Written A Sell Sheet Lately? Someone’s Counting On It To Help Close A Deal

James Ledbetter of Slate says the nation is experiencing a “troubling disappearance of salesmen” and the “hollowing out of the middle class.”
Ledbetter spreads the blame around and he provides a backdrop for the changes.

In his classic 1976 book The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Daniel Bell discussed how sales–and its close cousin, advertising–were at the heart of the cultural changes of 20th-century America. For better or worse, mass consumption became the engine that powered not only the American economy but also its value system and psyche. Getting people to spend their money became a kind of secular religion that was necessary to overthrow an older Puritan order. “Selling became the most striking activity of contemporary America,” Bell wrote. “Against frugality, selling emphasized prodigality; against asceticism, the lavish display.”

It seems to me we need great sales people now more than ever. It’s just that we don’t need sales people to sell junk or excess, we need to them to sell what’s needed. And the list of what’s needed in the world is long indeed.
What is sales all about, anyway? Is it about convincing people to buy what they don’t need or want? No. Sales is about building trust and enduring business relationships. We buy from the people we like and trust. So where does this image of the huckster come from? It comes from all the people who try to sell us something each day, but never once consider the truth of what sales is–it’s service. Those charlatans are not sales people, and they’re not selling.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.