Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lies, damned lies and selling

If you watched the Bird and Fortune pieces in the last edition of TMP, then you will know most of what you need to know about the credit crunch. Pay attention in particular, to the references to the amoral commission-based mortgage sales people who started the chain reaction on the rickety porches of Alabama in the first place.

Although we live in a world of unprecedented access to information, education - and dare we say it - regulation - there is one "profession" that exists where the highest fliers are all too frequently the biggest liars: sales. Just about the only "qualification" required to be a salesperson is the ability to sell. So rare are "good salespeople" that blind eyes are traditionally turned by those desperate to rake in income without worrying too much about the small print. Over promising and under delivering is rife, "little white lies" are commonplace.

The fact is that all to many successful sales people tell lies in order to close sales. Their hapless victims are part of an age-old battle of psychology and wits that means a customer is at the same time bamboozled, bullied, pressured and flattered, and frequently too embarrassed to admit to have "fallen for the oldest tricks in the book" to want to admit their gullibility. The very best sales "artists" somehow manage to convince their marks that by buying from them, they somehow become part of the aura of success of that seems to accompany a rampant salesperson.

Mel Brooks' classic comedy of sharp financial sales technique, "The Producers", summed it up pretty well. However, Bialystock & Bloom raised their game even further, and sold the same thing many times over... which handily brings us back to the sales of toxic mortgages as they progressed through the hands of ever more dishonest and skilled salespeople, and on to more stupid and unquestioning customers.

But be they impresarios, mortgage salespeople or politicians peddling themselves and their ideas in the course of doing just about anything gain or retain power - the fact they tell lies is taken for granted by a large chunk of the population: "well, he/she's a salesman - what do you expect..?" We all know that estate agents and politicians are obliged by their code of professional honour to be as economical as possible with the truth - but when it comes right down to it, everyone is a salesperson. We all try and sell opinions and ideas - and ourselves - all day long.

Despite the experience of many lifetimes, no one really learns, and many people selectively hear what they want to hear. And the result is frequently a self inflicted disaster in the shape of repossession, or an inept government comprised of politicians ready to do/say to sell the idea that they know best - where the reality takes an entire country to cleaners.

Think back to the last time you lied about something: TMP will wager that you were selling something to someone.

No comments: