Sell – It’s a 4 letter word, but not a naughty one.

Is "sell" a naughty 4-letter word?In the December 2011 edition of deliver magazine, I read an insightful column in their “Leader Column.” As of today, the column is not posted on their Web site, but it was thought-provoking so I want to share some quotes from the piece and ask for your feedback.

First, the title. “Four letters, yes. Naughty word? Never.” The word it refers to is “SELL.”

For me, the idea of selling was something to avoid – so much so that, many moons ago, when friends suggested I become a sales rep (in the clothing industry), I said “no way, I don’t want to sell.” However, after starting my own business, 23 years ago (Jan. 1st was my anniversary), I quickly discovered that I couldn’t be in business without selling. Can you?

It’s the business we’re in – when we’re in business. So as I read this column I smiled and decided it was worth sharing some of the insightful thoughts I found there with you (NOTE: I’d happily credit the author, but none was cited).

“Many marketers bend over backward to avoid using the S-words. Asked what we do for a living, not a few of us prefer words like “marketer,” “communication professional,” . . . anything but sales.”

“Your job may be strategizing, creative-directing, writing, designing . . . or what-have-you-ing. But the raison d’etre of the direct mail you create is to complete a transaction or generate a lead. Which is another way of saying that your job’s raison d’etre is to – guess what – sell.”

“To be sure, we can call ourselves marketers (and so forth) if want, and there is not harm in it – provided that we avoid slipping into denial about what marketing truly is.”

“What you call your profession is your business. But let’s proudly own selling as the point of what we do, and allow it to drive our work. And let’s remind the naysayers that responsible selling as described above is both socially beneficial and needful.”

So, what say you? Is selling a 4-letter, naughty word in your book? Or, are you proud to say you’re a success because of your ability to sell?

Please share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to your selling success.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. I’m fortunate that in travel marketing I can replace the word “sell” with “book” when talking to clients. It goes over better, although I personally agree that there’s nothing wrong with talking about sales.

    • Hi Christine, most of us like to take vacations and travel, wouldn’t you agree?
      First, we have the dream to go somewhere. Then, we start looking into vacation spots to fulfill the dream.
      At the point we’re ready to convert the dream into reality, I think we’re on the path to making a purchase. That’s when you “sell” them on the on idea of “booking” the trip with their hotel, airline, tour, etc.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.

  2. Debra,

    Thanks for your insight. I have been selling for a living for 25 years. I never shy away from the word. To do so would imply that I am not proud of what I do.

    I am not the proverbial “snake oil” salesman.

    I help my customers get what they want or need. They like me for it and show it by doing business with me for years and years.

    Who wouldn’t be proud of that?


    PS I find the new term Business Development Professional kind of funny. When I meet someone with that title I usually say “oh, your a salesman” and then I wait for their justification. 🙂

    • @Marc, that’s fabulous. Whether providing a service or a product, it is about fulfilling your customers’ wants and needs. Happy customers are loyal customers – not to mention, they share their good experience(s) with others and word of mouth marketing is the best there is.
      I’m curious though, how do people respond to your “oh you’re a salesman” comment? Sounds like there’s material for a blog post there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and keep up the good work!

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