A Sales Pitch too Far

An important aspect of successful selling is confidence. If a buyer can detect any hesitation or doubt in a salesperson’s pitch, he’s unlikely to buy. At the same time if the salesman has no confidence in what he’s selling, he won’t be able to sell it very well. Of course at the other extreme, we have the con-trick which is the attempt to defraud someone after gaining their confidence. Nevertheless, even for something that’s honest and authentic, whatever it is we’re selling, we have to be positive; to really believe in our product or service. But every now and again, when I hear about something unethical, unprincipled or simply just unfit for purpose which is selling supremely well, I’m reminded of the reasons why there’s so much cynicism about salespeople.

At the Old Bailey today, in a little reported story, a dishonest businessman who pocketed millions of pounds over ten years was found guilty of three charges of fraud.

James McCormick, a former police officer, made £55m over a ten year period selling bogus bomb detectors to governments all over the world. Let’s just hope he was paying his taxes. Priced at £27,000 a pop, the hand-held detector was based on a novelty golf ball finder and made out of cheap components in a factory on an industrial estate in the West Country. Preferred marketing channels were glossy brochures and a website. McCormick’s clients included the UN, Saudi Arabia and Niger – he made £37m from sales to Iraq alone. The QC for the prosecution said “The devices did not work and he knew they did not work.”

Devil-Doing Business 1

Although the precise figure can never be known, it’s without doubt the fraud will have been directly responsible for the loss of hundreds if not thousands of lives because explosive devices were not identified.

This case is depressing as it is shocking and sad. As if proof were needed that any bad product can be successful if you sell it aggressively enough.

However, do not assume for a moment that a fantastic service or product with a list of benefits as long as your arm will sell itself; believe me, there’s rarely such a thing. So what’s stopping you? Act now and talk to your sales people. Remind them of the myriad strengths of what they’re selling. Inspire them and invest in their training to get out there and sell with truth, passion and confidence.

Update-2/5/2013: McCormick sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.