Careers 27 feb 2015

Proud Salesman


When I finished my Bachelor studies I got a couple of job offers from various recruiters. Most of those jobs were sales related as I already gained some experience in that field. The funny thing about it was, that I didn’t know it was sales until I had the first telephone interviews. I didn’t know because those jobs had job titles like “Business Development Manager”, “Junior Country Manager” or “Country Representative”.

This made me wonder why nobody calls a salesperson by its name but rather gives them fancy job titles which nobody understands. A project manager manages projects, a recruiter recruits and an accountant does accounting. However there are loads of people who do selling, you’ll barely find one who has “Salesman” written on his/her business card.

So I became curious. To find out what is the problem with calling a salesman a salesman. I did a little research on Facebook. Basically I asked my friends to give me three words which come to their mind describing a typical salesman. A few answered with words which I would love to attribute to myself, like: active, hot, friendly, confident, very good looking and talkative. But on the other side the majority answered those feature: annoying, havetoignoretheircalls/yells, pushy, sleazy, sly, talking bullshit, selfish, aggressive and knowledge lacking.

I think the second set of words gives a hint why salespeople are not called “salespeople”. But is that a decent strategy? And if so, for whom is the message? Does the salesperson not want to be called “salesperson”, or does anyone think a different job title would increase the trust which is given to the person? If it is for the person who is carrying the title, I am sorry. I am sorry that one seems to be ashamed for doing his/her job. That is sad but everyone has to know for him/herself. On the other hand, if it is for the potential customer, I have my doubts if that actually works out.

During the time I did telephone acquisition I started my calls usually with a sentence like “Hello I am Marcus Hülsdau from Company X and I would love to speak with the person responsible for Y as I am a salesman with a good offer for your company. Would you mind to put me through?”. The one most important thing in sales is trust. If you want people to trust you, your goals should be clear from the very beginning. That’s why this very open and direct starting sentence worked best for me.

Salespeople have, unluckily, a considerably bad reputation. However, hiding it with a fancy job title won’t help as you have to show at some point your intention. That is, if you are a salesperson, to find the right customers and sell the hopefully great products of your company.

Professor Deepak Malhotra said in his speech to the 2012 graduating students at Harvard Business School the following sentence: “If we create more value than the money we take home, we are on the right track. If we take more money home than value we create, then we are unintentional thieves”. I would like to rewrite this sentence for salespeople:

If our product is for the customer of more value than he pays for it, we are on the right track. If he pays more money than it is of value for him, then we are unintentional thieves.

All those bad features my friends listed which should describe salespeople didn’t really describe salespeople but unintentional thieves. Let’s not make the mistake to call those thieves salespeople and salespeople whatever job title we can invent. After my graduation I will look out for a cool StartUp company to do sales for them and on my business card will be written “Marcus Hülsdau –Salesman” or even cooler “Proud Salesman”.


Original Post Written by Marcus Huelsdau on February 27,2015

4 Responses to “Proud Salesman”

  1. Marcus, We hope that you keep in touch after you graduate. Maybe you’ll find your cool start up here at KU or through the alumni network? :)

  2. Sure thing I will :) Once Kozminski, always Kozminski!

  3. Worth reading!
    I think the discussion gets even more interesting if we add the dimension of “what are we selling?” and “to whom are we selling?”.

    In my opinion in the sales process of complex technical solutions in a B2B environment the simple job description of “salesman” may fall short of what is actually done by these guys. It often goes beyond the simple transaction of money against a product/service. In these cases, I have no problem with calling somebody a “Client Solution Representative” or whatever.

    Nevertheless, I got your point and agree that Sales is an area with many opportunities but an image that could be better ;)

  4. Hey Fabian,

    Thank you for your input. I definitely see your point, however would disagree to a certain degree. I do not think that a salesman ever simply did the transaction money against product. This is probably rather the job description of a cashier.
    Additionally I would argue that this simple transaction will vanish as a job anyway due to further automation.

    And as a last point, I think that the vast majority of jobs gain in complexity, however keep their names. I volunteered over the last few month in an elementary school and observed what a teacher actually does. It is by far not the “simple” transfer of knowledge. The job of a contemporary teacher is to raise the kids, take care for their social problems, maintains their emotional well-being and so on and so forth. But I doubt it would make sense to call him now “Children’s education and well-being officer”.

    He is still a teacher and takes for good reason pride in being a teacher. The same I would argue could go for the salesperson :)

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