Looking back at more than three decades of time that I’ve been selling various products, I’ve seen some nice changes in the direction of the ethics and honesty of how sales people are taught to sell.
My first real job in selling was as a photographer for children and family portraits. This was for an outfit that set up in discount big box stores like Kmart, TG&Y and Wal-Mart. As the photographer, I would set up my camera for three to four days to offer customers a really great value of a $9.95 package of photos of mainly younger children. During the child’s photo session, we took about three basic shots and a few special effect shots. The three basic shots would be what the $9.95 package consisted of, while the really cool, special effect shots would be presented when the parent returned after the photos had been developed. Plus, if you were a really great photographer, you usually got the mom to take some extra photos with the child that she could purchase as an extra or paid upgrade when she came to get the $9.95 package. Both the special effect and family photo upgrades were 10 x 13 separate add-ons that ran an additional $10 to $15 each. The incentive for the photographer/sales person was big. You could double your week’s pay with a high average of upgrade ad-on sales. So that $9.95 package would average out at about $35. That’s just how the game worked. The problem I had was that most of our customers were fairly poor or limited-income families. So these poor unsuspecting moms would return to pick up the “great value” package, only to be shown the really great shots of their loved ones and their loved ones with them in the shot as well. As one of those photographer/sales people, I had a choice: go with my ethics that disagreed with method playing on people’s love of family and quit, or just join in and cheat people under the guise of “that’s just how it’s done.” Well, needing to make a living should have led me to just going with the flow, but I soon devised a plan to keep my ethics and still keep my job. When the shoot was over, I would talk to the mom something along the lines of: “Here’s what’s going to happen, we will return in two weeks with your great value package. You can take that and run, but you will also be shown some wonderful add-ons that will be very hard to resist. Do yourself a favor and bring grandma with you or someone else that you would normally give these pictures to. If they are going to receive these pictures you might as well let them pay for them.” So, I’m going to brag here (again): I held the highest average in our group of 15 photographers in our region.