Why the con artist would thrive as ethical salesman

What struck me most is their flexibility and perseverance. How con men have possibly realized the successes with the more common texts were diminishing, and had therefore upped their pitch to calling.

You really must admire the tenacity of a con artist.

Last month I got a call from a gentleman who professionally identified himself and the purpose of the call.  “My name is Daniel Momanyi,“ he said, “And I’m calling you from Safaricom.” Most people don’t get my name right with the first mention but he did. “Mr. Kageche, I’m calling to let you know that you have won Kes. 25,000 in the mystery call promotion we have been running to reward customers as we celebrate 6 years of M-Pesa.” He went on to assure me that I “had not participated in any promotion” and this was “purely an award from Safaricom and Bob Collymore” and that I was “the 5th lucky winner.”

He further wanted me to confirm that I would be happy to have the call aired live on “all national TV and radio channels on the 1 o’clock news.”  All I had to do was dial *234# followed by the steps he shared. “I realize they sound complicated,“ he said, with an empathetic tone. “Please share another number I may call you on so that I can guide you through them.” Shortly thereafter, I asked where on the website this secret promotion was shown. The line went dead.

Creativity and persistence

Ethics aside, you really must admire the creativity and persistence of the con artist. And learn from it. The man had the audacity to call; and he had me intrigued by his candour for a full 3 minutes. Imagine the confidence. Calling exposes him to faster detection; it could be an inflexion of doubt in his voice, a wrong fact (like M-Pesa’s ‘age’) or a misstep in his well-rehearsed pitch. It also exposes the conman to insults and objections. But to the conman, all these risks are part of learning which means he just needs to practice harder to mitigate. Remarkable!

What struck me most is how the con men have possibly realized the successes with the more common texts were diminishing. And had therefore upped their pitch to calling. Imagine that! Being sufficiently motivated to keep flexible enough with your pitch, experimenting and adjusting it as you went along. Few sales people do this, instead blaming the market for being ‘saturated’ or such other thing. “They already know about us. We’ve lost our newness,” they lament. Not con men. They instead ask at their ‘sales meeting’, “Now that the market is aware, how else can we sell our services?”

Adapting to grow

I imagine the top con saying, “Aha! Let’s call them instead. They won’t expect it and we can even up the stakes. But we must sound genuine and professional.” That sounds like a brilliant idea the ‘sales manager’ affirms. “Ok, guys. Let’s work on a winning pitch and include responses to any objections that may arise.” (Including where to get off when busted.) Forget for a moment that it’s selling your soul to the devil. That level of commitment is to die for.

Few sales people ‘sell their souls’ to their role. To practice harder means having more prospects to practice on. Just like the ethical salesperson, the con also knows he can’t win them all and thus must have many people to pitch to. When rejection gets cast their way, throwing in the towel is the option for most salespeople. Not the con man. Even succumbing to insults is not an option. He knows a customer will come along sooner or later. And sure enough one does.

Fraudsters are also creative. Creativity is not something you are taught. It’s something you learn from observation or research. Attaching yourself to salespeople you admire and observing how they do it is one way. Having a segment in the sales meeting for sharing best practice is another.  Don’t blindly vilify the impostor-learn from him too.


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