Not so glamorous life of salesmen

Lawrence Wallis
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Continuing contemplation from last week of the most glamorous jobs in the graphic arts, I move on from the designer to the salesman.

People not directly engaged in selling tend to have a romantic notion of the activity. Mistakenly a number of misconceptions come to mind, such as the freedom of life on the open road and the luxury of an expense account. In many respects the Executive poem by John Betjeman summarises the popular imagining of a salesman.

It begins:

‘I am a young executive.
No cuffs than mine are cleaner;
I have a Slimline briefcase and
I use the firm’s Cortina.
In every roadside hostelry
from here to Burgess Hill
The maitres d’hotel all know me well
and let me sign the bill.
You ask me what it is I do.
Well actually, you know,
I’m partly a liaison man
and partly P.R.O.’



Such benign thoughts overlook the business targets that salesmen are expected to meet with attendant stresses and the overall loneliness of the position. Salesmen would have been amused, or even bemused, to read in PrintWeek that account managers and customer service people were being trained ‘to be more capable of handling the opportunities that might fall into their lap, rather than just taking an order over the phone’. The concept of a passive salesman awaiting the ringing of the telephone to receive an order beggars belief and I doubt that anybody operating in that manner would hold down a job for long.

My experience indicates that salesmen tend to be proactive people and appreciate the need to vigorously pursue business. Some are effective in this process and others are ineffective.

Lawrence Wallis has held international pre-press marketing positions and is now a respected author and print historian.

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