Is the Salesman Dead?


I attended a morning business breakfast this morning, a regular “club”  that meets weekly nearby and is a great way to remind one that people buy people and that there is nothing like personal contact to gain business.

Some people might be turning their nose up at this point and immediately rejecting the concept of business clubs and breakfast meetings, a general concept being that they are ideal for plumbers, carpenters, accountants and utility warehouse sales people. But attendance can have secondary values which I personally would encourage people to consider.

First you are up early and starting the day with a good breakfast, this energises the rest of the day and helps positive thought and deed. Secondly you get to converse one to one with other business people, hear their ideas, successes and failures which helps you focus on whether you are running your own business in the most successful manner possible. As a micro business selling photography I need all the interaction I can get on this front as it’s a very soloist business.

As with most of these sort of gatherings one element of a breakfast meeting is that everyone stands up and has 90 seconds or so to do their own elevator pitch. For those of you who haven’t heard of the elevator pitch it’s a 90 second presentation on what you do, the core features and elements of your business or service, the advantages you can offer a client. The scenario being that you have stepped into a lift to find either the buyer of a major organisation there that you wish to sell to or an employer you want a job with. You have no more than 90 seconds to gain their interest.

When you have to do a 90 second presentation every week to a core group that eventually know your main skills and services one has the advantage to branch out in one’s presentation and look at either specific areas of your business and highlight detail or one can try and surprise others with a totally lateral approach to one’s presentation.

I tend to favour a variety of the above options to keep the audience interested. After all if we hear the same repeated message day in day out it might well enter our subconscious memory but it also can begin to associate with over familiarity with the concept, or in layman’s terms – boredom!

I never know quite what words are going to come out of my mouth when I stand up for my presentation but I always try and have a theme or subject to mind and this morning as I was driving there mulling over whether I should be trying to promote my photography for event photography services, my portraiture, corporate photography or my family history services videoing people telling their life story and producing a DVD for a future family heirloom I passed a house with a garden chair outside with a large sign saying £10.00.

Now this struck me as interesting, it’s October, I’d just scrapped the first frosts of the year off my windscreen. Maybe this wasn’t the right time of year to be selling garden furniture. This made me consider the other aspects of the sale offer. The price was high for a second hand item of this sort, new options could be purchased for possibly less at the big garden. Lastly, if you were in the market for garden furniture, no expense spared, approaching winter, would you be looking along a busy country road with no possibility to pull the car in, park or stop?

So here was a sales proposition that was in the wrong place at the wrong time at the wrong price and that got me to thinking what is the right place time and location to be selling my services?


wedding truth
A misplaced sales proposition with a negative response.


It used to be before computers the best commercial sales were done face to face, door knocking on commercial estates and requesting a buyers name and compliment slip were the main stay of many companies sales techniques for gaining new business. For those with a budget to spend a trade show or industry trade fair stand were options and finally telephone cold calling wasn’t the evil that it is considered today.

There is no doubt that even in today’s computerised and digital world the old adage that people buy people, meaning that people will purchase from people like themselves is true. But the methods of getting that face to face contact has changed.

No longer are unsolicited phone calls appreciated, no longer will a company receptionist give out names at the door to cold calling sales staff. No longer will a telephone reception put you through to a buyer direct and more often than not one is offered a general email address that you know is either not monitored or generally ignored by a busy department so your message never gets through to the correct contact.

So what do we have today, email? Facebook? Linkedin? All forms of passive selling that seem to be fashionable at present. How many companies are setting up large departments these days to handle their output in these areas for what is a passive sales technique. How many companies no longer have people with the word Representative or Sales Manager as their title? Are we all afraid of selling these days? Is sales a dirty word? Are we all too afraid of saying no this is not what I’m after in response to a sales approach?

Over the years I’ve noticed many things go in cycles. When computers were first available for businesses every company bought one and as a photographer I was regularly requested to photograph a company’s system to show how modern they were. Later we had the invention of desktop publishing and many companies took their design work in house as it was possible with a little creative talent to put something together. Then the digital camera was developed and everyone decided they had the ability to populate their web sites with their own images. These are just a few examples of the erosion of the expert and the rise of the amateur doing their own thing.

All of these examples have come at a cost. The downgrading of quality of photographic images used by commercial companies, the in house produced web site with little interest or understanding for design. So are we in the same cycle for sales? Is it time for the rise of the sales professional to reappear and take back the lead of company growth and prosperity. Is it time for us to come out of the recession bunker attitudes and be looking at the trade shows to promote our services face to face to potential buyers? I think it is.

The proof is out there on the streets if you look. Banks are starting to restructure and promote that they are getting back to personal managers for clients. Breakfast clubs are getting interested enquiries from those wanting to talk face to face. Even insurance companies like the Prudential are starting to reintroduce a sales force to actually go and talk to potential and current clients to increase sales. Is it time you reconsidered your business sales strategy too?


The trade show – face to face contact.


As a photography and videography business I can see the resurge in interest for promotional material. The video footage for web sites. Having a talking head outlining a company’s goods and services. The promotional material needed to back a real sales staff force. In the form of photography of goods and services. The event photography coverage for trade shows and conferences to show that industries are open for business and want to talk.

This is the right time, the recession is at last passing, do you know your right place and price to do business today? Are you an open and receptive business to cold callers? If not what opportunities are you missing out on and letting your competitors gain an advantage over you?

So, if you get a cold call, an unsolicited email or pass a trade stand that someone wants to offer their services to you don’t hide or ignore it, listen and consider all be it for a minimum of time. And then if it isn’t of interest say no! There is no better way to get rid of a sales enquiry than saying not interested, it’s not only of benefit to you but also to the seller, they won’t waste their time or yours in future if there is no chance of a sale.

The cycle is turning, direct human sales is the fashion that is overdue to make a return and it will reappear like every other fashion with a slightly new twist. Be on the lookout for it in your business.

As a final note of interest, having made my presentation this morning on the relevance of selling in the right place at the right time and at the right price the garden chair turned out to be offered for sale by one of our attending members!



Brian Russell

Copyright 2013.