Sales Is My Favorite Spectator Sport

I enjoy being sold to.

Weird, right?

I think the art of selling is a beautiful thing to watch if it is done well, a pathetic thing to watch if done poorly, and an admirable thing to watch if attempted with verve. It’s becoming a spectator sport for me.

Selling something – a dangerous idea, a new product, a different way of providing a service – is difficult enough. The idea of selling anything to a complete stranger is enough to terrify 98% of the US population. This is what makes the simple act of taking a sales job so admirable in my opinion. Sales takes guts and an appetite for failure and rejection that speaks to a very strong sense of self.

OK, so we’ve established that our athletes of the sale have an admirable quality. What about selling itself is so interesting to watch?

Cold connections are most interesting. How will a complete stranger get you to talk to them about buying something?  This is especially hard with us professionals who delete most every incoming sales emails. But if a salesperson is a true athlete, she’ll find a way.. Maybe she has a line which works to keep you on the phone long enough to set up a meeting. Maybe she sent you some compelling stats before reaching out. Maybe she sent you a box of donuts with her name and pitch inside. Maybe she shows up in person.

Once you get to the meat of a sales prospecting conversation, the salesperson still has 110 yards to gain. Now they have to not only explain a product to you in a way you’ll understand, but they still have to overcome your sense of superiority and suspicion toward people “trying to sell you something.” Maybe she’ll try challenger sales – asking you pointed questions about your current failures as a company. Maybe she’ll tell you something you didn’t know about your company. Maybe she’ll get to know you

Closing deals? That’s an art all it’s own. The best salespeople are expert negotiators. They’ll use vague offers to reduce prices to get you on another call. They’ll play hard to get. They’ll escalate the costs of not acting. On the spot they’ll improvise compromises. They’ll use FOMO (fear of missing out) to get you to commit. They’ll call you on your bullshit reasons not to commit.

As you can see, there are dozens of different tactics for the dozens of different scenarios in sales. Sales is a chess game, or a dance, or a very large soccer game with many more players than normal. Everything could go wrong, but sometimes a chain of things go right and you want to stand up and go wild for the winning team. Sometimes I find myself wanting to say “yes” to a particularly good salesperson even if I don’t need their product.

Can’t you see why I enjoy watching salespeople at play? It’s like watching lions hunting in their natural environment. It’s high time we gave some respect to sales for the skill and creativity it requires.

If you are salesperson, I salute you. Carry on with your craft despite the rejection I throw your way. Remember that I reject the product, not your courage to be doing this job.

Want to try on spectator sales for yourself? Next time you receive a cold email or a cold call from an SDR, sit back, play along, and watch a work of art unfold.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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