I Can Sell You Anything

You might hear a salesperson say this one day.

‘I can sell you anything.’

They can’t.

I remember sales books that claimed the reader could use their techniques to sell anything at all. Think that’s true?

Let’s run some hypotheticals. No matter how sharply honed my techniques are, there are limitations to what I am willing to do. If somebody came to me and said we need you to sell cigarettes to minors, I would say no. If somebody came to me and said we will pay you two million dollars next month, and all you have to do is sell this guy as a candidate for president. His name is Chris Christie. I would say no. If somebody said we need you to do this campaign that will make it okay for the NYPD to use the choke hold to subdue people. I would say no.

I’ve made some compromising decisions in my career. Even a few that sounded a lot like those above. I’m making different choices now, saying no when at one time I may have said yes.

The guys who started the eyeglasses company Warby Parker built a social good component into their business plan. For every pair of glasses they sell, they fund eye exam training and subsidize low cost glasses in El Salvador and India. If you argued that they did this because millennials are more likely to do business with companies that have a social good mission as part of their business plan, you’d be right. But that’s not the only reason. The Warby Parker guys did it because it gave them a reason to get up on the morning and work on Warby Parker. It’s also a recruiting tool to attract the best employees.

Can you sell anything? No. Not if you want a reason to get up on the morning and like the person who looks back at you in the mirror. You can’t ignore who you are, your values, your reasons, or where you come from. Because we have access to more information about people, companies, movements, and products, there is no choice but to be more honest.

Perhaps there will always be a conflict between transparency and selling. There may always be the temptation to exaggerate the benefits of what you’re selling. But fewer people will be tempted. That is just one of the good things that transparency brings.