by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
January 18, 2001
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- Many people don't know what I do for my "day job," including several of my co-workers. When I'm not writing humor columns or donning a mask and cape to fight crime, I work in the marketing department of an export company. I also sell some of our products around the Midwest.
Occasionally, we exhibit our products at various trade show around the world, and I have a chance to attend a few. Over the past several years, I talked to many of the salespeople who also attend these shows, and I have come to one conclusion about salespeople all over the world:
We're all a bunch of damn liars!
Now don't get me wrong. With the exception of used-car salesmen, we don't lie to our customers. In fact, I am proud to say that very few people in our particular industry lie to their customers, because if we did, we would lose our customers.
Instead, we lie to each other.
Salespeople in general are a very competitive bunch. We always want to be a good salesperson. When we're a good salesperson, we want to be one of the best. When we're one of the best, we want to be the absolute best. The same goes true for the companies we work for, we want our company to be the best there is.
Nowhere can you see more examples of this competition than at a trade show. At any trade show in any industry, salespeople know each other, and have known each other for years. And salespeople being who they are, will constantly lie to each other about how well they're doing.
Imagine you're standing in your booth, you've just gotten finished talking to a very important customer (because no good salesperson will admit to having nothing to do at a show), and one of your competitors walks up. "How's the show going," he asks you. It's the typical trade-show conversation starter.
"Oh, we've been extremely busy," you answer. "People are constantly stopping by, we've had a lot of traffic in and out of the booth, and we've been non-stop busy just answering questions and providing quotes."
What else are you supposed to say? If you're a good salesperson, you will admit nothing else. Even if that statement isn't true, you'll still repeat it because you don't want anyone else to know that things are not going well. But just once - even if it's not true - I'd like to hear someone say:
"It's awful. It's like a morgue around here. No one has stopped by our booth, with the exception of one guy who handed us a notice about a new lawsuit. Everyone else is avoiding us like we're a colony of lepers, and our president was actually chased out of another hall by a crazed mob carrying torches and pitchforks."
But no one will ever say that, even if it were true. Why? Because salespeople lie to each other!
We even dance the same untruthful dance when we're asked about our annual sales. I have often posed the same question to other salespeople in other companies, even though I have some idea of what the answer should be. What I'm told is completely different.
"Sales are going extremely well! We just sold enough units to finance the Gross National Product of three developing countries, and have enough left over to buy a small island in the Caribbean. We've overtaken Microsoft as the most bloated Fortune 500 company in America, and we've just come up with a workable plan for world peace using apiece of string and a piece of metal I found in my garage last week."
But why do we say things like that to each other, you're asking? Because salespeople lie to each other! Not a single salesperson will tell you the truth about his or her company, even though sales are In the toilet, morale is not far behind, and the office building is ready to collapse from general apathy.
"It's just awful," your competition moans, holding his head in his hands. "Not only have we not sold a single unit in over 14 months, we actually have to pay money to our distributors just so they'll let us visit them. 70% of our customers have said they would rather go back to using a piece of coal and a slate tablet before they would ever buy one of our computers again. We've got enough lawsuits to pay off the national debt, and we just got a note from the tobacco industry that says 'Gee, we'd hate to be in your shoes right now'."
Let's face it, nobody would ever admit to anything like that. Even when Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates bumps into Apple CEO Steve Jobs at a computer show, he tells him that sales are through the roof because of all the free publicity the Microsoft anti-trust trial is bringing.
So why do salespeople lie to each other? Why all the half-truths, lies, and complete fabrications of reality? Could it be that our egos will not let us admit defeat in the face of the enemy? Are we so competitive that we have to appear better than our counterparts at other companies? Or is it really just the insecurity of appearing small and weak to others. I think it's a combination of all these factors, and even a few more. Other sales people just have some major personality flaw that won't let them be vulnerable to a potential enemy.
But not me. I'm secure in my own accomplishments as well as those of my company. I don't have to appear better than I really am to feel good about myself. I am proud of who I am, and am not ashamed to own up to my shortcomings. For example, our own plan for world peace actually involves two pieces of string, a piece of steel, and a Pez dispenser.