If you train a monkey to sell, who gets the commissions?

by on August 20, 2014 · 1 Comment POSTED IN: Top Sales Dog

There’s a big dispute raging on the Internet these days, involving what in my opinion is the best selfie ever posted:

monkey selfie

Here’s the back story: In 2011, photographer David Slater was taking pictures of Indonesian macaques, when one of them snatched away his camera and started snapping his own pictures. One of these photos made its way onto Wikipedia Commons as a copyright-free image.

Photographer Slater objected, insisting he held the copyright to the image.

Not so, said Wikipedia. The monkey took the picture. So under the copyright code, it would belong to him. But animals can’t hold copyrights. Hence, Wikipedia concluded, the image is in the public domain.

Here’s where the story starts to get weird. According to NBC News, one of the arguments that the photographer is making is that the monkey was acting as his assistant.

“In law, if I have an assistant then I still own the copyright,” Slater told NBC. “I believe there’s a case to be had that the monkey was my assistant.”

Wait, I just got an idea…

I’m no expert on copyright law (though I believe there’s a case to be had that my lifting of the quote above is fair use). But as a sales training blogger, I do feel obliged to consider the training implications of this theory. If I were a sales manager with a trained-selling-monkey assistant, would I be entitled to its commissions? And if I had such an assistant, could I ask it to bring me coffee? What if it were a female monkey? Would that make me sexist?

I know what you’re thinking. Could monkeys actually sell?

Well, if they can take pictures, why not? Sure, sometimes they throw a little poo, but what salesperson doesn’t? And while they may not be so good on the phone…

…they certainly know how to close a deal.

The training challenges would be formidable, but not insurmountable. Monkey trainers have made remarkable strides in recent years — for example, teaching monkeys to help people with disabilities by answering the door, serving dinner and turning on the TV. And if monkeys are already posting selfies, could texting be far behind?

In fact, I would submit that monkeys present a tremendous opportunity for sales trainers to enhance their visibility and clout in the organization. In addition, it opens up the world of corporate sales training to certified monkey trainers and disaffected attorneys looking to make a career change. If you can create a cadre of trained sales assistants who are willing to work for peanuts, the ROI on the training budget will skyrocket and you’ll be a hero.

Well, not necessarily a hero to everyone. There is the delicate matter of the existing sales force, who might feel threatened by low-wage replacements with long pointy teeth. But, hey, the sales profession is always changing, and it’s up to the oldsters to adapt or step aside. It’s a jungle out there.

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1 Comment on This Post

  1. Steve Baumann
    August 20, 2014 - 3:42 pm

    We are treading on thin ice here. Many times, the great apes, lesser apes and even humans can be trained – given the proper environment. I’ll not limit myself or my company to monkeys alone, all we ask for is the best out of each and every individual.

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