Pressing the Flesh: Selling the Old-Fashioned Way

At the end of the day, my job at Colle+McVoy is to be a salesman. Alongside a team of likeminded communicators–and also dissimilar teammates because adversity sometimes breeds unique solutions–I sell services to clients. Sometimes I offer exactly what the client requested. And sometimes what I sell isn’t what the client wanted at all–until they see it.

With ten plus years under my belt, I’ve developed a style to how I perform my job. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But there’s no denying that salesmanship requires a certain style to be effective.

While in Cancún with Catherine before Christmas we visited one of the many flea markets that caters to (preys upon?)  tourists. As we walked through the covered halls to browse shirts, jewelry and trinkets, we were continuously accosted by stall merchants practicing their own style of salesmanship. Everything was in Spanish or broken English, but the gist of the come-ons was clear: come inside and see for yourself, we have shirts just for you, you like bags and we have them. My personal favorite: why don’t you just look inside for the hell of it?

Out on the sidewalks the stall vendors were so good that they even remembered us from one day to the next. Have you made up your mind for tomorrow’s itinerary? Perhaps NOW you’re ready to come dine with us?

These folks were all salespeople, and they were practicing their art in a way that was totally different from how I do my job.

True, a few of them were successful: we ate at the same restaurant twice because the maitre’d happened to overhear us talking about vegetarian options while perusing the menu from the sidewalk, and came up to us listing off on his hands the various menu items sín carne. And we ended up for dinner at a place whose maitre’d the previous night had jumped out of his car while he drove away from his restaurant, presumably after his shift was finished, for the sole purpose of “helping” us decipher his menu.

But the majority of the salesmanship we saw in Cancún was of a style completely unlike anything I practice at Colle+McVoy. And except for a few rare occasions it was a style that did not lead to purchase. And yet for the most part it brought a smile to our faces. “It feels kind of like we’re famous,” Catherine said at one point as we were strolling the marketplace.

And that’s ultimately the sign of a good sales effort. Sale or no sale: I, the potential customer, am important and unique. You, the salesperson, are glad I am here.

It’s something I’ve kept in mind since returning to the office again. A thread that is common across the spectrum of salesmanship styles, whether in a beachside flea market or at an ad agency in a major city’s warehouse district.


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