Couch Cat: Hats off to sales people

26 July 2019
Author   Jackie Wilson-Asheeke
All my life I have dreaded asking people to buy something from me.  I feel that the ‘asker’ is in the weaker position vis-à-vis the potential ‘buyer’ and that means that those seeking sales have to swallow some yucky powerless pills, just to get the money flowing.
  And yet, sales and marketing are vital.  I give a hats-off salute to all sales people because they accept hang-ups, delaying tactics, negative responses, rudeness, arrogance, abject dismissal, and various brush-offs every day. 
Back when I was in grade school, I was a ‘Brownie’ (like a junior girl scout) and would have to sell cookies as a fundraiser every year.  In high school, annual project money was made by forcing the students to sell chocolates (DeMets ‘turtles’ – chocolate covered caramel pecan clusters).  Then there were church raffle tickets to be sold for the benefit of the building fund. 
On top of that, I had an after-school job at a cash register in a McDonald’s where we were forced to ‘suggestive sell’ items on promotion (“Would you like an apple pie with that?- they would answer:  “If I wanted one, I would have asked for it!”).
I used to unsuccessfully beg my parents to save me from the nightmare of having to sell things.  But they insisted that I had responsibilities to uphold and lessons to learn.  I still shudder at the memory.
I stood outside of church and hit all the old people with my sales pleas.  I figured older people would receive my smile easier and not insult me.  The grey-haired women pitied me and bought whatever I was selling.
The older men would buy, but get loud in doing it.  “Well young lady, what have you got there?”  They would boom this question like they were addressing the masses of the people.  That made me shrink in embarrassment as all heads would turn to see what the fuss was about. 
Reluctantly, I admit that being forced to sell stuff as an adolescent, made me grow a thick skin, learn about the ‘gift of gab’ and allowed me to gain self-confidence.
In my professional career, I drew on those hard-won sales and presentation skills from my past. 
Comprehensive homework about whatever I was promoting AND knowing my clients’ priorities was super important.  I carried fact sheets to hand out, answered promptly and looked the person (or the audience) in the eye while smiling honestly, but not grinning like an faker or idiot.  Mostly, I learned how to think fast.
I learned to make sure I looked presentable when approaching people or audiences.  If you look desperate and unkempt, few will buy anything you are selling.
When people said ugly things in response (“go bother someone else” or “your ideas suck”), I learned to suppress my rougher ‘hood’ instincts, smile and say: “I appreciate your point of view,” and walk away. 
Throughout my career, I used those sales and presentation skills to raise financial resources and other support and gain professional successes. 
These days, I hear the advertising and sales people at our newspaper as they send out countless quotes and call people repeatedly and I greatly respect their tenacity.  The huge turnover in those staff positions says that reaching sales goals is never easy. 
Hats off to all who work in sales and marketing!


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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