Sales and Sales Management Blog

November 5, 2012

We’re Sellers, We Are The Hollow Men

Filed under: business,Client Relationships,selling,small business,trust — Paul McCord @ 10:26 am
Tags: , ,

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

(from The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot)

Over the past few months as we in the US have been in the middle of an election season I’ve read numerous articles from sales experts exhorting sellers to refrain from discussing politics with prospects and clients even if they have reason to believe the prospect or client has the same opinions as the seller or if the prospect or client initiates the conversation.

We are the Hollow Men.

Oh, Seller, they argue, to voice an opinion on such a touchy subject as politics or religion or various aspects of culture that might be controversial is to be avoided at all costs for voicing an opinion might cost a sale.

We are the Hollow Men.

By all means, they say, feel free to take sides with your favorite football or baseball team, go ahead and state your opinion of who should win American Idol, and don’t be afraid to take a strong stand on who the Bachelorette should pick.

We are the Hollow Men.

But when actual issues of life are presented, be nothingness, be hollow, be stuffed with straw, be nothing more than a chalk outline of a human drawn on the sidewalk.

We are the Hollow Men.

Should we initiate political or religious conversations?  Should we be starting conversations on controversial topics?  No.  But that doesn’t mean we avoid them when they come up. Rather we converse with our prospects and clients as humans, not as checkbooks.  Heaven forbid we even disagree with them at times as real humans are wont to do.

Again, Seller, they argue, don’t be seen as being political or religious.   Take all measures to not offend.  Take that political sticker off your car; get rid of that Knights of Columbus lapel pin; don’t listen to that radio station within hearing range of a prospect, God forbid you express an opinion on Social Medi that someone might actually see.  Be nothingness, be hollow, be a stuffed shell of a human—but at all costs don’t be honest.

We are the Hollow Men.

Then we tell our prospects and clients that we’re honest, trustworthy, transparent.

We are the Hollow Men.

Follow me on Twitter: @paul_mccord


  1. HA! We are NOT the Hollow Man. We are actually the Jackie O! Yes, Jackie Onassis.

    When we are at our best, we are gracious, strong, we have an opinion, but….wait for it… we want to know MORE about THEIR opinion!

    We ask, WHO do you want to win the election? Why? How does that affect your business, your family, your life?

    We get interested! We realize that our opinion is important, and we’ve decided on it, but isn’t it interesting to get to know someone ELSE’s perspective?

    In some ways, we are NOT the Hollow Man. We are the SUBSTANCE MAN. We think! We share! We listen! We sometimes even LEARN!

    Which is what makes us GREAT!

    We are the way REAL business gets done.

    Love ’em UP!

    The Irreverent Sales Girl

    Comment by The Irreverent Sales Girl — November 5, 2012 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

    • I wish this were true, but the reality is most sellers have been taught to avoid the conversation, to be evasive, to divert. Sellers have been taught to be hollow for fear of losing a sale, to think of their prospects and clients as checkbooks to suck up to, to do anything to keep from offending by actually having an opinion on anything of substance.

      I wish more were willing to be human instead of the straw filled shells devoid of any belief on the real issues of life. I’ve met sellers who will do all kinds of contortions to avoid being human, I’ve had sales leaders tell me they’ll fire any seller they hear discussing politics or religion with a prospect or client, when confronted with a simple questions such as “well, who you goin for this time?”, twist and turn trying to discover the prospect’s view so they could give the “correct” answer.

      Unfortunately, as a group we couldn’t be less human if we tried. Hopefully that will change.

      Comment by Paul McCord — November 6, 2012 @ 8:31 am | Reply

  2. We are Hollow Men…then a linked Christmas ad that advertises beer?! :) Way to go!

    In terms of the Hollow discussion, I think that the newer and younger members of the group are more prone to slipping into the “go along to get along” mentality. Those who are guru class sales reps are generally very opinionated regarding everything from the industry, business, politics/government, and religion. Those of us in direct mail / direct marketing have the tightrope act of trying to serve all sides of the argument without being pegged as partial to any. It’s possible for the salesman to be a strong supporter of one cause or another but when the company is identified as slanted (a la Fox News), the opposing side tends to stay away.

    It should be as simple as you make it seem. We are there to support our clients in a professional capacity. As in any polite conversation, politics, religion and money (as earnings), are usually taboo. If a client chooses to breach the issue and open the discussion, it is up to us to answer honestly and with conviction – even if the answer is “I don’t have a preference or none of the above”.

    Love the topic.


    Comment by Jonathan Freed — November 14, 2012 @ 11:27 am | Reply

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