The “S” Word

12 February 2021 | The “S” Word

Being a salesperson can come with a negative connotation, especially if we sell certain types of products or services that could be associated with a bad reputation. Depending on what and how we sell, we may even feel embarrassed to call ourselves salespeople. According to a recent study by CV Library, these are the top professions rated to be “untrustworthy” in the UK:

  • Politicians
  • Journalist
  • Car salesmen
  • Telesales
  • Bankers
  • Paparazzi
  • Estate Agents

Sales, in some form, makes up 3 of the top 7 most untrustworthy professions.

Another survey, conducted by Solopress, found the top 5 “most hated” professions in the UK:

  • Lawyer
  • Police officer 
  • Sales person 
  • Call centre operator
  • Traffic warden

The common occurrences in these surveys are salespeople in some form or other. Why is this? 

As consumers we don’t like being sold to,  we know that when we go into a store, most of the time we want to be left alone to make our own buying decisions. We don’t like being called by someone who is trying to make us buy a random product that we hadn’t heard of. We don’t like feeling manipulated or pushed into doing something. We like to feel if we buy something, that it was our choice – we bought, we weren’t sold to.

Typical sales behaviour

In most people’s heads, a typical salesperson may come across as a bit slick with perfect hair, a fancy suit perfectly ironed, a pen always handy and a way of speaking and behaving that is everything but authentic. They can come across as overly friendly, overly willing to help and obviously ready to bend over backwards to do anything to get the sale. Sometimes they try to catch us with their discounts, sales, one-time offers and crazy-to-turn-down deals.  

Sometimes that type of sales can work and we are convinced to do something that we hadn’t already planned to do. However, most of the time, this typical approach to sales pushes us away,  it frustrates us and it triggers us to lie “I just need to speak to someone and I’ll get back to you” , “this is really interesting, I need to think about it but call me next week”. We are likely to walk away with no intention of ever buying anything, or even if we do buy something, we’re likely to cancel soon after, due to the fact that we bought because we were pressured, not because we needed or wanted the product. This is often not an experience that we recommend to our friends, in fact we’re likely to complain about it to the people around us. We may even leave a bad review, which in turn hurts the likelihood of more sales for that individual salesperson and the company they work for. 

Why do salespeople behave like this?

Part of the reason that some salespeople behave like this is because they have an automatic assumption that they are submissive to their buyers. They assume that in order to get a sale and reach their targets, they have to convince somebody that their product or service is the best thing in the world. This implies that the potential buyer does not already want, or is not interested in, that product or service in the first place. If someone doesn’t want something and we try to persuade them, it creates a dynamic where they are above you – as a salesperson you therefore feel that you need to be submissive and that they get to dictate what happens in this conversation or situation. This makes sales people become almost servant-like in their approach to their prospect – “If I’m the nicest person in the world and I make you laugh lots and I convince you with all of this information and discounts then you’ll buy something you didn’t want to buy.”

The reality

We all know that for a salesperson to sell something somebody has to buy it. But the reality of the situation is that this means that in order for somebody to buy something that they want or need, somebody has to sell it. It is a completely balanced equation and both parties are equal in this dynamic. If somebody wants to buy something because they have a problem that needs solving or wants or desires that need fulfilling,  then they need somebody to help facilitate that transaction. If a salesperson is selling something that solves a problem or fills a need,  they need a buyer to have those problems or desires. Problems need solving and desires need fulfilling. 

The job of a salesperson is simply to understand what the problems are to see if we can solve them.  what are the desires of the person we are speaking to and can our product or service fulfill them. If so, we are there to simply facilitate a transaction. If not, then it’s better to save yourself, and the person you’re speaking to, the time by being honest about the fact that you cannot fulfill what they need. 

If sales people thought about themselves more as a transaction facilitator, there to help those that need to buy, and therefore thought of themselves less as a salesperson, who is there to make a sale and hit targets, they’d be much more likely to have authentic and real conversations. Talking to a “prospect” as a human instead of a prospect, will likely ensure more transactions are facilitated, i.e. more sales are conducted, that are satisfactory for every party.

For more tips and techniques of how to sell more effectively, join us on an on-demand sales training course (hyperlink to courses page), a bespoke workshop (hyperlink), or for ongoing training, check out our coaching (hyperlink to coaching page)