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The Greatest Sale... I never made


Answering adverts for work has always held its challenges. You often know nothing about the potential employer except that they will be attempting to sell themselves to you. That means they will tell you about their good bits and downplay their bad.

Years ago I answered an advert to work for a well-known publisher of encyclopedias. Although there was no basic pay there were huge opportunities to earn shedloads of commission by following their sales training. I could become a successful Sales Associate. On my first day, I found myself in a small third floor room in a house in Soho. It was packed with fifty young undergraduates just like me, with one key difference - most were male.

I listened hard to their “Art of Sales”: Make your point, obtain commitment that your point has been heard, understood and accepted – confirm and move on to the next point. Do not proceed without confirmation at each stage. Repeat the process six times and the Sale would be successfully closed, with a set of twenty encyclopedias sold. Well, I thought, this makes a change from waitressing – I’ll give it a try.

My Area Sales Manager drove me to an area in North London in the back of a Porsche sports car. We arrived at a council estate where the Sales Manager sent me to go find customers and off I went with my script tucked under my arm. I knocked on a door. It was a dark winter evening, and the occupiers did not know me. Even though I had arrived without appointment, they invited me in to sit by their fire and offered me tea. 

They were young, recently married, and hard up. Their baby was asleep in their sitting room, nappies drying on the radiator.  We talked with lowered voices about the future they wanted for their newborn child and the educational opportunities they wanted to provide – obviously the best.  

And, yes, after taking them through the defined sales process they definitely would like a set of 20 black bound encyclopedias for £1000.00 plus VAT and 50% off the children’s edition to go with the package makes £1500 plus VAT - 40 books in all. They were sold. It was all too easy. I was horrified at my success. I had to ask them – do you have a mortgage, any spare money to pay the cost, even in installments? Where in your two-room flat will you put 40 large books? Now we had struck a truth. I helped them reverse out of the contract and thanked them for the cup of tea, hospitality and time. I was proud of my behaviour. Anyone with a shred of decency would agree I had done the ‘right thing’. 

Returning to the car I explained to my manager how I had made and unmade the sale. My news was met with eye roll and shocked disbelief.

Safe to say that it was my last ride in the Porsche. But it was tough American style psychologically-based sales training I had received at no cost. Plus, I had used my personal freedom to live according to my own beliefs and learned that such thinking does not win immediate thanks, reward or admiration. I was twenty-two when I made this hard sell - and withdrew it. It’s a proud memory. 

When I look at the young people who register with our company today, it reminds me that however intelligent, knowledgeable and apparently sophisticated this 2017 group may seem, they are vulnerable to sales pressure and making poor choices.

That is why for forty years we have trained consultants to assist candidates make decisions according to their underlying values, informed by long-term aspirations and cultural needs against the seduction of superficial temptations. 

The integrity of our advice has created business relationships with candidates and clients and remains our strongest survival weapon in a world of disruptors.  And that important learning cannot be looked up in an encyclopedia or Google.

Angela Mortimer

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