Sales and Sales Management Blog

September 7, 2014

The Dark Side of Sales–It Ain’t Going Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 3:45 pm
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My father passed away in 1979.  I went with my mother to the funeral home to help her make the arrangements for my father’s funeral.  It was one of the most obscene experiences of my life.

The salesperson used every trick he could think of to manipulate my mother’s grief and emotional distress to up-sell her at every turn.  I grew up in a working class family.  My father was a Battalion Chief for the City of Garland, Texas fire department.  He had some life insurance, but not much. Money was always tight and would continue to be tight for my mother—tighter than ever since my father’s income would cease.  She didn’t have the money to spend on more than necessary for a nice but modest funeral.

A nice but modest funeral wasn’t in the best interests of the salesperson at the funeral home.  He couldn’t sacrifice any commissions just because he had a working class widow in front of him.

When my mother picked a lower price casket he pointed out that since dad knew a great many folks and was well liked there would be a large crowd at the service and certainly he deserved a casket that would reflect well to that large group.  $$$$ out of her bank account.

When she chose to go with the least expense concrete burial vault the salesperson described in great detail what would happen to my father’s body if she didn’t buy the most expensive lined vault.  More $$$$ out of her account.
When she chose to have a simple large picture of dad in his formal department uniform the salesperson discussed how most people prefer to have a large mural of the deceased that reviewed their life and their relationships.  Of course, more $$$$ out of the account.

No matter how I tried to reason with mom about the dollars and the need for a more modest funeral, the damage had already been done by the seller’s manipulation of her grief.  Money became no object as she fought to make sure everyone knew that dad was loved and treasured.

Last Thursday my father-in-law passed away.  To my great disappointment, but not to my surprise, the exact same indecent and repugnant strategies are being used today by funeral homes to wring every penny out of grieving families whether they can afford it or not.  And, of course, the question of affordability shouldn’t even be an issue as indecent selling practices are indecent whether used with someone who can easily afford the product or service or someone who has to sacrifice to do so.

I would like to think that we are making great strides in moving the sales profession to higher ethical standards, and in many industries I think we are.

Yet there are still many, such as the funeral industry, the automobile industry, some areas of financial services, construction and remodeling, and others, where a good many sellers find it more profitable to manipulate, lie, and cheat than to sell ethically.

Many of us try to convince ourselves that things are changing and that the bad apples won’t be able to survive—but I’m far from sure that’s the case.

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