Who makes the best salesperson? A cheerleader.

The drug industry is so systematic about recruiting cheerleaders that the New York Times writer Stephanie Saul wrote a feature about it, spotlighting women like Onya: “On Sundays she works the sidelines for the Washington Redskins. But weekdays find her urging gynecologists to prescribe a treatment for vaginal yeast infection.”

There are some suggestions that the cheerleaders became the substitute for the now-illegal freebies that drug companies used to give doctors (like trips to Tahiti). Now drug companies persuade doctors to prescribe drugs by lending them the presence of a hot salesgirl.

Lynn Williamson, the cheerleading coach at the Univeristy of Kentucky, says that it’s not just that the woman are dreamy. Williams thinks that cheerleading talent does, in fact, correleate with talent for sales: “Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm – they learn those things, and they can get people to do what they want.”

Williamson is not alone. Spirited Sales is a recruiting firm that specializes in cheerleaders. Here’s a quote from their web site: “Spirited Sales Leaders has a database of thousands of self-confident, outgoing, responsible and enthusiastic young men and women from around the United States with varying levels of B2B sales experience.”

The web site also talks about how cheerleaders have a track record of leadership and success. This actually rings true to me. I mean, athletes are coveted by many recruiters because athletes do better in business than non-athletes. And cheerleaders are, in many aspects, just like these athletes; but cheerleaders, unlike athletes, are consistently outgoing and good-looking. And good looks give people an edge in business, as well.

So who’s the smartest hire you can make for your sales team? A cheerleader. As long as she can meet the demands of the job.

And what happens when the best girl for the job goes to work every day? She gets hit on. Constantly. And even when it’s not a direct hit, it’s a guy who is married and bored and not bored enough to cheat, but definitely bored enough to take too much face time from the salesperson while he’s making a purchasing decision.

Not convinced? According to the Times article, an informal survey showed that 12 of 13 medical saleswomen said they had been sexually harassed by physicians. And if you think it’s only physicians, you’re wrong. It’s even Hewlett-Packard board members.

So here is advice to women in sales:

1. It’s not your fault.
It is totally common to get hit on at work, especially if you are a cheerleader type. You are not provoking this behavior. You are being you, and men like you. Do not feel bad about this. And, definitely don’t wear dowdy clothes just becuase the men are hitting on you. Anyway, women who totally downplay their sexuality are seen as less competent.

2. Use it to your advantage.
Men who are attracted to you are more likely to buy from you. So what? Men who like to play golf are more likely to do business with other men who play golf. People have been given unfair preferences forever. Be glad you are the recipient of some of this. If the guy wants to talk with you for too long, fine, as long as he buys something. That’s what salespeople get paid to do: Connect with the customer and talk until they buy.

3. Don’t date someone who is married.
The truth is that the guys who will be most interested in you are the ones who are married. They are not going to leave their wife and kids. They just want something a little more interesting for a little bit. This is a waste of your time. This person is not emotionally available and he is a sponge for the fun, exciting, full-of-possibilities stage of life you are in. Don’t let him ruin it. Sell him something and leave.

4. Dating good dating material is fine.
If you are selling to a really good guy, and he’s single, dating him is fine. But then try to give his account to someone else on your team. Otherwise things get too messy.

5. Don’t put yourself in danger – from the guy or from human resources.
If the guy touches you and you don’t want it, tell him a clear no right away. Don’t worry about losing the sale. If, after you tell him no, he touches you again, leave and don’t go back. Ever. Do not tell human resources if you can help it. The job of human resources is to protect the company, not you, and when you have a harassment complaint, you are a problem to the company. This is not good news. I hate to have to tell it to you, but it’s true. Here are some ideas for what to do instead.

The good news, though, is that outgoing, good-looking women can have great careers in sales — or anywhere else they want to go. So go into the workforce with talent and ambition and create the life you want. Really.

HT: Ben and Dennis