Heard on the Street

Edition: February 2003 - Vol 11 Number 02
Article#: 1461
Author: Repertoire

The Sales Weasel

Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel is Scott Adams’ latest book about the hapless office worker, Dilbert. In the book, Adams talks about all kinds of weasels, such as the headcount weasels, financial weasels, airline weasels, CEO weasels and, of course, sales weasels.

“A good sale is like a good wedgie,” says a sales trainer to his class. “Your victim shouldn’t see it coming.”

According to Adams, salespeople know that the human brain has several parts. “One part of your brain – the rational part – thinks, ‘All I need is some food and shelter, maybe some sex, and I’m good to go. That’s all I need.’ That part of the brain doesn’t want to buy rubber hamsters that sing when you clap. The job of the salesperson is to deactivate that happy part of the brain and get to the part that thinks, ‘Unless I buy an unending stream of unnecessary merchandise, I will die.’”

Adams believes true sales weasels never use the word “no.” “A smart salesperson never uses the word ‘no’ because it might get you thinking it’s OK to use that word yourself,” writes Adams. “Instead, the sales weasel will reword your question to something that can be answered with a ‘yes.’”

Here’s an example:

You: Do you have one of these items in stock?

Sales Weasel: Yes, we usually do.

You: I didn’t ask your probability of having it. I asked if you do have it.

Sales Weasel: Yes, I can check as soon as your credit card clears.

You: You keep slightly changing my question so you can answer yes!

Sales Weasel: Yes, I am. You’re welcome.”

The key to successful selling, says Adams, is to withhold information about the product – including its price – until after the sale. Insurance salespeople are masters of this technique, he says. Example:

You: May I see a copy of the insurance policy before deciding whether to buy it?

Insurance Salesman: We’ll send you the details of what you purchased 90 days after you sign up.

You: Um … but how do I knw what I’m buying?

Insurance Salesman: I told you: It’s coverage for this and that and so forth and so on, etc. I don’t see how I can be more specific.

You: Still, I’d like to see a policy first.

Insurance Salesman: You’re gonna die! Your house will burn down! Robbers are circling your block! Sign it! Sign it! Sign it, you fool!”

Source: Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, Scott Adams. HarperCollins, New York, 2002.