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Hurrah for Salesmen

by Humberto Fontova

Amidst all the odes to capitalism and capitalists on this site allow me one to the lowly foot soldiers of this glorious enterprise. Let’s toast the guys and gals who carry that bag and with that smile and shoeshine, look the free-market system point-blank in the face almost daily — if it’s not good fishing, golfing or shopping weather that is.

"Nothing happens until something’s sold" they say. Problem is, "they" always say this in a patronizing tone. "Awww those poor saps," they’re really thinking. "Those poor Willy Lomans.. How can they go through that? All that rejection? Let’s stroke them a little, put their name up on the front billboard and stuff, make them feel better."

If they only knew. After a twenty-year tour of duty on the front lines myself, I contend that (successful) salespeople are the highest paid screw-offs in the land. In the lucre-made- for- effort- expended department, they shame even musicians and actors — on average that is. But I’ve yet to meet one who was a Democrat.

Strange, hunh? Usually people who rake it in from ludicrous effort decide that capitalism’s "unfair" and champion pink or outright red politicians.

Forget the salesman stereotype. Forget the glad-handing, intellectually- shallow, self-deluding oaf with the Mr Haney accent of classic sales legend. Salespeople, on average, constitute the most sharp-witted, intellectually curious and well-read people in the realm of business today. Make sense actually — they always have the most time to read, not to say hunt, fish, and golf.

You’d be surprised, but nowadays Sales is largely a dumping ground for those whose intellectual curiosity, restlessness and voracious reading appetites saddled them with a degree (or even degrees) in the Liberal Arts or Humanities, and technical knowledge in nothing.

In the rest of the world these snotty pseudo-intellectuals go into Government work and harass businesspeople. Therein lies the problem of much of Third-World statism, regulation and poverty. Castro’s first government ( 1959-60 before he declared himself a "Marxist-Leninist") was infested with these vermin. The new European super state is already plagued by them. Here in the U.S. these parlor Mensheviks go into government work too, but not nearly at the same rate, though it’s getting worse every year.

But though our Government grows yearly it can’t keep up with the mass production of Liberal Arts graduates. So they herd into the private sector by default. 15 years ago they might have landed a job as a "facilitator," a "systems analyst," an "implementer" a "coordinator," or some such wasteful idiocy.

Here they’d put out reams of flatulent memos for us to immediately trash. They’d constantly herd us into conference rooms for endless indoctrination and humbug, squandering our valuable golfing and fishing time (I exaggerate, of course. Many of us wouldn’t be golfing or fishing, we’d be at Tiffany’s or the Gold Club with an open account and a handful of tens, diligently at work, doing more for the company’s bottom line than all the "facilitators" combined.) Worse, these vague administrators and managers maintained a degree of power over the people who actually made it possible for them to earn their salaries. Thus many remained Pinkos.

No more. Took a few years but the free market always flushes out freeloaders. Now they’re dumped into Sales and that snotty Pseudo-intellectual sneer, that disdain of "trade," gets wiped their mugs in short order.

But an amazing thing happens to many Liberal arts, free-spirit types when they enter Sales with a sigh and a grimace: they find the footloose, unstructured, unsupervised set-up ideal. Soon they discover what many Fortune 500 recruiters are just coming around to: there’s no better training for a life as bullshit artists than a curriculum which features nothing but essay questions. It’s ideal.

Talk about that "law of unintended consequences!" Turns out, four years of BS-ing your way through essay exams on Baroque architecture and Thomist philosophy (of expertly camouflaging your ignorance of the assigned reading that is) made you a top software peddler! Now you can expertly camouflage your ignorance of the product to the client!

By now it’s a cliche among salestrainers: product knowledge is the least important skill in selling. Delivery is everything. Same for passing the Philosophy, English, History, Psychology, Poli Sci or Sociology exam when you hadn’t cracked the book. Skim the dust-jacket, get a few buzzwords right, find a way to flatter the prof (especially if its his book) — bingo: B+

Successful Salesreps apply the principle vocally, to the gain of our Gross National Product Soon they’re picking up the tab for all their friends starving in the arts and academia. Nightly they festoon G-strings with their lucre in front of gaping friends who toil in office cubicles and banks.

Ex-teachers abound in sales. Journalism majors are legion. As a freshman, after a pitcher of beer, it’s nice to dream of covering a Capitol Hill news conference. As a senior you’re probably paying for your own beer, you’ve got your eye on that Lexus, and that starting salary at the Chigger Hollow Morning Bugle looks pathetic next to the draw against commission at Gulf Coast Sprockets or Reliable Insurance Agency.

English and History majors find that the life of a bank-teller gets old quick. The Peace Corps quicker. And Burger King assistant managers outearn any "editor" except those in Manhattan. Many of these wise up and start peddling.

Mencken wrote in Prejudices that his favorite dinner and drinking companions were always — not writers and assorted "artists" — but business men. "Because in their company you never hear any cant."