Recently, I read a book entitled “Self Made Man” by Norah Vincent. Norah Vincent goes undercover as a man for about 18 months. In this journey, she tries to submerge herself into the male life through joining a male bowling league, going to strip clubs, going on dates, joining a monastery, working for a sales company, and joining a male therapy group of the sorts.
One of the most interesting chapters was that focused on her experience as her male disguise, Ned, in a Red Bull sales company at Clutch Advertising. Vincent describes the environment as one filled with desperation for promotions and an influx of money. The speech by the salesmen had a great deal of focus on sexual achievement and desire. The top salesmen and managers would boast of their gorgeous wives who they would have never otherwise dated had it not been for their financial success in the sales business.
“You want to be that top guy, because that’s what’s going to get you the house, the cars and the wife” Norah recalls her boss, Dano, stating (page 164).
It’s this mentality which drives people to continue working hours throughout the day selling products door to door. It hits on the necessity of confidence and, even more so, ego.
One article, “Salespeople Need More Ego, Not Less”, written by Chris Gillespie, as published by Marketo, explores the need for ego in the field of sales. It states that having a strong sense of ego– or “a person’s sense of self-esteem”, as the article defines it- not only allows salespeople to make more sales, but also to have the thick skin required to perform the job. When it comes to sales, especially when selling door to door, it can often be quite intimidating and will result in a great deal of rejection. In order to be able to not take this personally, one must have a strong sense of self to become an efficient salesperson.
An article published by Harvard Business Review entitled “What Makes a Good Salesman“, as written by David Mayer and Herbert M. Greenberg, examines the declining ability of businesses and employees to sell themselves to others. In order to increase the sales ability, a study done over seven years of field research concluded that “Our basic theory is that a good salesman must have at least two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive.” (Greenberg and Mayer, 2006). Both Greenberg and Mayer explain that good salesman have to want to sell something not because of the money, but because of a personal and ego-related drive to do so. It is this type of personal connection to the sale which sparks success.
This chapter and the focus on sales and its relation to ego is so interesting to me because I recently attended a sales pitch done by Southwestern Advantage. What I had thought would be an informational meeting about a vague summer internship a man had told my class about a few weeks prior which my friend convinced me to attend soon revealed itself to be a pitch for college students to join the company– or “start their own company”, as they like to put it”– to sell their $690 books for 80+ hours per week throughout the summer to make an average of about $8,000 (mind you, that this is an average and does not account for taxes).
What I found so interesting was the presenter of Southwestern Advantage’s own apparent boasting of how much sales had developed his self confidence- his ego- in a positive way which has set him up for the rest of his life, making him not only a hit with women but also financially secure. It was interesting to see the words of the apparent necessity of ego in sales to be so vivid in the presentation I witnessed. It makes sense to me why an ego is necessary. In the end, we all need some self confidence to survive the world. But I wonder how much ego in sales is too much, or if there even is a limit.