What Do Bernie Madoff and Mark Sanford Have In Common?

Last week a tearful Mark Sanford stood before a television audience and admitted to lying to his wife, his staff and his constituents in an effort to hide an illicit affair. Yesterday, Bernie Madoff, the perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme the world has ever seen, was sentenced to 150 years in prison. It is estimated that he ripped off and screwed investors and friends who trusted him out of more than $50 billion. As tragic as this is it pales in comparison to the damage he did to people’s psyche around the world. Like Sanford, he intentionally lied to, mislead and violated the trust of people who put their faith and entrusted their fortunes with him.

In this climate of uncertainty, fear and distrust Madoff and Sanford, and the media coverage surrounding their deeds, inflicted great psychological pain, suffering and uncertainty on the public. While their deeds are despicable, they are not alone when it comes to misleading and abusing the faith and trust that people have given them.

There are numerous individuals, organizations and institutions that have collectively been responsible for the loss of trust in our country and our society. The list of politicians that have lied and continue to lie would exhaust the length of this article. Suffice it to say that like the mythical Diogenes of Sinope, who wandered through the streets during the day carrying a lamp in an attempt to find an honest man, finding an honest politician from either side of the aisle would be difficult.

Our religious leaders and institutions also bear a responsibility for the current climate of mistrust, cynicism and betrayal. Religious leaders like Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Catholic priests, and phony evangelists have all contributed to our current mental anguish.

Businesses such as Enron, AIG, Bear Stearns and the recent bankruptcy of General Motors along with the lack of leadership and the raping and pillaging of these companies by their executives just adds fuel to fire and creates more distrust in the marketplace.

It is in this paranoid economic climate that you, the professional salesperson, has to contend. Do not underestimate the enormous difficulty of your task. You are operating in the most difficult selling environment that the world has ever seen. And unfortunately, it will probably get worse. Do not believe for one minute that prospects and buyers believe anything that you tell them, or anything that your advertising and marketing claims, or any sales copy you write. We are working in an environment of betrayal, disbelief, fear, pain – all things that buyers and prospects wish to avoid.

Your most important job as a professional salesperson in this environment is to neutralize the buyers fear and distrust of you, your company, your product, and your profession. If you fail to realize how important this is and don’t devote the time and effort to develop effective strategies and processes that reduce buyers fears and anxiety you will fail miserably. You must realize that buyers don’t care or believe anything about your product, service, or price until they first have trust in you.

As Dennis Waitely, former Blues Angles pilot and psychologist for the US Olympic team says’ “people don’t buy products and services, they buy the person bringing them in.”

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