No man is an island! Being social animals, our success in this world very much depends on our ability to get along with others. This includes our ability to communicate with others, to influence others, to convince them of the worth of both ourselves, and our ideas. Thus, we are always selling in one way or another. Sounds logical enough! In fact we have all heard this so many times before, that it is practically self evident. The only problem is that it is unadulterated bullshit.
Equating teaching teenagers about the ideals of the French revolution, or attempting to convince your toddler to go to bed tonight, are not the same as selling vacuum cleaners, or financial services.
True, they all involve some form of persuasion that much is undeniable. However, what distinguishes the latter examples from the former is that for the teacher and the parent it is done for the benefit of the students and the toddler. In the case of the sale, the salesman stands to benefit. In fact this benefit is the primary motivation for the entire exchange.
By blurring this distinction, selling is elevated, somehow ennobled. At the same time, persuasion that which is altruistic is minimized, or even invalidated. Everything becomes reduced to one simple common denominator – selling! For many people compulsive self-promotion and selling has become so deeply ingrained, that they literally do not know when to stop. For such people, selling does not stop in the boardroom, or in the showroom, but extends to friends, neighbours, and the family alike.
In the best case selling is selective truth; in the worst case it is outright misleading. What it does not do is convey the whole truth, as we would be asked to do in a court of law. Truth may be subjective, but when we are embellishing, or editing to convey an impression we are misleading others in some way. Technically, we’re not lying, in the legal sense. But in the moral sense, we most certainly are.
The typical justification of the salesman is that we all do it, we all have to make a buck somehow. This is the morality of the herd –which is not morality, but tribal group think masquerading as ethics.
The horror of it is that these days, all are compelled to sell. Teachers have to jump through hoops to amuse their students, university professors are evaluated on how much their students enjoy their lectures, and parents have to compete with cartoon characters and sanitized versions of classic fairy tale characters to communicate values to their children.
In such a world to not sell, to refrain from embellishing and entertaining, to simply tell it as you see it, is to be inaudible. You simply do not register, you do not count, and you do not exist.
Another more insidious consequence of this “everyone is a salesman” mindset is that it implies that the market is the ultimate arbiter of value. If something does not sell, it is not of value. This progressively crowds out anything whose deliverables to the consumer can not be squeezed into a sound byte, while promoting that which titillates the senses and appeals to the vanity. Over time we become progressively more indulgent, superficial and addicted.
Ultimately, it has taken us to where we find ourselves today as a society: relating to one another only as Buyers and Sellers, nothing more. The filter through which we hear is “what is in it for me now?” In order for our message to get out there, to not get lost in all the noise out there, we talk louder, faster, longer, – all the while saying next to nothing!