The Sales Pitch


I would buy whatever Hodgman is selling.

It started with marketing email, but the calls were more irksome. I knew there were sponsors for the CIO Conference I attended in Chicago (they had booths set up at the event). But I didn’t expect the vendor presence to extend so far beyond the conference itself. I can’t really fault Argyle for having sponsors since it was a free conference, after all. But the recency of the experience of calls from sales reps got me thinking about something more general: the sales pitch.

I don’t know if there’s a specific term for it, but let’s call it “seller’s bias.” When someone has something to sell to me, I immediately distance myself a little from the conversation. I know that they have a goal to sell me something, regardless of their intent or honesty. While I would be more than willing to have an objective discussion on the merits of a product or service, a sales pitch is not the forum for such an approach.

Of course, I do understand that there’s a wide spectrum of sales pitches: from the neighbor’s kid selling Girl Scout cookies to the eponymous used-car salesman. But even in varying degrees, they share a common bias: they want to sell you something. Since I’ve been on a cognitive biases kick with these latest blog posts, it should be no surprise that I see the sales pitch as yet another bias. What makes the topic interesting, however, is that it is so pervasive in our everyday lives.

What has caused me to reflect the most on this topic is my own motivations and behavior when “selling” something – be it an idea or otherwise. Am I really presenting a fair argument for or against some choice when I have a vested interest in “selling” it? Is it even possible to be completely objective about something when you are incentivized (monetarily or otherwise) to sell?

Referring back to the sales pitches I was hearing from various technology companies, it was hard for me to take seriously what they were offering because I knew their goal was to sell something. In fact, I was probably less likely to consider their product because I was getting a sales pitch than I otherwise would have been. Had I come across their product through some other means (web search, recommendation, etc.), then I might have more seriously considered their product.

In the end, it might just be my idiosyncratic aversion to sales pitches or a hypersensitivity to incentives and bias in arguments (I can credit critical thinking for that good habit) that is ultimately to blame. But all I can say for sure when anyone tries to give me a sales pitch is: caveat venditor.

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