Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Poor Sales Technique of Evangelicalism

After a rather acrimonious exchange with an evangelistic commenter, I’m reflecting on the technique they use to spread their views.

I’m not a natural salesman, but I’ve run my own businesses, and so I’ve depended on being able to sell, at least a little. There are a few things I’ve learned, from experience and from reading dozens of books:

1. Listen more than you talk. Assaulting someone with a wave of benefits doesn’t work. Find out where they are and what they need.

2. Ask questions. Even when you’ve finished listening, it is better to ask questions rather than to go into a sales pitch. Questions allow you to understand needs better, and lets the person you’re selling to understand that this is about their decision to buy, not your need to sell.

3. Use the terminology of the buyer. There are lots of jargon terms you use to think about your product. But the sales process isn’t about getting the buyer to speak your language, but being able to speak theirs.

4. Acknowledge the benefits of the alternatives. I often have been selling a service that otherwise the buyer would have to do themselves. So I acknowledge that they are my competition, and don’t diminish their skills. Even with other external competitors I acknowledge the competition and indicate the beneficial difference of what I’m selling.

5. Genuine flattery works. Except when it is obsequious, or obviously faked, when you can come across as two-faced. But honestly pointing out the obvious strengths of the buyer is a good way to build trust. Again, because I tend to be selling a service otherwise done in house, it is important that I make it clear I don’t think I am better than them or their team in a general sense. Just that their obvious expertise lies in one region, and mine in another, and they can get the best of both worlds if we join forces.

So five things that I think help my sales.

Five things I’m musing on, because — in my experience — the way folks are taught to evangelise is often the absolute opposite of these. So there have been several folks who’ve arrived on this blog with evangelistic zeal who:

1. launch into evangelistic spiels, without listening to what is said to them,

2. assume they know everything there is to know without asking any questions about where I am or what I think,

3. fill their comments with theological jargon,

4. deride any reasons I might have for thinking what I think (and as per 2, they have no idea what they might be), and

5. insult me.

Now, other than being quite willing to be as snarky and nasty back, I don’t really mind this. I quite enjoy arguments, and always have. There have been some folks on here who’ve found creative ways to insult me, and that’s always fun.

But what terrible sales technique. Why is it that evangelicalism, a religion based on the whole idea of spreading the faith, is so incompetent when it comes to sales technique?

Perhaps I should be glad. But it does seem odd.

Have you ever had a religious ‘sales’ experience that has done it right?


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Race and the World Chess Champion

We have a new World Chess Champion. Magnus Carlsen, who I’ve mentioned before on the blog, is a young Norwegian grandmaster with a fascinating playing style. He beat the Indian world champion Viswanathan Anand in Chennai this week. I read the following warmup for a game in the series:

Carlsen is white and Anand black, and Carlsen will be looking to turn the white … advantage into a victory.

(I’ve clipped a key word out to make it more relevant to discussing…)


I noticed something else this week. After a computer game review that savaged the game for its racist content, the comments filled with white folks complaining that the game couldn’t be racist, because it a) wasn’t actually hurting anyone, and b) the creators didn’t intend to insult anyone. I wondered why the sudden battle over the definition of the word, why the comments had nothing to say about the actual ‘racism’ and everything about whether it was intentional.

Intent seems to matter mostly to people who benefit from privilege. Because the most important thing to them is to feel like they are not racist. They are reasonable people, who don’t hate anyone, so how can anything they do or say be racist? They want to make absolutely clear that they. are. not. racist.

Whatever racism means, it isn’t them. Whatever problems racism is supposed to indicate, they are are not part of.

So the myth of the white-hooded, cross-burning racist continues. To be racist you have to deny the promotion of the asian employee, out of conscious racial malice. You have to punch the hispanic student, specifically for hatred of that culture. You have to lynch the nigger.

As long as privilege gets to define what is problematic behavior, what deserves to be labelled and challenged, it remains in control. It can reserve its labels for the extremes, and avoid being challenged as it ensures its privilege continues. By and large, white guys write the dictionaries.

The “thing-that-white-folks-are-sure-isn’t-racism” is made of inertia, the toleration of inequity, the excusal of injustice and the perpetuation of privilege. A toxic mess that no individual causes or holds the blame for.

Thinking these things reminded me of that racially-ambiguous quote from the chess world championship. I asked an old school friend, and keen chess player, whether he could quantify the ‘white advantage’. About a fifth of a pawn, was his guess.

I don’t think of myself as racist. Does anyone? I don’t think of myself as part of the problem. But I have to concede I go into every match with, at minimum, a fifth of a pawn advantage. If that’s not racism, then I’m not sure the word is very useful.

How about you? Are you willing to admit you’re racist, and to try to identify how? Or is racism someone else’s problem, as perpetrator or victim?


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