Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Selling Fear

In its heyday, two things were said about IBM salesmen. (This was over 50 years ago—they were all men.) One, was that they were the best. No surprise there, the whole company was built around sales. Not technology, sales.

The other thing that was said was IBM salesmen sold Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. (FUD, as it was known. No relation to Elmer, two Ds.) Has the world changed in those 50 years?

Now, our computer purchases are small potatoes; no one risks the whole farm. We don’t fear computers as we once were told we should. We’re far more certain in our abilities to use them. Our doubts no longer paralyze.

In this dwindling economy, sales jobs are harder to find and harder to keep. But why, in this increasingly digital world, are sales jobs still with us? Precisely because these newly forming digital conglomerations are ill-defined. They need to be sold.

IBM used fear as a sales tool because computers were still unknown—and hugely expensive. These new digital concoctions use fear because the need for their products is not based on fact but rather insinuation and implication.

The new digital salespeople not only sell fear, they themselves fear for their jobs. This fear grows as their digital bosses shrink the economy. Some project their own fear to make buyers afraid not to buy.

These sales jobs are more tenuous because digital products are more vaporous. Success in these sales is at best ephemeral, at worst imaginary. The yardstick is not did I sell but did I sell everything that could be sold. No wonder they’re afraid.


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