Saturday, April 21, 2007

Can gay guys be successful salesmen?

I was chatting to my friend P over lunch recently about the new job he started late last year.

"So how's the new sales job going then?" I start.

"I don't really want to talk about it," says P sheepishly, "I don't seem able to sell anything at the moment :-(."

"Uh huh," I reply, "do you think that's your fault, or the fault of the firm you work for?"

P tries to tell me that it's all the firm's fault, having the wrong products or products that are too expensive, but I'm not convinced.

"I just don't buy it!" I say, "they're quite a big firm, and they're still in business, so they obviously have products that some people want. Maybe you need to improve your sales technique?"

"But my manager tells me that I'm good at all the skills that a salesman needs," says P defensively, "that's why he hired me!"

"Apart from one thing perhaps," I say knowingly, "I reckon you could be better at empathising with straight guys!"

P looks shocked.

"I remember you told me that you almost managed to win a big contract a couple of months ago," I continue. "You said that after the key meeting, the client was chatting to you about his wife and kids. But did you reciprocate in any way, and open up to him at all?"

"But why should I have to? Shouldn't it all just be about good value products and services?"

"But you have to build trust. For example, he needs to know that he can call you if he has a problem, and if there's some empathy between you somehow he's going to feel comfortable doing that."

"So I should have told him that I like taking it up the arse should I?" replies P dismissively.

"I can't tell you the best way of developing trust with any particular client, but I doubt language like that would do it! You mustn't lie either, that just makes things too complicated, and is bound to end in tears at least some of the time. But if they start talking about their family, I think you have to say something about your personal life too. Actually I don't even know if it's possible for a gay guy to be good at building empathy with straight guys, because there's quite an important difference in behaviour. But I'm convined that if you can do it you'll get better results :-)."

"I'm not out to the other guys in my office though GB," says P, "so this would all be a bit difficult anyway"

"Well that's something else! Anyway, a confident guy like you SHOULD be out. It's much easier to focus on your job if you're relaxed and not worried about hiding your private life."

So what's everyone doing at the weekend?P doesn't work in banking or finance, but the best sales guys that I've seen in my world of work have always been able to seem like all their client's best friends. I can well imagine that at a crucial stage late in the sales process, after a meeting, a potential straight client of P's will be talking about what they're going to do at the weekend with their family and it will seem odd that P doesn't say anything in return.

Perhaps is just not possible for gay guys to be really good salesmen in a heterosexual world? When a potential client starts talking about his wife and kids, the best thing for a sales guy to do would be talk about their family too. Talking about heading for the cruisey gay sauna at the weekend for a bit of cock and bum fun definitely isn't the answer.

But is it possible to use being gay as an advantage? Perhaps one can reach a point in a social conversation with a potential client where the gay guy can tell the straight guy that he is gay, and make it seem like he's sharing a secret because he trusts him? Whatever the best strategy, the one thing I'm sure about is that avoiding this issue isn't going to get good sales results!


closetalk said...

how abt talking of one's siblings n parents, rather than the gay thing? i think dat wud probly be better - and less uncomfortable. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a salesman, but I work with them, and occasionally go with them on a pitch. The best way I've found of building rapport with them is to come out - not in any conspiratorial way, but like it's a natural thing. I've ended up taking straight guys to gay bars, introducing them to my boyfriend, and generally building up rapport that way.

There's a risk, sure, that you'll find you're talking to a homophobe, but that's increasingly rare.

In 99% of cases, it's proved a good way to build empathy, the straight guy gets to feel good about himself because he's "okay with the gays" and you can even get a bit flirtatious from time to time.

My last sales director and myself used to call each other darling, and he was astonishingly hetero.

cuteCTguy said...

Just to disprove your theory -some of the best gay sales men can be found in the centre pages of QX.

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating thread... I'm out at b-school, but I'm concerned about upcoming interviews. Should I be completely open? If they Google my name, it's pretty obvious that I'm gay. How will that affect my career?

-B-Student in Fontainebleau

SubtleKnife said...

The best salesperson I know is a gay guy. He's completely out at work, but doesn't think it's necessary for his clients to know.