Salesmanship and The Myth of the New Consumer

Salesmanship is, and always has been, a critical skill needed to drive advertising success. Sadly, it’s a skill that doesn’t come out of J-school or portfolio school. Perhaps that’s why a meme has developed telling us that “sales is dead” (so consumers must somehow osmose products into their lives).

The basis of this ridiculous claims seems to be that the internet puts consumers in control (and I’m sure that’s how they feel in this miserable economy). Even worse, we’re told that consumers flee to territory uncontaminated by commercial interests if anyone attempts to sell something to them. (For more on the mythology of the New Consumer check this link.)

Communication channels may change – but human nature doesn’t. The instincts to consumerism are as old as humanity itself. They may have begun with the first hunter who preferred one type of rock over another because it was more effective. Or with the primitive man or woman who rejected one fur in favor of another. Or perhaps with the family group that preferred a less functional cave over an exciting new one out of habit and comfort.

As people, we like choosing the things we surround ourselves with – it’s a fundamental truth of humanity. So a “New Consumer”? I don’t think so.

Salesmanship Is A Critical Advertising Skill. When communicating with Millenials, a dose of savvy salesmanship will dramatically increase your impact. After all, the best salesmen have never worn sharkskin suits or followed the stereotype of the polyester clad used car salesman. They are remarkably aware of their consumer’s needs and sell with skills that are in surprisingly short supply in advertising:

Interruption: The starting point of sales is knowing how to break into the consumer’s world and get their attention in a way that leaves them open to hear what you have to say. It’s quite a skill to master. And you can’t succeed without it.

Directness: “New Consumer” theorists seem to claim that you should first engage the consumer, then (very honorably) slip them a mickey in order to implant commercial messages in their subconcious. True salesmen & women know that it’s often most effective to simply and directly tell consumers what you offer and why they should care about it.

Listening: A great salesman is a great listener. Only when you listen well can you sell well.

Empathize with Your Consumer: Empathizing with the consumer’s situation, great salesmen are able to communicate so strongly with consumers that the consumer will take action and buy their product.

Know When to Shut Up: In my years selling supercomputers ($1,000,000 and up) I learned that knowing when not to talk is as important as knowing what to say when you talk. (Interestingly, success in new media seems to require constant chatter – like 13 year old boys talking about the details of a game they just discovered.)

While consumer utopianists tell us that selling is dead, the essential skills they recommend for succeeding online are mostly sales skills. Perhaps it’s mere ego that drives them to say silly things about salesmanship. Perhaps they don’t really know what selling involves. Or, perhaps anti-salesmanship is merely the hook they use to drive income – hypocritically hard selling the myth that selling doesn’t work.

Regardless, if you add smart sophisticated salesmanship to your advertising and communication efforts, you’ll sell far more and build a stronger brand.

Having said this, it’s time for me to sit back and collect the New Consumer Utopian allegations that I’m “out of touch”. That’s okay. We’re pretty busy right now with two national TV spot campaigns to finish – spots that drive tremendous retail action with my agency’s smart salesmanship approach.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

About Doug Garnett
Growing retail based businesses through television, DRTV, and all forms of video. Doug is a strategist, executive producer, director, author, & teacher.

3 Responses to Salesmanship and The Myth of the New Consumer

  1. Pete says:

    Absolutely on-target, Doug. The inside jokes that pass for consumer advertising today (not DRTV, which can’t afford to be cute, because it has to work, or die) are an incredible waste of the client’s money. Will they ever catch on that they’re being taken to the cleaners? Not till they’re about to close the doors due to the inexplicable lack of sales.

  2. Pingback: The Myth of the New Consumer « Doug Garnett's Blog

  3. Pingback: The Myth of the New Consumer | Doug Garnett's Blog

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