine, who would call me for general surgery cases but had never asked me to help him with a pacemaker, asked me to help him.

      The cardiologist, who had been a resident with me and who actually was my own doctor, spent an hour trying to get the lead in place in the ventricle. He finally said, “You’ll have to do an epicardial lead.” This meant a small incision in the chest and sewing the lead to the surface of the heart. He asked me, “Do you want to give it a try before we change the drapes?

      I did and, as luck would have it, I immediately got the lead in perfect position. Almost surely pure luck.

      He never asked me to help him with a pacemaker again.

    34. Bill Brandt Says:

      On the other hand I have a deep seated antipathy to salespeople of all kinds. I don’t like dealing with them as a customer, I don’t like dealing with them as co-workers, I don’t like being around them socially. My attitude may have something to do with having an engineer’s mindset and a total lack of sales skills myself. I couldn’t sell ice cream in hell.

      Is there a sales college somewhere, or do you just have to be born with it?

      John I apologize for taking so long to answer this but I can tell you I too have an engineer’s perspective in buying things – just the facts please!

      A good salesman will read me (by listening to my questions), and react accordingly.

      And you are not alone in being antipathetic towards most sales people. The reason is – most aren’t good and just try to push you to stuff.

      Good salespeople are so rare that in my opinion when you meet one – you remember them.

      And they sell all kinds of things.

      I remember a good 40 years ago – in San Francisco I was buying a pocket knife. Was it Shreves? (home of the $800 silver lunch box that sat in their window for 15 years) – wherever it was I go in, the salesman starts talking about the virtues of this particular Swiss Army knife, puts it on a velvet (purple) little pillow to show me. I should say, to present to me.

      A good salesman listens to you and recommends something based on your perceived needs. They don’t have to push anything on you. They help you solve a particular problem you have – whether it is a good quality pocket knife or a source for heart pacemakers (and an after-the-sale service reputation!).

      Well, needless to say, I was sold.

      Good salesmen build their clientele on service. Satisfied clientele recommend them to others.

      I remember reading some time ago a book by a legendary car salesmen, Joe Girard (http://www.joegirard.com/).

      I can’t even remember the book I read but he talked of something called his “law of 20″ (I am throwing numbers around; can’t remember his exact number, but to the point) – As a salesman if you treat someone well, they tell 10 friends over time.

      If you don’t treat them well they will tell 20. You know what I’m talking about – if you are mistreated you can’t wait to tell people. The 10 people eventually necome your clients – or many of them.

      A good friend of mine is a CPA from Hong Kong – came over here in the late 60s with nothing. You would not think of him as a salesman (you know accountant’s personalities) but he now has clients 400 miles – even across the country – based on referrals and how he has treated his current clients.

      And as I mentioned at the beginning of this thread, everyone is in sales, whether you consider yourself to be “in sales” or not.

      We try to sell our ideas, persuade people. How we have treated those people in the past determines how well we “sell” to them today.

      There are so few exceptional salesmen that when you meet one – you remember him (or her!)

    35. VictorWhatsYourVector Says:

      @John – A few thoughts on “engineers” vs. “sales” guys…

      If you are selling a commodity, the “sales” guy always wins.

      If you are selling a technical product/solution, then you are a “problem solver”, which tilts the table toward the “engineer” because we love to solve problems.

      In the rare cases where the only decision-maker is an engineer, or is technically oriented, you have a pretty good shot.

      Now comes the tricky part… The engineer needs to understand that many people have influence in any major decision, and that every single one of them has a different “problem” that needs to be solved.

      And, the next tricky part… The engineer must understand that many of these people’s “problems” are not technical in nature.

      But, you are not done yet… Whatever is purchased, will play a part in the ultimate success or failure of the customer. Taking the time to understand the customer’s business often allows me to lead them to discovery of a better statement of the problem (nerdy, engineer-type nirvana). This approach can often allow us to add significant value that is in close alignment with the customers core business needs.

      From there it is all basic “blocking and tackling”… Know your competitors product better than your own. Listen, listen, listen. Show your passion. Ask for the purchase order. Follow up.

    36. Bill Brandt Says:

      @Victor – I always found that no matter good the presentation if you don’t ask for the sale…..How many people did you know who had great presentations but sold themselves right out of a sale because they didn’t know when to shut up and simply…..ask for the sale?

    37. Percy Dovetonsils Says:

      Regarding the importance of sales, the WSJ had a review today of a book that might be of interest:

      “The Art of the Sale”

      http://tinyurl.com/7zm2ofe