I’m a sucker for a good salesman. Makes no difference what product or the service. I just like to watch a really good sales pro in action. But they’re getting harder to find and are becoming a vanishing breed.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling nearly any effective professional a “salesman.” To my mind, it’s a totally respectable moniker. Lee Iacocca is one. So was Billy May. Rev. Billy Graham is another. Ronald Reagan comes to mind. Each with a message or a “product;” each with enthusiasm; each earnestly wanting you to take what they offered because you’d be better for the experience.

Even in the more mundane world of daily commerce in our lives – cars, furniture, life insurance, real estate, consumer electronics – a good salesman stands out. He or she is the person you look for at the store; the person you want to find because you know you’ll get good information, experience professional service and walk away fulfilled with whatever you’ve been “sold.” Salesmanship – real salesmanship – is both a talent and an art form. It’s a beautiful thing.

But, boy, is it hard to find these days! For example, Barb’s getting ready to buy a new car. So I’ve been casting about on the Internet and phone to see what we can do. Four calls made. Four calls not responded to. Young fella up I-5 called, said he was the dealer’s I-net “customer service” representative. Took my information and said he’d respond with an email quote within the hour. That was two weeks ago.

Tried to buy a car in our little town a few years ago. “Salesman” had been with the company more than 20 years he said When it got to numbers, not only were they unacceptable, so was his stated attitude that “the dealership has to make a profit, too” and we should consider that in pricing. We bought out-of-town where there was some major market flexibility in choice and price. When I went in for service a few months later, he loudly upbraided me on the sales lot with customers and sales people in earshot. He wanted to make sure I knew selling cars was how he made his living, he had invested his time with us and we “owed him” the sale. “Owed him?”

The “investment advisor” in our area, assigned by the national company that holds my retirement annuity, says he can’t “advise us” because we won’t sign a contract for his other retirement planning services. I’m retired. It’s too late to plan. I just need to be updated on changes in my own plan. He can’t – or won’t – do that. A company I’ve been with for more than 20 years.

A young local fella trying to sell us his services to do some plumbing work we needed made a good sales presentation. We signed him up. Before he finished the work, he criticized how we had positioned our home on the acreage, told us our landscaping was wrong, added materials not covered in his bid and presented us with a higher bill.

A good salesman – a really good salesman – instinctively knows that whatever the goods or services in question, what he/she is really selling is himself/herself. Lots of people sell houses, cars, insurance, boats, carpet cleaning, furniture and swimming pools. When we go to their place of business, we are buyers. We know what we need or want. So, all that’s necessary to have a successful experience is someone who knows that, knows the merchandise or service, is both persuasive and enthusiastic, and who makes us feel we are the reason that person is in business. It’s really very simple.

Politics requires salesmanship, too. Enthusiasm and product knowledge are key. So is a personal appeal to the voter/buyer that our interests are his interests. What we get, far too often, is a change of message after the deal is closed – after the election – that “If you knew what I know you’d agree with me.” Salesmanship? Or bunko?

A good salesman – regardless of product or service – is one who gets us to do what we wanted to do all along but the reason we acted now is because of his/her knowledge, positive personality, enthusiasm and leadership.

Because we are a technology-driven society, becoming more and more linked to electronic tools rather than human interaction, really good salespeople are going to be harder and harder to find. We are being forced into a “check-the-box-on-the-screen” method of buying and away from the professional one-on-one presentation with a handshake at the conclusion.

That may be more efficient for the seller; may be a better use of the marketer’s dollars. But it makes for a colder and more impersonal marketplace for we consumers. I don’t want to just be happy with the new HDTV. I want the feeling – that good warm feeling – that a professional did the very best he/she could do and invested part of their own life in our satisfaction.

That’s real salesmanship. That’s really being SOLD!

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