Wide boys learn the soft sell
Salesmen are becoming nicer, writes Roger Trapp
For a start, the person in question is not necessarily a man. The "sharp- suited, fast-talking, mobile phone-toting, 'wide boy' dripping in gold" has been replaced by "an altogether more cultured creature", according to research by Chiltern Consultancy International. In interviews with 100 middle and senior managers from some of the UK's top companies, it discovered that nearly two-thirds thought the modern sales person was "well-educated and highly articulate", while nearly three-quarters felt that sales people were well informed about the product or service they were selling.
To be precise, 76 per cent of those surveyed said the traditional image of flashy salesmen was no longer valid, though 19 per cent thought the "stereotypical spivvy salesman" was still to be seen, and more than half were not convinced that sales people are bona fide in providing products to meet the client's expectations. Pointing out that this suggests that "the dark spectre of unethical practice motivated by personal greed can still just be picked out in the shady corners by those with a more cynical eye", Chiltern says it recognises this as "a symptom of the emerging era of the 'empowered customer'".
The survey adds that it is clear that the modern salesman is surviving in the more competitive modern environment by becoming stealthier. "Where once he was lionesque in approach, with a voracious and all-consuming appetite [for sales] and scant regard for his victims, he is now a purring pussycat; not as intimidating as his endangered cousin perhaps, but somehow still managing to get the cream," it says.
Not that this new being has yet abandoned the Armani suit and gold jewellery for a Marks & Spencer cardigan and friendship bracelet, but he or she seems to be becoming "a rather more agreeable creature".
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