The World’s Greatest Salesperson!


Share on LinkedIn

My colleagues have been talking about OgilvyOne’s contest to find the world’s greatest salesperson.  I was curious about it, went to the website to read the press release and to their YouTube Channel to learn more.

It’s an intriguing notion.  I have to bow to the wisdom of Ogilvy, after all they are a prestigious advertising firm, they must really understand sales.  The Chairman of OgilvyOne, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, has said, “In marketing, the noble craft of salesmanship sometimes, gets lost in the pursuit of art or the dazzle of technology.”  Cool–I can’t disagree with this.

Executive Creative Directof, Mal Zucker, goes further, “Our business is all about selling and how we are selling is changing fast.”  I couldn’t agree more!  Customers are changing how they buy, as sales professionals we must change what we do to better align with our customers, creating greater value for them.  Ogilvy may have something here.

Zucker, goes on to say, “We thought it was time to reassert the importance of sales, honor the timeless craft of persuasion, glean wisdom from the best….”  Ok, now I’m worried.  Has sales been reduced down to the craft of persuasion?  But surely a firm like Ogilvy can’t be so far off target.  I’ll check out the YouTube site and lean more.

The introductory video  a sharp polished piece.  The narrator describes the job of the best sales people as “to pitch, pry, persuade….we turn no into maybe and maybe into yes”  He goes on to say, they will select the world’s best sales person based on video’s of people selling a brick.

OK, now I’m going off the deep end, but surely a firm as sophisticated as Ogilvy has to know that sales is about connecting with the customer, creating real value, and solving their problems.  I don’t think sales is just about the pitch.

Well, I’m really stupid, I must misunderstand what’s going on, so I look at one of their examples of a “great sales person.”  Guess what, they started with a car sales person—well if they can make a car sales person be truly great, then there must be something of value in what OgilvyOne is doing.  The video shows the car sales person drooling over a car, not one the customer was apparently asking about, talking about how he (the sales person0 would love to buy the car.  A subtitle appears “Envy Transfer,”  the story goes on, the customer now wants to look at the car.  The final scene is the sales person winking confidently at the camera, silently saying, “Screwed and manipulated another customer, let me go count my commissions.”

So this is an example of great salesmanship?  The sales person never asked the customer a question–I guess the sole purpose of a customer is to be an audience for our pitch.

Is this truly what great salesmanship is about, or is this really a representation of the lowest form of selling?  Doesn’t this really reinforce why customers don’t want to see us, don’t want to talk to us, or don’t trust us?  Is great salesmanship reduced down to a pitch and how great that pitch is?  All Ogilvy wants to judge is who does the greatest pitch, they don’t even provide a context of who the customer is and what their requirements are—Oh, I forgot, the customer is just there to be our adoring audience.

They are right, selling is a noble profession.  The business of selling is changing fast and we must change.  But professional salesmanship is about so much more than the pitch.  It’s about establishing a relationship with the customer.  It’s about learning about their goals, strategies, problems, dreams.  It’s about understanding what they want to achieve and then presenting how we can help them do this in a superior fashion.  It’s about delivering on this every day.  Professional selling is about managing a business–your territory, and doing it smartly and profitably.  It’s about executing the strategies of your company–all while aligning yourself with the customer and building value for them.  Professional selling is about managing your time, constantly learning, improving your skills, productivity and effectiveness.

I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.  Unfortunately, I think OgilvyOne’s contest does the profession of sales a disservice and does our customers a disservice.  It seems to be focused on tricks, techniques, manipulation–oh and yes, “pitching, prying, persuading…..”  I just hope buyers don’t see this and think this is what sales is really about!  To me, this contest takes the profession of sales 10 giant steps backwards.  It’s a shame, as a respected thought leader, they could have accomplished more for themselves, the profession, and the perception of sales.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. I would hope that OgilvyOne doesn’t really think this will identify the “best” salesperson. Maybe the best humorous sales pitch..

    And gee, look what the “winner” get!!!!

    The winner of the “Search for the World’s Greatest Salesperson” contest will receive a three-month fellowship with OgilvyOne. Their job will be to rearticulate the lessons of sales espoused by David Ogilvy with a 21st century approach.

    My guess is that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt. If people are blogging about this contest and mentioning OgilvyOne (there, I did it again), it’s all good.

  2. Bob, Unfortunately, I think you are right, and it is a publicity stunt–and we are helping promote it. The problem is, too many people think “the pitch” is what selling is about. There’s more training, books, etc. about effective sales pitches than there is about effective listening, questioning, probing, problem solving.

    So while they get this great publicity for this stunt, others will take it seriously. Oh well……


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here