Posts by KT

Undergraduate at Texas Lutheran University. I'm looking to graduate May of 2019 with a BA in Communication studies and a minor in Business Administration.

Journal Entry 3/31/19

Since collecting my theorists, I’ve really just focused on gathering some  more last  minute data.  I feel confident that I’ve got enough, however now I’m a little overwhelmed by everything that I’ve got.

Our presentations are supposed to be 20 minutes long with 10 minutes for questions, but I’m struggling on trying to condense all of my information, especially because I have ‘tiers’ to my project.  I’ve been trying to hash out the details for all this but it’s been slow going.

I’m hoping that after my meeting with my advisers Dr. Bollinger and Dr. Vrooman I’ll have a better idea of how to continue with my presentation.

Journal Entry 3/6/19

Recently we were looking at theorists that we could use in relation to what we are researching for our projects.  Here’s who I’ve found so far and a little bit about how I think they’d apply:

Because my senior thesis has taken a turn to look deeper into the ethics of customer-relationship-marketing strategies and their connection to mental manipulation, I’ve decided to look at a couple of different philosophers and theorists. The first one I’ve taken a look at is Carol Gilligan, who is famously known for her feminine studies and contribution the The Ethics of Care. The other philosopher I wanted to look at was Richard DeGeorge who did most of his ethical work in regard to the business world. The final theorists I wanted to look at were Baxter and Montgomery, and their Relational Dialects theory.

I think it was important to look at Richard DeGeorge because he’s a common business ethics philosopher and I needed someone with a significant stance in the business world. There’s often discussion about whether or not businesses should be held to higher ethical standards as far as their social responsibility goes. Social responsibility or ethics is seen as an “add-on” because some believe the product of a successful business (jobs, money from taxes…) is enough. DeGeorge thinks that when it comes to marketing, ethics cannot be this “add-on” concept. He believes that because marketing is done in society and operates according to societal functions, there has to be a consideration about a businesses ethical procedures and social responsibility. I think DeGeorge would be against consumer-relationship-marketing because it’s manipulative and going against societies ethics, and because of the particularly personal level of marketing that Mary Kay uses, he would not agree if someone tried to say they were exempt from any kind of higher ethical standards.

This is where Carol Gilligan comes in. Outside of the business world I wanted another theorist, especially if DeGeorge believes that business should be held to an ethical standard of society. The Ethics of Care was a theory developed that focuses on how people specifically women process ethics decisions and how females have an aspect of caring that often times males don’t use in the same way when it came to making those decisions. To sum this theory up it this theory focuses on safeguarding and promote the interests of those involved. I think Gilligan would have questions about customer-relationship-marketing strategies, and especially about how Mary Kay uses them. Their strategy seems to disregard the consumers role in what’s happening, and the Ethics of Care says there should be consideration for how the vulnerabilities of one person is affected by another person’s choices.

Baxter and Mongomery focuses on how the conversations of people who share a relationship function. I think this is particularly interesting to look at because of the friendship aspect that is involved with Mary Kay’s marketing. Marketers are taught not to take no for an answer, so in a relationship that relies on communication to organize it’s complexity, having to deal with someone who refuses to listen could cause a lot of issues. This is especially problematic because of the connection that the seller and consumer have in CRM models. In general if you meet someone who’s trying to get you to buy something and they won’t listen to your objections, it’s easier to walk away or leave the situation. Having a friend who’s pushing you to make a purchase is a little different because of that relationship, which then alters the type of conversation and/or actions that the consumer feels they can take.

Senior Thesis Proposal

Introduction

The traditional sales procedures and the metrics used to measure success is changing.

The business world is transitioning from using metrics like number of sales and transactions to provide evidence for success, and rather looking at things centered around customer satisfaction and loyalty.  This means sales personnel are no longer going to be judged on the rate of sales but instead on their ability to create lasting relationships with high paying customers or clients.

Customers who develop brand or product loyalty are sure to come back and make future purchases.  It also means they’re more open to trying other products and services offered by the business or brand.  This is why Consumer Relationship Management (CRM) is becoming crucial in sales.

Sales people are willing to spend time and money nurturing a select number of relationships because they will create future sales thus bring in more money.  Developing a high number of surficial relationships likely end in one-time purchases, which creates less of a profit for the marketer and their business.

Companies will give sales personnel hefty sums of money in order to help them create a lasting relationship with their customers or clients.   Extravagant dinning, parties, and gifts are just a few common examples of this.  Spending some money to make more money is the understanding of benefits in regards to client relations.

The issue with this, is where the lines are drawn between ethically and manipulatively using a basis of relationship to advance a personal agenda.

This question is kind of the foundation for what I want to investigate.

I first will be looking at the norms and strategies that sales people are exposed to by analyzing resources used by these professionals.  I also want to look at these sales strategies through a lens of bullying.  Comparing the manipulation that bullies use against their victims with the manipulation being used in the sales world could help address this question of ethicality, which is the other piece of my research I will also be including.

Based off of what I discover about the relationship between bullying psychology and selling psychology, I want to look closer at how ethics plays a role in the dynamics of this and what that means for selling, as well as ethics in the greater business world.

 

Literature Review:

Like addressed earlier, Relationship based marketing has become the common trend in sales now a days.

Relationship based marketing, often known as Customer-Relationship-Management, is the “Segmenting of customers based on needs or profitability, and designing and implementing programs to allocate efficiently/ effectively the appropriate resources to each customer” (Arnett & Badrinarayanan 2005).

This is different from traditional methods because firms were not focusing efforts on their clients, but rather on the actual advertising and marketing campaigns of the products or services.  CRM campaigns for high levels of rapport with clients to push a sale rather than advertising.

In order for relationship marketing to be successful, there are 3 factors that must be present, they are trust, relationship commitment, and communication (Arnett & Badrinarayanan 2005).  Business professionals spend a lot of money in order to make sure that they can develop quality relationships with their customers.

With this new wave of creating friends out of your customers, it’s interesting to look at what professionals in the sales realm are being taught about creating relationships to sell their products or services.

One of the oldest and most known books in the sales world is Winning Friends and Influencing Others by Dale Carnegie.  This book was originally published in 1937, but after a surprisingly popular release, multiple editions were published and adapted for the use in the changing business world.  The point of this book was to give business professionals some insight on how to up their business game.  Carnegie says “about 15% of one’s financial success is their technical knowledge, and about 85% is due to skills in human engineering—to personality and the ability to lead people”.

While Carnegie researched what to write, he conducted interviews with people like Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt to understand their person-relations, or essentially, how they earned and sustained popularity. He takes an in-depth look at different ways “The Greats”, or people like Lincoln and even Al Capone, used speaking strategies to convince people to follow them.

This book, like in the title, gives readers examples of how to be influencers to those in their lives.

I thought this idea of influence and trying to navigate people’s thoughts to achieve a desired outcome was interesting because it sort of mimicked manipulation.

Though relationship-based marketing seems like an acceptable approach to selling, there’s a manipulative factor that draws a red flag.  The mental manipulation that occurs in this idea of relationships and selling made me question whether or not this could be tied to the psychological manipulation that bullies used against their victims.

I was able to get insight into the psychology of bullying from an article by Hannah J. Thomas in which she described theories and frameworks around, why bullies bully.

The psychological tactics used by bullies laid out in these theories and frameworks seemed quite similar to the psychological strategies that relationship-based sales literature were encouraging professionals to do.

This is where ethics come into play for everything.

When it comes to marketing and selling, ethics is a widely discussed and a truly important subject to consider.  As we make this transition from conventional methods of selling to relationship-based selling, professionals should always make sure that their behavior and decisions meet an appropriate ethical standard.

Johannes Brinkmann in Business Marketing Ethics as Professional Ethics defines many approaches, concepts, and typologies when it comes to making ethical decisions in the professional marketing world.

Selling: The Profession, distinguishes between two different segments of ethics.  Those that are written down (deontological) and the ethics that look at right and wrong based off what the decisions outcomes are (teleological).  Most commonly in Business Ethics, “executives’ responses to ethical problems are predominantly utilitarian” (Lill & Brown 2016).  As we look at relationship focused selling it’s reassuring to know that there are ethics that should be in place, especially when they’re focused on ensuring the greatest amount of good for the largest number of people.

With ethics involved, it would ease the threat of the mental manipulation occurring in relationship-based marketing, however we also need to consider the self-interest of the sales professional and how that interacts with the ethical decision-making process.

In a study done about self-interest and conflict of interest,  self-interest is described as something that is done automatically without consciousness.  Because of its unconscious automaticity, “its [self-interest] influence on judgement and decision making is difficult to eliminate or completely correct” (Moore, 2004).

Self-interest is important here because a sales professional makes their living off the commissions of what they sell.  They need the sale to provide for their basic needs, and this is why there could be conflict of interest with their ethics.

In order to say ethical codes avert the malicious mental manipulation in sales, we need to consider the self-interest of this job, and how that can intentionally or unintentionally impact the reliability of a code of ethics in preventing manipulation.

 

Methods:

In the early stages of my thesis I was originally going to look at three print sources that sales professionals use to get insight and coaching on their relationship based selling tactics.  However, after doing some more research and evaluating my plans, I think it’s important to take into account online sources as well.

As of right now I’ve began analyzing How to Win Friends and Influence Others, and SPIN Selling.  These are the actual books I’ve chosen to analyze because they were the top selling help books listed on google, so they’re popular and read often.

I’ve also chosen to analyze a college text book, Selling: The Profession because I wanted to include a different realm of literature.  Most business professionals won’t be reading college text books, but I think it’s important to include because this is teaching college students how to sell and get into the selling world.

I’ve only chosen to do 3 books as of right now because trying to do more in this time frame would be unrealistic, however just having two examples wouldn’t be enough to make any preliminary conclusions above coincidence levels.

The final sources I’ve included in my analysis are web articles from popular websites used by selling professionals.  I thought these were important to include because my original sources were just physical literature sales professionals would have to buy to read.

In today’s society, people have massive amounts of information available at the touch of a finger.  People aren’t reading traditional books as much, so only analyzing the strategies from physical sources wouldn’t be an inclusive enough analysis.

I googled “How to improve CRM selling” to find the following sources: 1,2,3.  (each source is hyper-linked)

These were the first few websites that had come up on the day I had searched them, so I thought these would be a good start because people read, most often, what they can find on the first page of a google search.

As I continue with my research I will need to find a few more online sources to better represent the vast amount available, but as for my preliminary data I’ve chosen those three.

To create the lens of bullying and manipulation I was going to do my research through, I developed an 8 point criteria to classify an action as bullying, and specifically mentally manipulative bullying.

The 8 point criteria is below:

info graphic

The blue line separate points 1-4 which are concerned with identifying an action as bullying, and points 5-8 determine the bullying as mentally manipulative.

I took my sources through this criteria to ensure that there was actual reason that this could be bullying and nearly all of them met the 8 points, however, Selling: The Profession, the college textbook, didn’t meet the 8 points.

I don’t want to completely count out this book, however because a lot of the strategies lacked some of the manipulation evidence I think it’s safer to say this particular source doesn’t involve bullying aspects that the other 5 sources have.

After ensuring that the strategies and tactics discussed in the other 5 sources were close enough linked to manipulative behaviors used by bullies, I began a comparison of sales psychology and bullying psychology.  I looked for examples of these following strategies that manipulators use against their victim in bulling:

  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Negative Reinforcement
  • Intermittent or Partial Reinforcement
  • Punishment
  • Traumatic one-trial learning
  • Lying
  • Lying by omission
  • Denial
  • Rationalization
  • Minimization
  • Selective inattention or selective attention
  • Diversion
  • Evasion
  • Guilt tripping
  • Shaming
  • Playing the victim role
  • Vilifying the victim
  • Playing the servant role
  • Seduction
  • Projecting blame
  • Feigning innocence
  • Feigning confusion
  • Brandishing anger

from: Bullying Management and Psychological Manipulation 

Data & Analysis:

From the bullets listed above, there were 6 specific ones that reflected trends in the sales strategies.  They were…

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Lying by omission
  • Diversion
  • Evasion
  • Playing the servant role

 The other points haven’t been directly evident in what I’ve researched however, they could still possibly come up.

An example of positive reinforcement that I found in my sources came from How to Win Friends and Influence Others.  In part 2 of the book under principle 2, the idea that humans have a natural desire to be important is discussed.  The selling principle that came from this idea is that you should be complimenting and appreciating your clients to make them feel important.  By doing this you can manipulate their emotions and “schmooze” them into buying.

Negative reinforcement was also seen in my sources, as a specific example, here’s a quote from one of my online articles (1)

“Depending on what you sell, play up what prospects stand to lose by sticking with their decision not to buy.  They’ll be more willing to take a risk if they feel that something they own is at stake”

Negative reinforcement is defined as a strategy that rewards someone by removing them from an unwanted situation.  The quote applies to this idea because it’s suggesting that if we stress the negative consequences that will be faced by a client if they don’t buy, they will be pushed to make the sale due to the fear of said consequences.

Skipping to the 6th bullet point before going back to the last three, I also found some examples of playing the servant role through out my sources.

The most important example I’d like to highlight comes from Spin Selling.

SPIN Selling refers to a questions approach that is supposed to chaperon a conversation between seller and buyer to a discovery of needs.  The goal is to serve the consumer by helping them realize where they have a weakness, and how the seller can help fix that.

This seems pretty logical however what is over looked is that these guiding questions are planned by the seller.  They’re formulated to act as an invisible hand to ensure that the conversation ends with the outcome desired of the seller not necessarily the consumer.   Thus, the seller is playing the role of servant, but actually serving the needs of their own agenda.

The last 3 bullets that are left to look at include, Evasion, Diversion, and Lying by omission.  I’ve saved these for last because they’re similar enough to group together into this category of deception.  Deception is one of the biggest manipulation tactics present in all of the sources I’ve seen, and I have continued to find examples.

Looking at that first article source, there was a case where over-exaggeration was evident as examples of deception.  These are the specific quotes:

“Social proof is more powerful than you think, play up the number of customers your company has”

“Depending on what you sell, play up what prospects stand to lose”

Emphasize the quick wins a customer can expect to see shortly– especially if the main benefit won’t come for months”

I’ve bold the words that I think contribute to this deception especially.  The sellers are being encouraged to lie about the reality of their products and services to try and push the sale.  Though these quotes don’t explicitly say lie, it’s implying that not telling the whole truth is acceptable.

Some other examples of deception can be found in How To Win Friends And Influence Others throughout a couple of different sections in this book.  The following quotes are what I’ve found so far:

“Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his work with Novocain, the patient still gets a drilling, but the Novocain is pain killing.”

This goes back to the strategies being taught when I used the book as an example of positive reinforcements.  What’s being encouraged is deceptive because it’s saying that by being nice and sugar coating things from the beginning, you can get away with the unwelcomed actions that are to follow.

In another example, manipulation and deception is seen by the encouragement of controlling someone ones thoughts to push your private agenda.  This example is teaching selling professionals that they can make clients do anything as long as they frame it correctly.  The quote is:

“Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest”

This is really the tip of the iceberg for when it come to my data collection.  As I’ve read through my  sources and discovered these examples, I’ve also came across another aspect I want to incorporate into my analysis which is the effect of personification on the mentality a selling professional has about their relationship with a client or customer.

Some examples I’ve found of personification are the following:

All of these personification examples are taking away not only the humanity factor of the consumer, but also their power as well.  In each of these examples the consumer is being compared to something that is weak, easily manipulable, or obedient.  I think this could have an important role in how the perception of the consumer influences the ethical decision making process of things.

Conclusion/ Next Steps:

After looking at all the data collected so far, there are some strong relationships between selling strategies and manipulative bullying.  However, because this is just preliminary data, there needs to be more of an analysis before official conclusions or insight can be drawn from the information.

These strong connections are providing evidence that bullying is occurring in sales, but there are other factors that need to be taken into account.

One of the things I still need to examine is the role of ethics in preventing the maliciousness of selling manipulation.  Business ethics are supposed to create this differentiator in the manipulation that happens in selling versus bullying.  Because ethics do this, some of the tactics can be deemed as not actually manipulative due to their intentions.

With ethics in consideration though, I also want to explore the relationship between self-interest and the ethical decision making process because sales is a commissions based job.

In the most simplest of terms, what they sell is how they get their living, so self-interest plays an interesting role here.  In one of the articles I talked about in my literature review section, it says that acting in self-interest is something that is unconsciously done by humans, but also automatically done.

With that being said, I question the effectiveness that business ethics would have on someone in sales and that’s why I want to explore this idea a little deeper.

I think this study could go a multitude of ways, and it’s could potentially bring light to other important questions in the business world.  If bullying and manipulation is going on in sales and ethics isn’t preventing it, I wonder what other kind of unethical behavior is being done behind the scenes in business? and what is making that type of behavior justifiable or acceptable?

There’s still a lot that needs to be done, but I think I’ve developed a pretty good foundation to the future research I must do.

Practicing the Proposal

Sitting in my professional sales/ sales management class, I was staring off at the board thinking about what I was going to do with my life after my four years of undergraduate school is up.  Come May of 2019 I will be pushed out of the TLU nest, and forced to find my way in the real world.  Before this actually takes place however, I need to conquer what TLU calls a Senior Thesis (cue scary music).

Based off of the countless conversations I’ve had with other students, I feel as though there are two different takes on doing a senior thesis.  There are the students who have known what they’ve wanted to do since being in their FREX (freshman experience) class, and there’s the students who have no idea where to begin drawing any kind of significant conclusions about something good enough to present as a thesis.  Especially if it’ll be judged, which it will.  Don’t be a communications major folks

Referring back to my professional selling/sales management class; this is where the senior thesis process all began for me.

We had just finished our lecture, and the professor began talking about book recommendations if you were interested in sales.  This idea kind of grabbed my attention.

Sales people make some of the biggest salaries in the business world, and some of those professionals only need one sale to make their yearly six figure salaries.  Selling is also a large part of everyday life for people whether you know it or not.

Convincing someone of an idea? Selling.  Trying to get your friend to agree on a certain restaurant? Selling.

Trying to convince your professors you’re sort of educated and can write, compose, and present a meaningful senior thesis? Selling.

The foundation of our economy is paved by selling.  In order for an exchange to happen someone’s got to sell something.

This idea that there are books that will teach you how to “sell” grabbed my interest because of how applicable selling is to the business world, but also the broader world as well.

As I was on the hunt for the selling books that I wanted to analyze, I searched for the highest rated selling books online.  A common trend among these books was that people would talk about the “self help” aspect of each one.  Another less significant thing, but slightly coincidental was that they all had practically the same star rating.  Whether a million people reviewed them or 300,000 did, they all had nearly a 4.2 star rating.

The last thing I realized from the reviews was that people either loved them or hated them.   There wasn’t really any grey area for liking these books.

Now, none of this information really gave a direction for a research project, so I began to explore other aspects to these selling books that haven’t been looked at.

As I thought about selling more, a common trend or bias that people had towards sales representatives was that they’re pushy or sometimes bully you into the sales.

This is where the other aspect of my senior thesis came into play.  I will be looking at the mental strategies that bullies use to manipulate their victims, and then compare that to the strategies that professional sales personel are being taught from these “self-help” to see if there’s any correlation and how that impacts the relationship based marketing model.

Relationship based marketing has become the common trend in sales now a days.  Companies are willing to spend hefty sums of money in order to make a lasting friendship with their customers.   Extravagant dinning, parties, and gifts are now strategies being used to create these friendships.

Relationship based marketing, often known as Customer-Relationship-Management is the “Segmenting customers based on needs or profitability and designing and implementing programs to allocate efficiently/ effectively the appropriate resources to each customer” (Arnett & Badrinarayanan 2005).

This is different from traditional methods because firms were not focusing efforts on the customer but rather on the advertising and marketing of the products of services.  CRM wants to build mutual trust in order to ensure that the sale will happen.

In order for relationship marketing to be successful, there are 3 factors that must be present, they are trust, relationship commitment, and communication (Arnett & Badrinarayanan 2005).  Business professionals spend a lot of money in order to make sure that they can develop this with their customers.  Essentially their mindset is if you spend a lot now, the relationship they create will continue to pay them back and eventually even more.

With this new wave of creating friends out of your customers, it’s interesting to look at what professionals in this kind of selling realm are being taught.

One of the oldest and most known books in the sales world is Winning Friends and Influencing Others by Dale Carnegie.  This book was originally published in 1937, but after a surprisingly popular release, edition after  edition was published and adapted for the use in the changing business world.  The point of this book was to give business professionals some insight on how to up their business game.  Carnegie says “about 15% of one’s financial success is their technical knowledge, and about 85% is due to skills in human engineering—to personality and the ability to lead people”.

While Carnegie researched what to write, he conducted interviews with people like Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt to understand how they conduct their person-relations, or essentially, how they got their popularity. He takes an in-depth look at different ways “The Greats”, or people like Lincoln and even Capone, used speaking strategies to convince people to follow them.

This book, like in the title, gives readers examples of how to be influences those who they need to.

I thought this idea of influence and trying to navigate people’s thoughts to achieve a desired outcome was interesting because it sort of mimicked manipulation.  Manipulation is defined as:

manipulate
verb

ma·nip·u·late | \mə-ˈni-pyə-ˌlāt \|
manipulatedmanipulating

1: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful mannermanipulate a pencilmanipulate a machine

 

2: a   to manage or utilize skillfullyquantify our data and manipulate it statistically
               — S. L. Payne

      to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own            advantagebeing used and manipulated by the knowing men around him
               — New Republic

3to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose DOCTORsuspected
that the police reports were manipulated
               — Evelyn G. Cruickshanks

Though relationship-based marketing seems like an acceptable approach to selling, there is this huge question of mental manipulation and whether or not these strategies are ethical.  The mental manipulation that takes place when it comes to this idea of relationships and selling made me question whether or not this could be tied to the psychological manipulation that is used in cases of bullying.

I was able to get insight into the psychology of bullying from an article by Hannah J. Thomas in which she described theories and frameworks around, essentially, why bullies bully.

The psychological tactics used by bullies laid out in these theories and frameworks seemed quite similar to the psychological strategies that relationship-based sales coaching books were encouraging professionals to do.

This is where ethics come into play for everything.

When it comes to marketing and selling, ethics is a widely discussed and truly important subject to consider as well.  As we make this transition from conventional methods of selling to relationship-based selling, professionals should always be making sure that the behavior and decisions are consider ethical.

Johannes Brinkmann in Business Marketing Ethics as Professional Ethics defines many approaches, concepts, and typologies when it comes to making ethical decisions in the professional marketing world.

Selling: The Profession, distinguishes between two different segments of ethics.  Those that are written down (deontological) and the ethics that look at right and wrong based off of what the decisions outcomes are (teleological).  Most commonly in Business Ethics, “executives response to ethical problems is predominantly utilitarian” (Lill & Brown 2016).  As we look at relationship focused selling it’s reassuring to know that there are ethics that should be in place.

With ethics involved, it would ease the threat of the mental manipulation that occurs in relationship-base marketing, however we also need to consider the sales personnel’s self-interest.

Self-interest is important here because they’re livings are made off the commissions of selling

Self-interest is often looked at sometimes through an egotistical, selfish way.  To make that claim about sales people would be wrong, however it would be wrong to there aren’t any like that either.  When it really comes down to it, self-interest is involved in the most modest of terms.  They need the sale to make a living and provide for their basic needs, and this is why is conflicts with the ethics that are in place.

If there isn’t enough data to conclude that malicious mental manipulation occurs in selling, especially because of the ethical code, it is also important then to look at the self interest that’s implied for sales jobs and how that can intentionally or unintentionally impact the reliability of a simple code of ethics to prevent manipulation and deem this method of selling as okay.

In my analysis, I will be looking at these literature examples through a rhetorical lens, focusing on the language choices and persuasion that are present in the books.  I will also be looking at the rhetorical commonalities between articles on bullying to develop the criteria to base my analysis of the sales literature off of.

The sales literature books that I’ve chosen are How to Win Friends and Influence Others, SPIN Selling, and How I Raised Myself from  Failure to Success In Selling.  I chose to analyze these books because they were the top three selling help books listed on google, so people buy and read them  a lot.  I’ve only chosen to do 3 books because realistically trying to do more would be difficult, however just having two examples wouldn’t be enough to make any claims above a coincidence.

I’ve also chosen to analyze a college text book, Selling: The Profession because I wanted to include a different realm of literature.  Most business professionals won’t be reading the college text books, but I think it’s still important to include because this is teaching college students how to sell and get into the selling world.

Looking at the college textbook will give me an idea of what strategies are being taught even before a job in sales is actually acquired.

After rhetorically analyzing the articles on bullying psychology,  I will develop a criteria from the trends to help guide my analysis of the selling literature.

From there I will read the selling books and look at the   criteria I’ve developed, as well as pay attention to the  other fundamentals of  a rhetorical analysis to continue my research in my three book subjects and the subject.

I will also be including this idea of ethics into the project because if there are strong enough correlations between bullying and selling, I don’t think it’d be safe to make any claims without including a look at the ethical procedures that goes into selling.

From there though, the last piece of the analysis would be to look at self-interest and how that might affect the way ethics works in  the selling world.

Sales personnel make money from commission, so in order to make and maintain their living they must make the sales.  With the idea of a living on the line I want to see if there’s any significant impact on the ethical procedures that sales people should abide by.

After collecting all this data and analyzing what it all means,  I want to draw some kind of conclusion however I’m still working on what exactly that will look like.

To begin my analysis, I had to look at the psychology of bullying and understand what would qualify of bullying.  From the articles I’ve read I developed an 8 point criteria that would determine whether an action was bullying, and more specifically bullying involving mental manipulation. refer to the graphic below:

info graphic

Points 1-4 are what would ensure that what’s happening is bullying, and points 5-8 are what would classify it as mental manipulation of bullying.  The dotted blue line is just there to separate the different distinctions.

For the purpose of this project I’m looking a the mental manipulation bullies use in comparison to the mental manipulation that sales people use, so I need to include both the bullying and mental manipulation distinctions.

My preliminary data collection has covered chapters 1-3 of the 4 books that I’m analyzing.  Based off of the

Method Section

Like stated, I am doing an analysis on the similarities and differences of the psychological strategies used by bullies and the strategies that are taught from sales literature books.

I will be looking at these literature examples through a rhetorical lens, focusing on the language choices and persuasion that are present in the books.  I will also be looking at the rhetorical commonalities between articles on bullying to develop the criteria to base my analysis of the sales literature off of.

The sales literature books that I’ve chosen are How to Win Friends and Influence Others, SPIN Selling, and How I Raised Myself from  Failure to Success In Selling.  I chose to analyze these books because they were the top three selling help books listed on google, so people buy and read them  a lot.  I’ve only chosen to do 3 books because realistically trying to do more would be difficult, however just having two examples wouldn’t be enough to make any claims above a coincidence.

I’ve also chosen to analyze a college text book, Selling: The Profession because I wanted to include a different realm of literature.  Most business professionals won’t be reading the college text books, but I think it’s still important to include because this is teaching college students how to sell and get into the selling world.

Looking at the college textbook will give me an idea of what strategies are being taught even before a job in sales is actually acquired.

After rhetorically analyzing the articles on bullying psychology,  I will develop a criteria from the trends to help guide my analysis of the selling literature.

From there I will read the selling books and look at the   criteria I’ve developed, as well as pay attention to the  other fundamentals of  a rhetorical analysis to continue my research in my three book subjects and the subject.

I will also be including this idea of ethics into the project because if there are strong enough correlations between bullying and selling, I don’t think it’d be safe to make any claims without including a look at the ethical procedures that goes into selling.

From there though, the last piece of the analysis would be to look self-interest and how that might affect the way ethics works in  the selling world.

Sales personnel make money from commission, so in order to make and maintain their living they must make the sales.  With the idea of a living on the line I want to see if there’s any significant impact on the ethical procedures that sales people should abide by.

After collecting all this data and analyzing what it all means,  I want to draw some kind of conclusion however I’m still working on what exactly that will look like.

Literature Review:

Relationship based marketing has become the common trend in sales now a days.  Companies are willing to spend hefty sums of money in order to make a lasting friendship with their customers.   Extravagant dinning, parties, and gifts are now strategies being used to create these friendships.

Relationship based marketing, often known as Customer-Relationship-Management is the “Segmenting customers based on needs or profitability and designing and implementing programs to allocate efficiently/ effectively the appropriate resources to each customer” (Arnett & Badrinarayanan 2005).

This is different from traditional methods because firms were not focusing efforts on the customer but rather on the advertising and marketing of the products of services.  CRM wants to build mutual trust in order to ensure that the sale will happen.

In order for relationship marketing to be successful, there are 3 factors that must be present, they are trust, relationship commitment, and communication (Arnett & Badrinarayanan 2005).  Business professionals spend a lot of money in order to make sure that they can develop this with their customers.  Essentially their mindset is if you spend a lot now, the relationship they create will continue to pay them back and eventually even more.

With this new wave of creating friends out of your customers, it’s interesting to look at what professionals in this kind of selling realm are being taught.

One of the oldest and most known books in the sales world is Winning Friends and Influencing Others by Dale Carnegie.  This book was originally published in 1937, but after a surprisingly popular release, edition after  edition was published and adapted for the use in the changing business world.  The point of this book was to give business professionals some insight on how to up their business game.  Carnegie says “about 15% of one’s financial success is their technical knowledge, and about 85% is due to skills in human engineering—to personality and the ability to lead people”.

While Carnegie researched what to write, he conducted interviews with people like Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt to understand how they conduct their person-relations, or essentially, how they got their popularity. He takes an in-depth look at different ways “The Greats”, or people like Lincoln and even Capone, used speaking strategies to convince people to follow them.

This book, like in the title, gives readers examples of how to be influences those who they need to.

I thought this idea of influence and trying to navigate people’s thoughts to achieve a desired outcome was interesting because it sort of mimicked manipulation.  Manipulation is defined as:

manipulate
verb

ma·nip·u·late | \mə-ˈni-pyə-ˌlāt \|
manipulatedmanipulating

1: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful mannermanipulate a pencilmanipulate a machine

 

2: a   to manage or utilize skillfullyquantify our data and manipulate it statistically
               — S. L. Payne

      to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own            advantagebeing used and manipulated by the knowing men around him
               — New Republic

3to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose DOCTORsuspected
that the police reports were manipulated
               — Evelyn G. Cruickshanks

Though relationship-based marketing seems like an acceptable approach to selling, there is this huge question of mental manipulation and whether or not these strategies are ethical.  The mental manipulation that takes place when it comes to this idea of relationships and selling made me question whether or not this could be tied to the psychological manipulation that is used in cases of bullying.

I was able to get insight into the psychology of bullying from an article by Hannah J. Thomas in which she described theories and frameworks around, essentially, why bullies bully.

The psychological tactics used by bullies laid out in these theories and frameworks seemed quite similar to the psychological strategies that relationship-based sales coaching books were encouraging professionals to do.

This is where ethics come into play for everything.

When it comes to marketing and selling, ethics is a widely discussed and truly important subject to consider as well.  As we make this transition from conventional methods of selling to relationship-based selling, professionals should always be making sure that the behavior and decisions are consider ethical.

Johannes Brinkmann in Business Marketing Ethics as Professional Ethics defines many approaches, concepts, and typologies when it comes to making ethical decisions in the professional marketing world.

Selling: The Profession, distinguishes between two different segments of ethics.  Those that are written down (deontological) and the ethics that look at right and wrong based off of what the decisions outcomes are (teleological).  Most commonly in Business Ethics, “executives response to ethical problems is predominantly utilitarian” (Lill & Brown 2016).  As we look at relationship focused selling it’s reassuring to know that there are ethics that should be in place.

With ethics involved, it would ease the threat of the mental manipulation that occurs in relationship-base marketing, however we also need to consider the sales personnel’s self-interest.

Self-interest is important here because they’re livings are made off the commissions of selling

Self-interest is often looked at sometimes through an egotistical, selfish way.  To make that claim about sales people would be wrong, however it would be wrong to there aren’t any like that either.  When it really comes down to it, self-interest is involved in the most modest of terms.  They need the sale to make a living and provide for their basic needs, and this is why is conflicts with the ethics that are in place.

If there isn’t enough data to conclude that malicious mental manipulation occurs in selling, especially because of the ethical code, it is also important then to look at the self interest that’s implied for sales jobs and how that can intentionally or unintentionally impact the reliability of a simple code of ethics to prevent manipulation and deem this method of selling as okay.

Selling The Thesis

Sitting in my professional sales/ sales management class, I was staring off at the board thinking about what I was going to do with my life after my four years of undergraduate school is up.  Come May of 2019 I will be pushed out of the TLU nest, and forced to find my way in the real world.  Before this actually takes place however, I need to conquer what TLU calls a Senior Thesis (cue scary music).

Based off of the countless conversations I’ve had with other students, I feel as though there are two different takes on doing a senior thesis.  There are the students who have known what they’ve wanted to do since being in their FREX (freshman experience) class, and there’s the students who have no idea where to begin drawing any kind of significant conclusions about something good enough to present as a thesis.  Especially if it’ll be judged, which it will.

Lucky for me, I’m the student sitting in a senior thesis prep class trying to figure out what kind of meaningful project I can research for the next year to prove that I didn’t just waste $150,000 and four years of my life sitting in different classroom settings for “fun”.

Referring back to my professional selling/sales management class; this is where the root of what I’m thinking my senior thesis will be.

We had just finished our lecture, and the professor began talking about book recommendations if you were interested in sales.  This idea kind of grabbed my attention because I was in desperate need of a direction for my thesis.

Sales people make some of the biggest salaries in the business world, and some of those professionals only need one sale to make their yearly six figure salaries.  Selling is also a large part of everyday life for people.

The selling of ideas, products, or services is the foundation of our economy.  Even just looking at social media, people are selling themselves, or this certain image they want people to believe.

This idea that there are books that will teach you how to “sell” grabbed my interest because of how applicable selling is to more than just the marketing world.

I don’t have a set idea of what exactly I’m looking for, however I have gotten my toes wet a little bit by looking at some selling book reviews online.  A common trend among these books was that people would talk about the “self help” aspect of each one.  Another less significant thing, but slightly coincidental was that they all had practically the same star rating.  Whether a million people reviewed them or 300,000 did, they all had nearly a 4.2 rating.

The last thing I realized from the reviews was that people either loved them or hated them.   There wasn’t really any grey area for liking these books.

Now, none of this really gives me any kind of conclusion drawing yet, however after reading the ones that I’ve chosen, I’m hoping there will be an interesting phenomenon I can analyze and create meaning from for my thesis.

Anyways, that’s all I got.