The Laughing Toastmaster: Call for Law Banning ‘Salescism’

Legislation would make it mandatory to befriend salespeople

Having worked in corporate sales longer than The Lion King’s run in the West End, I still experience the sting of discrimination caused by ‘salescism’.
‘Sneaky salespeople’, ‘Bunch of crooks’ and ‘Annoying loudmouths’, are just some of the hurtful things people say without realizing the devastating consequences it has on us sales folk. The feeling of loneliness (no one wants to be your friend) and low sales-esteem can last a lifetime.

Now that I’m self-employed, selling is still an integral part of my life. Unfortunately, salescism has crippled me so much that even motional phrases like, ‘Don’t be small make that call’ make me bawl.
I’m not alone. Statistics show salescism (defined as: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against salespeople on the belief that your job is superior), impacts 100 in every 100 salespeople. Stats not accurate. Like a true sales gal, I made them up.

Now you may think this has nothing to do with you. Maybe you’re the kind of person who’s never had to sell because the clients come to you (in which case you’re probably a drug dealer). For the rest of us, whether you’re selling ideas, services or ourselves (dating is the ultimate sell), nothing can shield you from the stigma of salescism.
Things are so bad we use covert language like, ‘Shall we explore the possibility of collaborating together?’. We feel the need to use encrypted job titles to hide our true identity:

• Business Development Manager (new sales)
• Key account manager (big clients but take tiny too)
• Account Manager (anything from serving coffee to whatever it takes)

Unlike secretaries who rediscovered themselves as ‘PAs’ (and are now allowed to look miserable and not help), these new sales titles have done nothing for us except make clients distrust us even more! After all, you wouldn’t want your plumber to be called ‘pipe dreamer’.

In Toastmasters it’s no different. Terrified of being called ‘salesy’ or ‘pushy’ we use phrases like, ‘Let’s publicize Toastmasters to the public’ or ‘We need to inform guests about our benefits’.
When one club advertised their open house as ‘Pizza & Toastmaster Night’, it wasn’t called a ‘fantastic sales idea’ (which it was!), but a ‘prudent marketing initiative’. Toastmasters is such an outstanding organization we shouldn’t be ashamed of selling its benefits, but proud of doing so! Sadly, salecism gets in the way.

When confronted, ‘salescists’ deny any wrong doing and claim history is full of dodgy salespeople. They have a point. Starting with the great car manufacturer and ultimate sales guy Henry Ford who said, ‘Customers can have a car painted any color they want … as long as it is black’, giving all car salesmen a terrible reputation.
Then ‘The Godfather’ comes along with the most effective (if extreme) sales pitch, ‘I will make you an offer you can’t refuse’. Trust me clients don’t take kindly to such drastic negotiation techniques.
Even the late Steve Jobs said, ‘Get closer to your customers, so close that you tell them what they need before they realize it’. With all due respect isn’t that Machiavellian manipulation coupled with serious stalking?
OK, so maybe we haven’t exactly been a ‘beacon of morality’, but like any convict that’s done his time, don’t we deserve a second chance?

Anti-salescism lobbies around the world are calling for legislation to tackle the problem by suing salecists who make inappropriate comments and refuse to make friends with salespeople.
And it shouldn’t stop there. It needs to be written into employment laws sales people must be invited to social events, even if that means installing quotas to overcome centuries of oppression.
Sales people are cautiously optimistic. ‘Society has a negative perception of sales people’ says Jim (not his real name), who has kept his real job hidden from his family for decades. ‘My parents are very proud of me. They think I’m a dentist’.

New laws would make it mandatory to invite us to weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs and anniversaries. Music to my ears as these events are ideal places to bombard unsuspecting guests with interactive business cards. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, if you’re still not a Toastmaster, ‘Let me inform you of the multiple benefits of joining’.

Sonia Aste is an engineer, writer and comedian. She’s a Toastmaster and member at Riverside Communicators Club.
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